Apple To Use Micro USB?

I mentioned back in September 2007 that cell phone manufacturers were looking to replace their varied connectors with Micro USB meaning most cell phones would use the same chargers and accessories. MacRumors points to a Reuters report that Apple has also agreed to go Micro USB in Europe, which presumably means the US as well.

I personally doubt Apple will just ditch the 30 pin dock connector in favor of Micro USB. I suspect Apple will either bundle a Dock to Micro USB adapter instead or add a Micro USB port next to the Dock connector. Among the many reasons:

  • The dock is essentially “USB+ Firewire + Audio + Video + other”. Take a look at the pinout. It’s much more complicated to get USB audio working than to read line out. For the intents and purposes the dock is as good if not better interface.
  • The dock connector has an extensive list of implementations including many accessories and car audio systems. “Designed for iPod/iPhone” is preferred by Apple over “Designed for mp3 players”.
  • The dock is a proprietary interface, Apple collects a licensing fee for its use in accessories.

Since the dock connector is really “USB+ Firewire + Audio + Video + Other”, a USB adapter is obviously cheap and easy to produce (they already ship a USB cable with all products). Hence I suspect there will be either a Micro USB adapter, or Apple will add the port to the bottom of the iPod/iPhone since Micro USB is very small.

There is still an advantage to having Micro USB. For one charging will become more universal across cellphones. This means car manufacturers, and even airplanes can offer Micro USB to let people charge phones easily via a single ubiquitous low powered interface.

It’s also more environmentally friendly since you’ll be able to buy your own separate higher quality power adapter. No more cheap bundled power bricks known for their phantom loads. Or just charge off your computer. You’ll also be able to use the same charger and accessories with more phones.

I’m glad to see this finally happening.

Edit [6/29/2009 @ 10:00 PM EST]: Pocket-lint says Apple stated to them it will be an adapter.

Micro USB For Cell Phones

Replacing a cell phone is one of the most insane upgrades ever. Not only do you replace the device (often with a new service plan for 2 years), but you’ve got to replace accessories in most cases, especially if you change manufacturers. Sometimes even the same manufacturer can have different connectors for the same accessories, depending on the phone model. Lets not forget the cost of these accessories. It’s a silly process. At least with computers most of your accessories plug in fine provided they are remotely modern (made within the past 4 years).

Several manufacturers including Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and LG have now standardized on Micro USB meaning that future phones will use the same connection. Not only that, but it’s USB, so just like your computer. A few cell phones currently use Mini USB (such as Motorola cell phones). Micro USB is even smaller, which should be sufficient for a few years until cell phones become no more than a piece of paper. You can see a picture of various USB sizes here. Advantages of using USB rather than another standard include that it’s powered (meaning you can charge with it), is compatible with virtually all PC’s (meaning you’ll be able to charge your cell phone from your PC, or even transfer data if your cell phone’s software allows), and it’s pretty fast.

Having one standard means that like we see for Bluetooth devices, there will be a ton of options for consumers to choose between. Not just 1 data cable, a handful of charger, etc.

Of course that means pretty much everyone will need to buy Cell Phone accessories at least one more time. But hopefully when you do, you’ll buy ones that last.