When Apple introduced the Lightning connector as the replacement for the old 30 pin connector, a lot of people were worried about all their old accessories. Apple has released two adapters (one solid and one with a cable), which are both horribly overpriced for something that should come free with the device, and horribly limited in exactly what accessories are supported. They’re fine if you just want to use old chargers or speaker docks, but anything more advanced than that and you’re essentially screwed. That hasn’t gone over too well with users, but there’s an even bigger issue with Apple’s Lightning adapters: They’re both Lightning to 30 pin. Where are the 30 pin to Lightning adapters?
Right now, we’re in a period where most accessories still use the 30 pin connectors. It takes time to design and manufacture new Lightning-based accessories, and in all fairness, most Apple devices still use the 30 pin connector. Therein lies the problem. Manufacturers are working on Lightning connector accessories as we speak, with some companies, like Bose, already offering Lightning-compatible products. I don’t know each company’s plans for the future, but I don’t expect a whole lot of them to continue producing 30 pin versions of accessories along with the Lightning versions – at least not once the new connector becomes more common. What then when all the accessories out there are for the new standard, and all the 30 pin accessories are gone from the shelves? There is no adapter that goes the other way, with a female Lightning connector and a male 30 pin connector, and I doubt there will ever be one from Apple.
You also have a lot of people who now have one of each connector type in their Apple devices. I’m one of those. My iPad 2 uses a 30 pin connector, my iPad mini a Lightning connector. If I buy something for my iPad mini now, it won’t be compatible with the iPad 2. I can buy certain 30 pin accessories for the iPad 2 and have them be compatible with the mini, but who wants to buy the last generation of accessories that will eventually be completely outdated? Forwards compatibility is great, but it has to be second to backwards compatibility, not a replacement for it.
It seems extremely counter-intuitive and short sighted of Apple to only make the compatibility go one way. I guess you could argue that if you make it harder for users of old devices to use new accessories, you encourage them to upgrade their devices. While that’s a greedy approach, it’s at least somewhat logical. The only problem is that the last 30 pin device, the iPad 3, came out this spring. It was touted as the latest and greatest, even to the point where it was literally named “the new iPad.” Moreover, both the iPad 2, iPhone 4, and iPhone 4S are still being sold new from Apple, and if the current triple generation system for iPhones is kept and no changes are made to the devices, we won’t see the iPhone 4S going away from shelves for two more years.
The Lightning connector switch didn’t go over well with a lot of people. So many companies have been screwing over users with changing connectors for years that I guess Apple thought it would be less of big deal, forgetting the massive arsenal of 30 pin accessories that people have built up over the years. The Lightning connector does have several actual advantages to it, so a few years from now we’ll probably be better off, but Apple has- in my opinion- failed harder with this transitional phase than it did with Apple Maps. Expensive adapters that work on only the simplest of accessories, and no adapters that make new accessories compatible with the older devices- despite them still being sold. Hopefully third party manufacturers can fix Apple’s screw up.