/ Technology

Apple’s £25 iPhone 5 dock adapter is a slap in the face

Everyone expected Apple to change the dock connections on its new iPhone 5 and iPods. Everyone expected it to charge for an inevitable adapter… but the price is beyond ridiculous.

So another iPhone launch has been and gone. I won’t get into the ins and outs of what’s new – read our iPhone 5 features explained post on our sister blog Which? Tech Daily for that. I just want to talk about one ‘feature’ – the new, smaller dock connector.

It makes perfect sense. The old connector, which had 30-pins, is ridiculously large by modern standards. The new one, dubbed ‘Lightning’, is 80% smaller and reversible so it doesn’t matter which way up you put it in. So far, so good.

But then I hear Apple wants £25 for an adapter, the ‘Lightning to 30-pin adapter’, to make it work with any existing iPhone or iPod accessories you might have. This has got to be a joke.

What did you expect?

The instant reaction I got on Twitter didn’t surprise me – ‘what did you expect, this is Apple?’ They’re right, of course, Apple has a long history of pricey accessories. But what really infuriates me about this one is that, if you own old accessories – particularly speaker docks, many of which run to hundreds of pounds – you have no choice.

I can decide to buy a case or dock. A video cable is a nice to have, not a must have. But this adapter? You have to buy it for any of your accessories to work with your new iPhone 5. Given this fact, can £25 be seen as anything more than just a cynical piece of profiteering?

No doubt cheap Chinese versions will surface sooner or later, soothing the irritation. But that does nothing to diminish Apple’s shame in its pricing decision.

[UPDATE: 14/09/2012 12pm] – As pointed out by one of our commenters, when you pre-order an iPhone 5 you will get a ‘free’ Lightning to 30-pin Adapter:

‘Your iPhone includes a Lightning to 30-pin Adapter for connecting 30-pin accessories to devices featuring the Lightning connector. Purchase this additional adapter to have a second adapter for your home or office.’

This is certainly good news, though whether £25 is too much for a replacement adapter is still up for debate.

[UPDATE: 14/09/2012 1pm] – Apple appears to have removed the offer of a free Lightning to 30-pin Adapter from iPhone 5 pre-orders on its website. Instead, you are asked to pay £25 to be sent one. We’ll keep you informed of any changes.

Is £25 too much for Apple's iPhone 5 dock adapter?

Yes - it should be cheaper to connect to old accessories (92%, 921 Votes)

If anything it could be more expensive (5%, 51 Votes)

No - £25 is about right for the new adapter (3%, 31 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,008

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It’s even more disappointing that Apple didn’t fall into line with other manufacturers and use micro-USB. Most modern phones now use micro-USB for charging, meaning that all chargers are the same. This means that eventually chargers will no longer be bundled with phones, as consumers will be able to keep the same charger indefinitely rather than needing a new charger with every new phone. Not only is this more environmentally friendly as it reduces wastage, but it’s also cheaper for phone manufacturers. Apple has gone the other way and put profit (the ability to rip off consumers on accessories) ahead of the more practical and environmentally friendly trend being followed by other manufacturers.

It is sensible to have a reversible connector, but I thought Apple had agreed to the proposed European micro-USB standard back in 2009.

Maybe they’re trying to force people to use its wi-fi feature AirPlay and buy an Apple TV…

Everyone complaining about the $30 price tag hasn’t been around long enough. Wait a week after launch date and there will be cheap $2.99 adapter available on Amazon and Ebay.

Andy had already made this point in his final paragraph.

Richie Neal says:
13 September 2012

Iphone 4s probably the last iPhone I will buy,it’s a shame as I like the phone but would rather have a phone that fits all the accessories I have than having to keep buying them and as far as cheep adapters goes they rarely last to long so you end up buying more of them

crankyoldguy says:
13 September 2012

Here’s a simple fix: don’t buy the new iphone 5. Is your iphone 4s suddenly rendered inoperable by the existence of an iphone 5? Why not keep it until it doesn’t work anymore?

