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Apple iDevice dock port to drive wireless streaming

Analog audio out, AirPlay in

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Will Apple's new dock connector, expected to debut on the iPhone 5, signal the end of low-cost audio docks? The makers of such kit seem to think so.

They say the new nine-pin port lacks the dedicated analog audio lines found on its 30-pin predecessor, according to an interesting piece on Hardware.info.

Rather a lot of docks rely on these lines, fed by the connected iPhone, iPod or iPad's own digital-to-analog converter to save on the price of a DAC themselves. With no analog lines in the new connector, there'll be no simple port converter product either.

Some high-end docks, most notably Philips' fine Fidelio range and the lauded Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin series, already bypass the iDevice's DAC by pulling the audio off as digital data then decoding it themselves. That's one of the reasons they sound rather the better than their rivals.

Hardware.info's discussions at IFA with dock makers suggests they will all need to take such an approach - if, of course, they choose to implement dock connectors at all.

Ditching analog out will have not only helped Apple slim down the iDevice dock connector, but it will also drive speaker manufacturers and users toward wireless streaming using Apple's own AirPlay tech, or over Bluetooth.

Many dock makers we've spoken to are keenly pushing wireless speakers, as much to help sell upgrades and to appeal to all those Android device owners out there. Android devices have no standard connector, unless you count micro USB, and that's not analog-enabled either.

Apple's exercise in dock slimming can only hasten the process of converting device linkage for syncing and streaming to wireless, with the connector used almost exclusively for power.

Which, I'd say, gives Apple even less of an excuse not to adopt micro USB in place of its proprietary connector. ®

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