Has Apple Pushed Away All Its Friends?

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) may have hurt its accessory-making friends, and pretty soon, the iPhone maker could be feeling the fallout as those accessory makers give Apple a lot less favor.

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Anyone who has owned an iOS device has seen the unique connector port at the bottom of the device that allows it to sync, charge, and interact with any number of specially made gadgets — such as speaker systems or radio transmitters. Those very same ports may prove to be the source of Apple’s current issue and could be breaking the bond between Apple and the loyal followers that have made it strong.

From early iPods to some of the more recent iPhones and iPads, Apple’s iOS devices had all featured the proprietary 30-pin plug — whereas many other devices featured standard USB ports of varying sizes. Accessory makers that wanted to work with iOS devices had to license the technology in order to have those devices plug into their own. For years, that worked well for Apple and acceptably for the accessory makers. However, the latest and greatest iOS devices made a big change that hit accessory makers hard.

With the iPhone 5 and subsequent devices, Apple switched from the 30-pin port to its newer Lightning port. That move immediately made the new devices incompatible with all the accessories that had been made before, unless consumers were willing to fork out extra money for an adapter that may not always solve the problem

This left a lot of consumers and manufacturers hurting. Now, it appears that many manufacturers are shifting the way that the make their devices connect to mobile devices, using more universal connections like Bluetooth — which is nearly ubiquitous in the wireless speaker market, which grew 175 percent last year to $383 million. Bluetooth has the added benefit of not needing a hard connection, so users can move around with their devices while still connecting them to other accessories — which is growing more popular. Apple foresaw a move toward wireless connections and introduced AirPlay, but that is an expensive alternative to Bluetooth, and many manufacturers may recognize it as another proprietary tool for Apple to gain leverage and control over accessory makers.

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The move to standardized connections methods may not only hurt Apple directly, but indirectly as well, as accessories that connect via Bluetooth could just as easily be made to connect to Samsung (SSNLF.PK) devices or any number of other smartphones and tablets. The devices would likely still work with Apple’s products, as most include Bluetooth functionality, but Apple’s tightly closed i-ecosystem would have a major hole punched into it, plus it could be losing substantial amounts from lost licensing fees.

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