Apple’s new Lightning interface for its iDevices may not easily reach the same level of robust third party support as its 30-pin Dock Connector predecessor. Sources speaking with iLounge Wednesday indicate that the Cupertino company is making significant changes to its “Made for iPad/iPhone/iPod” (MFi) policies that will make it more difficult for third parties to create Lightning compatible accessories and devices.
According to iLounge’s sources, only Apple-approved facilities will be allowed to produce Lightning cables and accessories, a strict limit that was not present in Apple’s Dock Connector licensing agreements. Exacerbating the issue is the fact that Apple has yet to approve any facilities, resulting in a noticeable dearth of Lightning accessories for millions of new iPhone owners.
Due to these advanced functions, it is presumed that Apple wishes to ensure the highest possible quality among contributors to its third-party ecosystem. One source correspondingly notes that the company is planning a “MFi seminar” for third parties, where it will outline the manufacturing process and rules for Lightning accessories.
This seminar is reportedly scheduled for November and will be held in China, the well-known hub of electronics and accessory manufacturing. However, such a delay in producing Lightning accessories suggests that holiday shoppers won’t have much to choose from when it comes to iDevice-focused gifts.
Apple was quick to point out during the iPhone 5’s launch in September that the entire mobile accessory ecosystem has changed since the introduction of the 30-pin Dock Connector. Although not yet universal, strong support for Apple’s AirPlay technology has reduced the need for users to rely on physical speaker docks, and the introduction of Wi-Fi iTunes syncing, over-the-air software updates, and iCloud media management means that many iDevice users will never have to plug their device into a computer.
Most users will instead miss the ubiquitous 30-pin Dock Connector for convenient charging. Apple currently sells relatively expensive Lightning to USB cables and Lightning to Dock Connector Adapters, but shortages of both items have been reported, leaving many users with only the included Lightning cable as a means of charging their iPhones.
Apple’s relationship with third party MFi accessory manufacturers has been a strong and mutually beneficial one. Apple’s customers no doubt hope that the same quality of relationship will eventually arise for Lightning as the company transitions all of its mobile products to the new interface.