I can wait on the iPhone5, but I’m going to upgrade eventually.

I think they should’ve given free adapters with the first shipment/group of iPhones as a peace offering.

there’s no law that says you have to upgrade your phone, is there?

That’s not the point

Gary H. says:
14 September 2012

So, the people that are complaining have spent thousands of pounds in total on overall kit but are complaining about an extra £25 for the adapter? Stop whingeing and get on with it, please!! You either want the latest kit or you don’t. You either want to be different or you don’t. If you want an iPhone, buy one. If you don’t like Apple, buy a hybrid.

Just let all the “fans” spend all their money like this. It’s the price of so-called “latest” technology, it’s not designed to be more convenient, it’s cynically designed to make you buy more of their wares.

Didn’t everyone used to take the mickey out of those with a “brick” phone? Even a normal iPhone 4 is too big and the iPhone 5 will be bigger. Surely, if you want a computer, buy a laptop!

Perhaps you could add this to your list of “why Which? magazine should not keep hyping Apple products”.

But I don’t suppose you will.

Micro USB’s are not all the same, seen so many phones broken because the user has forced a Micro USB onto a different manufacturer’s phone, that even goes for the same model’s. Also a plug that can be used anyway around and easy to fit in the dark, will make me happy and its a male type connection rather than an open ended plug will be easier on the connection, my only gripe would of been they could of made it a Magsafe type.

Also it’s not about the size of the actual connector but the quality of manufacturer, there is a reason that the knock offs are cheap, no R&D outlay and very cheap components.

OK. We need Apple to set the standard for other manufacturers to copy, but not patent the connector.

I hav preorderd an iPhone 5 and it says this:-

Additional Lightning to 30-pin Adapter
Your iPhone includes a Lightning to 30-pin Adapter for connecting 30-pin accessories to devices featuring the Lightning connector. Purchase this additional adapter to have a second adapter for your home or office.
These facts really should be checked by Which? technology editors and it’s members before damning a product so vociferously.

Hello Emlyn, that wasn’t made clear in the conference as this Conversation was written as soon as the iPhone 5 was announced, when it wasn’t available for preorder. But yes, you’re quite right, this is what it says:

‘Your iPhone includes a Lightning to 30-pin Adapter for connecting 30-pin accessories to devices featuring the Lightning connector. Purchase this additional adapter to have a second adapter for your home or office.’

We’ll make an update. Interesting, in the pre-order screen it only shows the adapter with a longer cable for £30 as the extra.

Carl Race says:
14 September 2012

Yes Just Pre-ordered The New iPhone 5 and I can confirm what Emlyn has posted. People jumping the gun once again. Read the wording very carefully and you can’t go wrong.

Apple has now removed the free adapter from preorders – seems like it may have been a mistake. You now have to pay £25 extra to get one. You guys may be alright due to pre-ordering while this offer was available.

The adapter must have been included for only a very short period. I ordered at 8am on Friday 14th as soon the online store opened for pre-orders, and I’m 99% sure I didn’t see this.

Replacement costs are always a rip off. A new veg basket for my fridge will set me back £15 or so when its manufacturing cost is a fraction of that. If you add up the individual cost of each part on a car or a fridge as a replacement and compared it to the retail cost you would be astonished

MetalSamurai says:
14 September 2012

Again Apple seem to be attracting all the hysteria. Other manufacturers change their cables and chargers with every model, but Apple have kept the 30 pin iPod connector since the first iPods over 10 years ago. It was designed to cope with FireWire, USB, analogue audio, video, HDMI, remote control etc.

But it’s *huge*. Now that iPhones and iPods are significantly smaller it’s time to change to something much smaller and better designed. Micro USB just won’t do all of things the 30 pin connector could, so it’s out straight away. But Lightning can support a USB connection. And HDMI, VGA, analogue audio and probably USB 3 and maybe Thunderbolt. As Lightning is purely a high speed digital connection that means some of the work has to be done by the adapter. Take apart one of those Lightning/USB adapters and you’ll find it’s packed full of electronics. That’s why they’re the price they are. And most people will have no need of it, do why should they all have to pay?

