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Dear apple, what the Dock?

Apple’s new iPhone4 has created quite a stir, even though consumers are paying slightly more for the same phone with a slightly better display, dual (improved) cameras, and flash. I’m sure by now you know about the antenna problems and the lame way that apple chose to fix it, but I wanted one of these wonderful gadgets, so I signed up on the reservation list and finally got my email notification to pick one up this morning.

The Apple store was helpful as always, but as soon as I got the phone in my hands I realized that it was going to be another iPhone upgrade with a different goddamn dock. I tried the easy way out and wasted $9 on a “universal dock adapter kit”, which didn’t work at all with my Apple iPhone 3GS dock. I assumed it was meant for the dock that I owned, but this adapter was meant for some device which clearly didn’t match anything that Apple has ever produced. Nine dollars wasted and no working dock.

The dock is an essential device to me. Without it, I’d forget to drop my phone into the dock at work and keep it charged. How to fix this? Apple wants $29 for a new iPhone 4 dock. This is completely unacceptable to me, considering that the iPhone 3GS dock is now selling at $7 on many sites. Why pay again for a similar connector and janky audio-out contraption? (Did you know the audio out is provided by a microphone in the base of the dock, which connects to an amplifier and then the audio out jack? It does.)

There was only one way to fix this — time to make this right with some hacking.

So, out comes the dremel tool:

Let the hacking begin. We start with the 3gs dock, and go from this…

…to this, a few moments later. I hacked it into the shape of the 4g:

But guess what? Hacking the dock to fit the iPhone4 doesn’t work, because Apple’s modified the dock to only recognize the 3GS. If you connect an iPhone 4 to that very same connector, the phone and iTunes will not recognize the phone.

Sure, my 3gs still works, so I haven’t damaged anything:

Connecting the cable directly to the 4g works, just not the dock to the 4g through the very same cable.

Apple’s position on this is worsening. The iPhone 1g’s came with working docks. Then, they stopped supplying them. on the 2g and 3g models, it was an extra $20 and $25. Now it’s $29.

This is awful. There’s a custom plug that you can’t easily purchase, and all iPhone models, even though they use the same plug, are incompatible with each other’s docks because of artificial incompatibilities created by a series of resistor codes hidden inside the cable or device.

Thanks, Apple. I love the iPhone, but the way you’re treating your customers is bullshit.

This entry was posted on Monday, July 5th, 2010 at 7:16 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


61 Responses to “Dear apple, what the Dock?”

  1. 1 Vash

    You know, the original iPhone dock works perfectly with the new iPhone 4. Try it out.

  2. 2 tankadin

    Steve Jobs talks you into trying anal and now you're angry because he's going too deep.

  3. 3 1stlucci


    why are there ads on your blog?

  4. 4 Arpee

    i feel really good i didn't get an iphone

  5. 5 dudebro

    Hurr, sell something called a universal dock adapter then say it does not work with the old dock yeah it's his fault!

  6. 6 bound008

    thats great advice…

    if you buy android you won't have to worry about a choice in docks or battery life, because you won't have either.

  7. 7 Paul

    > I assumed it was meant for the dock that I owned, but this adapter was meant for some device which clearly didn’t match any thing that Apple has ever produced.

    As implied by the name, the universal dock adapter is an adapter for the universal dock, which Apple produces, and which supports every iPod other than the first and second gen, and every iPhone. http://store.apple.com/us/product/MB125G/C Other apple products with docks also employ the universal docking mechanism, as do the bulk of third party docks. But universal docks are bigger, and they’re uglier, so maybe people prefer the device specific ones.

    >(Did you know the audio out is provided by a microphone in the base of the dock, which connects to an amplifier and then the audio out jack? It does.)

    Okay, now you’re trolling. Firstly, the iPhone don’t necessarily make any noise while doing audio out, and furthermore, iPods could do audio out before they had speakers! In fact, just a few paragraphs later you provide the true mechanism for audio out – http://pinouts.ru/PortableDevices/ipod_pinout.s… – Pins 3 & 4 on the dock connector do audio out. Maybe you should read before you write.

    In general I would suggest that you read before you buy, too, but your original purchase goes beyond that. Just *looking* at the dock tells you it’s not backwards or forwards compatible – it *can’t* be, by necessity of its form! (universal docks don’t have this form and thus *can* be compatible) The fact that these docks don’t implement the internal hardware to make them forward compatible for the 3 people worldwide that dremel away at the dock to fit is about as far from treating their customers like bullshit as you can get.

  8. 8 Paul

    Apple isn’t the only maker of iPod cables, and iPod charge/connection cables can be bought by consumers for $1.60 each. This is no more than one would pay for MiniUSB. Furthermore, since MiniUSB by itself only does half of what the dock connector does, Apple would have to extend the format in order to maintain their current feature set. Other smartphone manufacturers already do this – devices supporting MiniUSB are using incompatible proprietary extensions to the standard to allow things like extra power input, serial I/O audio I/O and video I/O – so it’s not much different to the iPhone when you move beyond just charging and syncing the phone (and, as I showed above, there is no gouging going on for that). Given the massive momentum behind the dock connector, there are huge downsides for them to changing to a different format (if they did so, they would be accused of gouging customers because they would force the obsolescence of millions of accessories), and given the lack of any pervasive use of microUSB, there’s not much of an upside to doing so, for either consumers or for Apple.

    As far as *docks* (you know, the topic of discussion) are concerned, its even less of an issue – Apple’s devices are about the only place one can even say there is a standard. The connector itself is a small part of the issue for docks – not only do the connectors have to be compatible, the devices also need to fit. Standardisation in docks is *impossible* unless smartphones standardise the shape, size, and connector placement in their phone. (ie: it’s impossible) Even within most individual companies, connector placements and form factors vary wildly. This is why most docks are for one device only, even if the actual connector is standard.

    Apple have been fairly set on a form factor & connector placement since the original iPod, and have been merely making things smaller and thinner along the way (excluding the iPad). This means they *can* have a universal dock, big enough to fit the older devices, but with inserts to make newer devices fit nicely. This is what they do – and what *only* they do. Is there *any* other manufacturer that has a forward compatible dock?

  9. 9 Brian Go

    Hmmm…. I don't use my dock much, but decided to try out the dock that came with my 1st gen 2g iPhone. Conclusion… We have SYNC. I never use the thing so next time you're in Boston, you can have it.

  10. 10 Hire iPhone developer

    While Apple’s products have many benefits, they are damaged by a disturbing
    set of limitations on what customers and designers can do with them. This is
    most especially actual of iOS, though other apple organization company
    organization company products sometimes experience in the same way.

  11. 11 Aussie

    Blimey you Americans do get cranky over the silliest things, What a terrible first world problem you all have.


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