The dock connector that comes with Apple devices is more or less a legacy item. Earlier, it was used for connecting your iPhone, iPod, or iPad with your system for syncing data and powering the device. However, Apple introduced the iCloud in 2011, and now the dock is quite obsolete. It is possible that the new iPhone might not come with the dock connector at all.
Why remove the dock?
The 30-pin dock connector has been around for a long time and has been quite handy as well. But now, it might be replaced. The removal of the socket has also become a necessity because it places a limit on the thinness of the device. Also, removing the socket allows Apple to make room for some other features in the phone.
Some time back, Apple had signed up a European agreement for deploying micro-USB solutions for interconnecting its device. Since no moves have been made by Apple to go with the micro-USB route, it seems possible that Apple is thinking of a wireless solution. Also, Apple has been working towards developing technologies for power induction and has been involved in patent filings for technologies similar to Powermat, but with better conversion rates.
How will third party developers be affected?
The major problem with removing the connector is that there are numerous accessories for Apple devices which utilize the dock connector. The accessories market benefits greatly from this dock and its removal could be really challenging for them. If any radical move is made for changing the interconnect solution, then third party manufacturers for accessories under Apple’s licensing scheme will face problems. So, it is safe to assume that whatever solution Apple comes up with, will be proprietary in nature.
If you look at Apple’s history and how its other devices have evolved, it is quite clear that the iPhone will move to cable-free future. The Wi-Fi based iPhone, iPod and iPad sync, and abandonment of the optical drive in MacBook Air are strong indications that Apple is looking for lighter and wire-less solutions.
What should be expected?
For third party developers, Apple has been a difficult company to deal with. The main reason for this is that Apple does not give any warning to the developers before making any product changes. In fact, on most occasions, accessory developers get to see the product at the same time as the normal customer.
If Apple launches the new iPhone in September (which is the expected release date as of now), then it should provide third party accessory makers a chance to develop supporting devices. Developers would want to see if the new interconnect option is magnet based or not and whether they can develop their current products to become compatible with the new device. If not, then most of the developers will have to sell their current inventory items and either develop devices for the new interconnect, or shut down their business.
A completely wireless iPhone sounds great on the paper and for the user, but it will create problems for third party developers. If Apple does plan to inform the developers about the changes, then you can expect the announcement at the WWDC in June.