One new feature of the iPhone 5 has probably met with more disdain than any other. Despite it’s presence enabling Apple to make the iPhone 5 slimmer, and despite the fact that it's the first time Apple has changed the port in a decade, the fact that Apple has ditched the 30-pin connector in favour of the new Lightning port, has left many consumers dismayed.

Some consumers are angry that Apple expects them to pay for the Lightning adaptor. Even more perturbed are hotels who have invested thousands in iPhone docks only to find that Apple has now changed the standard. The Wall Street Journal and The Motley Fool have run reports suggesting that hotels can't afford to invest in new docking stations, and while they could provide adapters, guests may steal them.

In the UK, customers are doubly disappointed with Apple. The price of the various Lightning adapters and cables is higher here than in the US; in the case of the Lightening adaptor UK consumers will be paying a sixth more than those in the US sparking the usual Rip off Britain claims.

In the UK Lightning to USB Cable will cost £15 (in the US it’s $19 before Tax). The Lightning adapter will retail at £25 (in the US it’s $29 plus Tax). The Lightning-to-30-pin connector cable is £30 in the UK ($39 plus Tax in the US). Apple has also introduced a Lightning to Micro USB adaptor To comply with European laws, so that you can charge and sync iPhones with any Micro USB cable.

After doing some sums: converting the US price to sterling, then adding 20% VAT we get the following prices. We’ve noted the percentage increase as well.

  • Lightning to USB Cable = £14.04, 6.84% increase compared to US price
  • Lightning adaptor = £21.43, 16.66% increase compared to US price
  • Lightning-to-30-pin connector cable = £28.82, 4.09% increase compared to US price

Many consumers will have to factor in the additional cost of the adaptors and cables if they don’t wish their existing devices to become obsolete. In some cases they could be looking at buying more than one adaptor and cable, so it may be a significant outlay. Forester analyst Charles Golvin said: “I can imagine these consumers having to purchase not just one but multiple 30 pin-to-Lightning adapters — one for each car, dock, etc.”

ABI research analyst Mike Morgan jokes that the additional outlay is a “First World problem.” However, a report questions why Apple couldn’t swallow up the cost and include the adaptor in the packaging. The Boston Herald asks why, with a market cap of $650 billion, Apple can’t “Shave a tad off their profit margin?”

Apple changes adaptors once a decade

The idea that Apple should foot the bill for the adaptor switch is a bit unfair given the fact that this is the first time in a decade that the company has changed the port on it's devices.

The 30-pin connector first appeared on the third generation iPod in 2003. Technology has advanced a great deal in that time. As Phil Schiller noted during the keynote that launched the iPhone 5, in the past decade much has changed and so many of the things we used to do over the wire can now be done wirelessly. For example, we use Bluetooth to connect to speakers and headphones; WiFi can be used for audio and syncing; and iCloud can be used for downloading content wirelessly and backing up.

Given the fact that we are in a wireless age, is there really a need to plug the iPhone in anyway?

And if you must plug in your iPhone, bear this in mind: Apple has changed the iPhone cable once in the past decade. Macgasm notes that Samsung has changed its connector 18 times.

Why not micro USB

Even if we can forgive Apple for changing the adaptor, one question remains, why didn’t Apple opt for the micro USB standard.

AllThingsD notes that when Apple came out in support of the International Electrotechnical Commission’s recommendation for a universal micro USB mobile charging standard, many had hoped that Apple would move away from its proprietary ports.

IHS analyst Ian Fogg sheds some light on why Apple’s Lightning port is a superior option. He told AllThingsD: “Apple’s iPhone connectors offer more functionality than standard micro USB connectors, like the ability to directly control accessories from the iPhone screen, and it enables Apple to deliver a rich variety of third-party accessories.”

Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin suggests another reason why Apple won’t move away from proprietary ports: licensing the technology is an effective revenue stream for the company. He told AllThingsD: “Apple derives nontrivial revenue from its connector licensing program. The accessories tied to these connectors meaningfully increase the strength of the loyalty gravitational field, pulling customers into Apple’s ecosystem.”

The news of a new adaptor isn’t necessarily bad news for everyone. A number of third-party iPhone 5 accessory makers are already hard at work designing new products that take advantage of the new connection.

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