Apple’s 30-pin dock connector was, for nearly a decade, one of the most popular connection mediums in computing. While it was technically something that Apple controlled – albeit in more of a legal than technological way – it was easy for many manufacturers to create cheap accessories that would be compatible with iPods, and later iPhones and iPads.
The Lightning connector that ships on the iPhone 5, latest iPod touch, iPad mini, and the newest iPad gives Apple even more control over the accessory market. Ross Howe, VP of Marketing for Mophie, one of the more popular producers of iPhone battery cases, spoke today with The New York Times to shed some light on the newer methods that Apple is using to control the accessory market and, the reasoning goes, provide a better experience for all users:
When a hardware maker signs up with Apple’s MFi Program, for companies that make accessories for Apple products, it orders a Lightning connector component from Apple to use in designing the accessory. The connectors have serial numbers for each accessory maker, and they contain authentication chips that communicate with the phones. When the company submits its accessory to Apple for testing, Apple can recognize the serial number.
“If you took this apart and put it in another product and Apple got a hold of it, they’d be able to see it’s from Mophie’s batch of Lightning connectors,” said Ross Howe, vice president of marketing for Mophie.
Working for Mophie gives Howe a unique view in to how these changes work. Mophie’s latest case is its first to be compatible with the iPhone 5. Since the case both protects and charges the iPhone through its Lightning port, Mophie was required to follow of all Apple’s guidelines. Those guidelines have previously been challenged by other companies who condemned them as being simply too harsh and restrictive. In that particular case, Apple caved to the demands of users and manufacturers alike. Let’s hope that these restrictions don’t impede innovation, but serve to improve the user experience available on Apple’s platforms.