From the day iPods debuted, you couldn’t miss the white wires. While all previous cables and headphones were black, Apple added a brilliant piece of branding to the world of mobile media: they changed cable colors. Today, you can always spot an Apple user. From the headphones in their ears to the charger cables dangling from wall outlets and USB sockets across the world, Apple white-washed them all. Today, the iPhone—Apple’s biggest selling product and smartphone originator—can be plugged in just about anywhere. Friends, colleagues, the guy sitting next to you in the library and even your local bartender can be counted on to help you out with a charge. But this ubiquitous charger utopia is about to come to an end.
With the unveiling of the iPhone 5 on Wednesday, Apple announced a whole slate of new changes including a larger screen, a faster processer and an 8 MP camera. But the blogosphere and tech journalists everywhere only saw one thing: the addition of the ‘Lightning’ connector. This miniaturized version of the omnipresent 30-pin connector offers a reversible design and a smaller, lighter cable that offers a faster charge and quicker transfers. It also requires all iPhone 5 buyers purchase a $29 adapter if they want to use the traditional 30-pin connection, still present on devices like docking stations, USB cables and other pervasive items.
Apple only compounded the ire of customers by releasing an order page in the U.K. proclaiming that the adapter came free with every purchase. This offer was later rescinded.
It is easy to see how this makes sense for Apple. The Lightning connector is smaller and requires fewer raw materials to make. If all those ubiquitous cables, cords and devices have to be replaced, one can hear the ka-ching noise a mile away. But with $40 headphones and $30 USB cables already a retail reality in the nation’s Apple stores, consumers are weary of these cash grabs. One wonders how much more customers can be expected to take.
But a look at Wall Street projections show no indication that analysts see this problem coming. Despite the fact that the launch of the iPhone 4S was the company’s first unsuccessful product launch, losing 10 percent on its stock price, analysts predict massive increases in the company’s current $664 per-share price. Analysts covering Apple with big names like Deutsche Bank, Barclay’s and Goldman Sachs all raised their stock price projections from the initial 10-15 percent estimate to over 25 percent after the iPhone’s newest features were unveiled.
Bloggers, tech journalists and business owners are not so sure. According to the Wall Street Journal, a Dallas hotel owner stated he bought 600 clock radios, all with the old connector. If iPhone has its way, every new phone user will be trying to balance their iPhone on top of a cradle dock and praying for the best. This scene is not consistant with iPhone’s interest in design and seamless plug-and-play integration. One thing is for sure: forcing customers to buy entirely new peripherals is a bet we can’t believe is going to pay off in Apple’s favor.