Apple recently confirmed that more accessories using the company’s proprietary Smart Connector are on the horizon. Notably, the scarcity of supported products has been a chief complaint about the fledgling port standard.
An unnamed Apple spokesperson confirmed the news to Fast Company, stating that “multiple companies” are currently developing products with Smart Connector support, although no release timeline or specific manufacturers were named. As for the slow rollout of the port standard to more companies thus far, many accessory makers told the publication that the blame lies mostly with Apple itself.
First introduced in 2015 as a hassle-free port on the iPad Pro, the Smart Connector is now present on the entire iPad Pro lineup. But there are currently only four products that use the Apple-developed port. One is Apple’s own keyboard cover, two are Logitech-made keyboards, and the last is a Logitech docking station. Indeed, Apple has relied heavily on its partnership with Logitech to bring additional third-party Smart Connector accessories to market, and Apple is maintaining tight control over its port.
But that close partnership has apparently caused problems for other manufacturers. Accessory makers such as Incipio claim that Cupertino has been slow to issue testing standards and components to other companies. Executives at Incipio, however, backed off of those claims slightly — instead stating that they’re focusing on filling gaps in the market, rather than rushing to release a product. “They’re very cautious with what they do, and they to make sure they get it right,” Incipio’s Carlos Del Toro said of the Logitech-Apple partnership. “It’s one thing to develop with a partner that is custom, and another thing to develop a platform so that others can use it.”
Other manufacturers and sources reiterated to Fast Company that testing the Smart Connector port has been time- and cost-prohibitive. In one case, an unnamed source said that it took six months to get extremely expensive components from Apple. The Smart Connector’s faults are especially apparent when compared to the open source nature and ubiquity of Bluetooth. And while Apple’s port lets an accessory run on a device’s power supply, that advantage is becoming increasingly negligible due to Bluetooth’s increased energy efficiency.
Nicholas Smith, CEO of Brydge, also called the port “incredibly limiting.” Brydge manufactures an aluminum iPad keyboard with a 180-degree hinge that can basically turn the tablet into a clamshell-laptop. The Smart Connector’s fixed angle would make that current design impossible, Smith said — although he added that Smart Connector support could show up in future Brydge products “if the application is right.”
While the Smart Connector is currently available on all iPad Pro models, there have been rumors that the port standard could be added to future iPhones. According to one rumor, Smart Connector support would facilitate currently unknown augmented and virtual reality applications.
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