Talking tech since 2003

Remember back in September when the iPhone 5 was introduced and it featured a brand new connector called the Lightning port?  Well, it’s been several months since then and we still haven’t seen an overwhelming amount of iPhone 5 accessories.  Which begs the question I’m sure many people may be asking: why?

According to the New York Times, when a company signs up with Apple’s MFi Program, it orders a Lightning connector component from Apple to use in designing their accessory. Each connector has a serial number that identifies with the individual company, and they contain authentication chips that communicate with the phones.  So when a company submits its accessory to Apple for testing, Apple knows which company owns the product based on the serial number.

While it is possible for the chip inside the Lightning connector to be reverse engineered, it probably would not work as well as one that came from Apple, according to Ross Howe, vice president of marketing at Mophie (an smartphone case manufacturer).  Mophie, by the way, just came out with its first iPhone 5 case earlier this week, five months after the initial release of the iPhone 5.

Additionally, Mr. Howe told the NYT that Apple could theoretically issue software updates that would disable Lightning products that did not use its chips.  But what’s the point of making it more difficult for companies to create accessories for the iPhone?

Well, for starters, the proprietary chip helps reduce the amount of cheap knockoff products that are compatible with the iPhone 5, and as you’re most likely aware that did become a real problem with previous iPhone’s.  But aside from the Lightning port reducing the amount of cheap knockoff products, it also forces accessory makers to pay Apple the licensing fees to be part of the MFi program, which I’m sure is a great source of essentially passive income for Apple.

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