Accessories makers embracing Bluetooth to side-step Lightning, AirPlay and Apple exclusivity

By , May 6, 2013

Mist iPhone 5 lightning

A growing trend by accessory makers to adopt wireless connections could disconnect Apple from a significant source of revenue. In a departure from the days of the iPod, where accessories such as speakers were designed with 30-pin connections fitting only Apple devices, add-on device manufacturers are have increasingly been turning to Bluetooth for some time to connect a growing number of mobile devices – many not made by Apple.

The reason for the transition includes the rise of Samsung, Amazon and other iPhone and iPad rivals, along with the feeling Apple kept secret from accessory makers its new Lightning connection. As a result, some of the largest accessory makers are turning to the wireless Bluetooth standard to avoid any more surprises from Apple, according to the New York Times…

Rory Dooley, senior vice president for music at accessory giant Logitech, told the New York Times over the weekend:

Even before Apple shifted from the 30-pin connector to Lightning, the market had started shifting Lightning came in and accelerated some of the change. People wanted to get away from these proprietary connections.

Devices with the Lightning connector – such as the iPhone 5 – cannot use existing 30-pin accessories without a $29 adapter from Apple. In addition, the new connectors are more expensive for accessory makers to produce.

“A lot of us were bitten by the connector transition,” Ian Geise, senior vice president for marketing and product development at Voxx Accessories Corporation, said.

Voxx, which sells accessories under brands such as RCA and Acoustic Research, has stopped making gadgets with Apple’s proprietary connections, the newspaper reported over the weekend.

4s bluetooth

Although Apple defends Lightning, telling NYT the company provides the “best wired and wireless connectivity options,” it is likely losing licensing revenue as more accessories are switching to broader wireless standards, such as Bluetooth.

In 2012, U.S. sales of digital speakers with physical connection dropped by 16 percent to $505 million, according to the NPF Group research firm. At the same time, demand for wireless speakers rose 175 percent to $383 million.

While Apple does offer its AirPlay wireless media streaming technology, supporting the technology can increase a speaker system’s cost by $30.

“There’s very little support for AirPlay right now,” says NPD analyst Stephen Baker.

By contrast, “Bluetooth is very cost-effective.”

airplay speaker

The lessening of support by accessory makers potentially delivers a double-whammy to Apple’s bottom-line. Not only does the Bluetooth standard by-pass Apple’s proprietary connections – along with the associated licensing fees – but it also open the opportunity for consumers who invest in expensive sound systems, for example, to migrate to devices other than the iPhone.

Personally, I’d rather opt for, say, a Bluetooth speaker dock that supports not only my iPhone, but any Bluetooth-enabled gadget.

What’s your take on the Lightning vs. Bluetooth dilemma?

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  • http://twitter.com/oo7plasma Brandon

    I always thought the AirPlay idea was stupid, Bluetooth makes much more sense to me.

    • queen_ir3ne

      Airplay is useful as far as mirroring is concerned.

    • http://twitter.com/burlow burlow

      with airplay, you only need a wifi connection. it’s much easier to run out of bluetooth range than wifi range, in general.

    • karmaghost

      AirPlay is, in concept, a great feature that is unfortunately hampered by the burden of being a proprietary protocol. It does have its uses and a couple of advantages over Bluetooth in certain situations.

      I find AirPlay is handy if I’m at home and want to move about the house (or outside in the yard) but still have access to my phone to control my music/podcasts or just use it as phone. With Bluetooth I wouldn’t be able to move as far from the receiver because of the range limitations. Or I’d have to just leave my phone sitting next to it, but at that point, I might as well just plug it directly into my stereo with a cable.

      Bluetooth is infinitely more useful in situations where you don’t have access to a WiFi network, like in a car, since one is required for AirPlay to function.

      • Solowalker

        I agree with the pros and cons for each, though at this stage I prefer AirPlay. Here’s a couple more: Bluetooth pairing is a pain. Until BT 4.0 gets widely adopted, it eats more battery than Wifi. AirPlay can use multiple speakers at once. AirPlay doesn’t require pairing so anyone can use it (if you don’t password protect it).

        And +1 for audio quality issues with Bluetooth.

    • Jeff Garner

      AirPlay is for totally different set of use cases than simple BT audio and the limited BT control API. They BOTH have their uses.

  • queen_ir3ne

    Who connects devices these days anyway. Long live wireless connectivity.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.bo.790 Chris Bö

      I do cause its faster to transfer files between pc and phone !!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1496513068 Zach Krase

    It’s so much better to just go Bluetooth, I’m going to be getting the New iPhone (whenever that is) and I have an iPad 3rd gen, havin Bluetooth speakers and such will just be easier to connect to then dealing with which external device has the 30 pin or the lightning connection

  • Mohammed Sahib

    The “Lightning vs. Bluetooth dilemma” ?!! Really? It isn’t even a dilemma for customers. It is a clear win for bluetooth. Only problem is battery life.

    • truncj

      And audio quality…

      • Mohammed Sahib

        I believe bluetooth 4.0 has enough bandwidth to stream high quality audio.

    • Solowalker

      The “win” is definitely NOT clear for customers. The point of the article is it’s the path of least resistance for manufacturers. And as far as battery life goes, it’s definitely not the only problem but even if it were, that’s a big problem. When you can get twice the battery life using AirPlay vs Bluetooth (and an infinite times more with Lightning since it’s charging at the same time), why would I use Bluetooth again?

