NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- One of the more contentious aspects of the new iPhone 5 is that it will use a new type of connector, Lightning, for plugging the phone into your wall socket or computer. While Apple has touted the advantages of this smaller, reversible plug, many have griped that this makes the phone incompatible with the numerous docks and accessories put out by third parties over the years.
The good news is that Apple is selling an adapter to make it possible to plug your new phone into your old speaker dock; the bad news is that it won't come cheap. The Lightning-to-30-pin adapter, as Apple is calling it, will sell for $29 from the Apple Store. This doesn't come as a complete shock. Apple has long been notorious for its high-priced accessories -- a simply power adapter that allows you to plug your USB iPod or iPhone jack into a wall socket will set you back a cool $19, for instance.
But frugal Apple fans have also long known that third parties are just as capable of making cords and power adapters, which they'll sell at a much lower cost. The old 30-pin connector, for instance, which still sells for $19 at the Apple Store, can be found for just $2.95 on a third-party site. The obvious question, then, is when we can expect to start seeing similarly cheap knockoffs of this new adapter. After all, you shouldn't have to pay an extra $29 just to plug your new iPhone into your old speaker dock, right?
Amazingly, some third parties are already offering adapters that they say will do the same job at a fraction of the cost. CNET points to this adapter sold by Nanotch for $18 on Amazon, as well as for $9.99 from a company called iTronz.
Meanwhile, other accessory retailers and manufacturers seem to be gearing up to sell similar offerings: A spokesperson for accessory maker Monoprice says that it “has been made aware by manufacturers in Asia that iPhone 5 Lightning-to-30-pin adapters are available at a component level,” and that it will be working with suppliers to get them on sale by the end of October.
Of course, the big question is whether you can trust these imitation adapters, especially those being released before the technical specifications of the real deal are known. While the general assumption is that the $29 price tag represents Apple's usual accessory markup, at least one news outlet says that the adapter uses costly digital-to-analog converter technology that would account for its high price. If that's truly the case, then it's quite possible that these early imitation adapters don't actually have the technological innards needed to get the job done, and that you're better off paying more for the real thing.
Our advice? Wait until the genuine article has been on the market long enough for third-party manufacturers to take it apart and make a proper imitation. And if it's still cheaper after that, then make sure you only buy from trusted retailers with a good return policy.
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--By Matt Brownell