As Patrick says it has now changed since I ordered. Won’t be happy if they don’t honour it and have emailed to enquire whether it will. Wish i’d taken a screenshot or print of the page! Still not enough to dissuade me from the phone though and I would rather a cable with an adaptor anyway.

Carl Race says:
14 September 2012

Screen Shot Taken mate…New it would come to this.

This link may enlighten as to the high price:

‘Stuff has just had a chat with Apple about the steep price of that Lightning connector and it’s been revealed to us why.

‘As you may have noticed the Lightning port is purely digital, but the old 30-pin connection in your car or on your speaker dock uses an analogue signal.

‘Apple’s Lightning to 30-pin Adapter has its own DAC (Digital-to-Analogue Converter) allowing the iPhone 5’s digital signal to be understood by your analogue dock – which isn’t a cheap or simple piece of kit.’

[Hi Gremlyn, we’ve just popped in the correct link and a quotation. Thanks, mods.]

That is a reasonable explanation, but over the years I have had to pay high prices for various adaptors to link Apple laptops to projectors. In fact, I have four different types of adaptor. There cannot have been a good explanation for the high price in every case.

This may make more sense when the likes of Which? and WhatHiFi? do their tests. Apple gear is pretty highly regarded by audiophiles. I like the idea of the new plug especially if audio quality is optimised but Apple should be clearer on this. Also, perhaps they removed the DAC from the phone to save space and remove allow accessory makers to simplify their electronics (and hopefully reduce their price thus compensating for the adaptor).

The reason I never bought into Apple – CLOSED SYSTEM. If that was USB you could go on ebay and pick a replacement up for peanuts. The thing probably cost less than a penny to make. Apple no longer is top dog on phone technology anyway. I use my crappy little Android phone with poweramp via bluetooth speaker – no Dock needed and perfect for travel. Plus, the thing is only obsolete when bluetooth or the lead is obsolete.

ignore my comment on price – just read something further up

MetalSamurai says:
18 September 2012

Hopefully you’ve seen why it’s never going to cost pennies to make this adapter (there are already third party versions appearing for sale and they’re not much cheaper) as the 30 pin connector does far more than USB. In particular for docks you need analogue audio out and that’s why the adapter has DAC chips embedded in it.

As for BlueTooth, you can do that *now* with any iPhone; they all support A2DP. They also support AirPlay and will stream audio and HD video over wifi.

The Which? Tech team has got an iPhone 5 in the building and they’re going to do live video first-look. So if you want to see the phone in action and what your burning iPhone 5 questions answered, you can sign up for reminder and watch the live first-look from 4pm: http://blogs.which.co.uk/technology/mobile-phone-reviews/iphone-5-live-qa-which-experts-answer-your-iphone-5-questions/

I have just upgraded my old iPhone 3 to the new iPhone 5. I have x2 devices that use the 30pin connector..1) iPod dock & 2) hands free car kit. Whilst it is sensible for technology to keep moving forward it is shocking that Apple are charging so much for the lightning adaptors. At best they will have cost a small fraction of the Apple sales price which just makes Apple greedy. They know that owners of this new phone have NO choice but to buy one! Well I will wait until the 3rd party ones that are already on the market, are reviewed and buy a much cheaper version. Of course it’s not just the adapter we need, but also the actual cable. If you’re like me, I like to have a charger in the car, at work, at home etc and the ONE cable that was included is no where near enough (plus Even the genuine Apple ones break eventually). I’m guessing that Apple will charge a fortune for that as well….more for my 3rd party shopping list!!! Whilst I’m an avid fan of the iPhone product, Apple have once again shown themselves to be greedy. But they must have known what customers would think of their pricing decision which just goes to show that they don’t actually give a damn!!!

You have recognised the fact that Apple cables are fragile. Handle them very carefully and you should not have any problem. You have already given Apple enough of your money without buying spares. 🙂

Forget using your phone in the car. Our roads are dangerous enough without drivers messing about with phones.