  • http://twitter.com/burlow burlow

    don’t all these speakers have headphone jacks anyway? if you’re going to plug a device in, why would you use lighting/30pin vs headphone?

  • Javier Martinez

    This is a good way to stick it to apple. Down with AirPlay!

    • Jeff Garner

      Why would you say that? Got a good alternative?

  • Cal

    Lightning sucks, as it does not play true HDMI to external displays via the only accessory connector sold only by apple brand $50! As it has an apple chip that streams the video from lightning to HDMI, VGA, MAC…
    And the 30 pin adapter for the lightning only supports charging and is not even worth the $29 from apple, however this one is available aftermarket!!!

    • Solowalker

      So, this article wasn’t about HDMI at all but I’ll talk about it with you.

      While I agree it’s concerning that their adapter doesn’t do a true HDMI signal, the way things are engineered they have two ways to fix it: 1) Firmware update for the adapter, or if that’s not enough 2) a different adapter with hardware that will actually do the job.

      Lightning is a huge step forward as far as connectors are concerned as the device and its connector don’t have to have any previous knowledge of whatever adapter or other device you’re going to connect to it. It’s FORWARDS compatible. And that’s amazing. As long as people keep making Lightning adapters/devices and apps to interface with them, your device would never be obsolete. HUGE +1.

  • Jonathan

    i like AirPlay its extremely simple, but Apple doesnt get the point of such protocols. they are meant to be open and usable by anything.

    for example AirDrop,ive used it twice when i copied a file from my Mac to my mums. unless you change the setting via command line,you have to be right next to the other Mac. that happens perhaps in a meeting, but then you can share files by other means (such as dropbox) and it works PC-Mac and anywhere. AirDrop would be far more useful if it was open. if you could do it to any phone/computer, at any range. Apple are good at coming up with the right ideas, but when it comes to implementing them, they get so far and then just stop.

    • Solowalker

      In favor of AirDrop, I work at a medium-sized business and the majority of us use Macs. We have our own IRC server, a wiki, and several file sharing servers. But do you wanna guess how I most commonly share files with my team? Yeah, AirDrop.

      The guy across the way has a new build of the software with something he wants me to test really quickly before pushing the change to the build server. AirDrop. I’ve got a set of screenshots I need to send over to my Docs person. AirDrop. Logs that need to be passed back over to the engineers before confirming a bug and filing a report? AirDrop.

      It’s so fast and dead simple. Doesn’t require a router, let alone an internet connection. No links, no passwords, no plugs, no nonsense. Beats the pants off of any other local sharing protocol. Maybe I might feel more like you if more people used Windows machines, but that’s not how Apple rolls. Yet, guess what. If you use all Macs, it totally doesn’t matter. (Yes, I understand the point of open protocols but not everything has to be open and “usable by anything.”)

  • karmaghost

    I have nothing against a move towards Bluetooth, but one of the major benefits of using a cable (be it the old 30-pin or Lightning version) is that it charges your device and allows you to potentially keep your screen from locking, which can be handy. Bluetooth does just the opposite and increases battery drain.

    Also, I’m not sure how Lightning works but I know with the 30-pin connectors you got a direct digital output for audio; I’d be interested to know what, if any, compression is applied to Bluetooth audio and how that affects sound quality. It’s probably negligible, but still…

    Bluetooth allows you to stay “untethered,” but it’s range is still rather limited and I imagine sound quality starts to suffer as signal strength decreases.

    All that being said, I don’t mind manufacturers sticking to it Apple a little for what they did with Lightning.

  • http://twitter.com/newmac newmac

    Good Grief; EVERYTHING should be Bluetooth; who wants to engage in activity with wires sticking out everywhere; tangling up? Wires should be history.

  • http://www.facebook.com/knowlge2 Luis Martinez

    I actually purchased the Bose Soundlink II or whatever they’re called. They are absolutely phenomenal. They were I think $30-$50 more vs any physical connector dock. Don’t regret one bit. Well worth and as much as I hate every other smartphone besides my iPhone I still love being able to share it with friends at work with other friends or simply lending it to someone else.

  • http://twitter.com/williamkako13 William Kosch

    The only reason I want a Bluetooth stereo is because I have an Otterbox armour series case and its huge. Can’t exactly take it off every time I want music. So I bought three airport expresses, now my whole house is AirPlay.

  • http://andriyg.com/ AndriyG81

    I always felt that airplay produces a much better quality when it come to sound. But I do like the “openness” of the bluetooth. Speaking of bluetooth, I would love to add bluetooth adapter to my car AUX port, anyone have a good suggestion? Quality concerns? Thank you for any suggestions, or thoughts on that matter.

  • Gorgonphone

    blue tooth quality is still to low

  • Jeff Garner

    It may surprise you but this is EXACTLY what Apple wants! They want to cut the cord and have repeatedly said, and you’ve ignored, that the future is wireless.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.bo.790 Chris Bö

    I like the lighting cable tbh …
    And I’m also a person who connects the phone to pc via cable .. Ofc I could use WLAN but why !? Transferring file from pc to phone is always faster via cable !!!!!

  • eyePOD

    Why not use the Dolry HiFi stone from C4 Electronics instead? It is a 30-pin adapter, compatible with AirPlay and DLNA. And instead of bluetooth it uses real WiFi and WiFi Direct. Bluetooth compress the sound quality, and WiFi streams in full quality. And the best of all – white Dolry is connected to your home WiFi router, you can access it from all over your house. No crappy 10 meter radio distance like bluetooth!