New Lightning connectors give Apple a monopoly on iPhone accessories, might trigger legal action against the company

Anyone that has been following iNews knows Apple has introduced the new ‘Lightning’ connector on the iPhone 5. Not only is it smaller, and faster, than the previous 30-pin connector on iDevices, the ‘Lightning’ connector is also incompatible with accessories (cables, docks, etc.) that work with the old 30-pin. That means not only can you not use your old cables as a spare if you ever lose the cable that comes with your iPhone 5, anyone that wants to use their old docks (and other such accessories) with the iPhone 5 must purchase a lightning-to-30-pin converter. New Lightning cables cost $19 while converters cost $29. These are, of course, heavy sums to pay for accessories but many people were not too worried because they anticipated the flood of cheaper, third-party cables and converters. Too bad that ain’t gonna happen.

According to a teardown of the Lightning cable by third-party vendor Double Helix Cables, the new Lightning cables have an authentication chip in them. This authentication chip is used by the cable to connect to the Lightning port; without this chip, a Lightning cable won’t work. This means no third-party company can make and sell working Lightning cables because only Apple knows how to program the authentication chip. While it has not yet been confirmed, the presence of a required authentication chip in the cable indicates that other iPhone 5 accessories, such as docks and the above-mentioned convertor, likely also require the authentication chip. As such, Apple has an effective monopoly on the production and sale of iPhone 5 accessories, at least until someone reverse engineers the chip. (To make matters worse, if someone does manage to reverse engineer it they risk the wrath of Apple legal since reverse engineering patented tech is illegal.)

I’m no lawyer so I can’t say with certainty that Apple blocking third-party vendors from manufacturing working iPhone 5 accessories fulfills the legal definition of “monopoly”. However, it sure sounds like a monopoly. If it indeed is a monopoly then legal action will likely be taken against Apple. Or at least we can hope so.

[via AppleInsider]

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  • J.L.

    People tend to think only Android devices support microUSB, but they’re dead wrong.

    Anyone with any knowledge of Google, Wikipedia, and Universal Serial Bus will know that virtually everyone else doesn’t follow Apple in Job’s monopolistic ways.

  • Coyote

    It could have gone the other way and Apple could have used the microUSB. But sadly it would take federal intervention before everyone agrees on a single charging port. And as far as i know the printer companies were taken to court to allow 3rd party ink manf. to hopefully drive the cost of ink carts down… but since that didn’t really happen maybe we should just be happy as Apple will only be designing for itself.

    Although this does look good for a boom in android gadgets!

  • Mike

    The employment of “authentication” chips and the like has been done with other products–e.g. printers and replacement cartridges–and I’m not aware that it has been found to be illegal.

    Having said that, it would be interesting to see someone challenge Apple here, as the chips seem to serve no purpose that the mechanical connection does not do, other than force users to buy the Apple cable/adapter from Apple and accessory providers to buy authentication chips/licenses from Apple. In other words, unnecessary, forced profits for Apple (unnecessary for anyone but Apple, that is).

    However, could someone afford to bring such a lawsuit, and would any accessory provider want to garner Apple’s wrath?

    Seemingly, a sad example of Apple’s hubris and of what can happen with businesses with large product market share.