Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Apple Adds ‘Ultra Accessory Connector’ to MFi Program

Here’s something straight out of left field. Jordan Kahn, 9to5Mac:

Apple is planning to adopt a new connector type for accessories for iPhone, iPad and other Apple devices through its official Made-for-iPhone (MFi) licensing program. Dubbed the “Ultra Accessory Connector” (UAC), Apple has recently launched a developer preview of the new connector type to prepare manufacturing partners for the component that in some cases will replace the use of Lightning and USB connectors, according to sources familiar with the program.

[…]

Apple’s specs for the Ultra Accessory Connector through the MFi program currently specify use of the UAC connector (both male and female) for cables used on headphones. Apple will allow accessory manufacturers to make Lightning to UAC, USB-A to UAC, and 3.5mm headset jacks to UAC, which would allow headphones with a UAC port to connect to various Apple devices. For instance, Apple’s Beats by Dre headphones currently use a slightly larger micro-USB port, while other brands have adopted use of Lightning ports for the cable that connects to Bluetooth headphones for charging or in some cases optional wired listening.

This is a curious development. My Spidey sense is that this isn’t a port in addition to Lightning on new iOS devices, but I can’t see it replacing Lightning either. Amidst the migration of Mac peripherals to USB-C, and the replacement of wired headphones with wireless models, I’m a little confused about how this fits into the bigger picture.

Perhaps it’s an interoperable standard for all Apple devices, primarily designed for charging wireless headphones and passing audio while plugged in. Or perhaps it’s not Apple proprietary; maybe it will become micro USB-C. Apple, after all, reportedly had a leading role in the design of USB-C.

Update: This connector isn’t new. Andrew Cunningham, Ars Technica (via Adam Selby):

In reality, the UAC is just Apple’s name for a port that is already used in some digital cameras and other accessories — Apple has just given it a new moniker. Currently, it goes by a few different titles: Mitsumi calls it an “Ultra Mini Connector” and Nikon calls it a “UC-E6” cable. In any case, it appears to be just another connector for the regular-old USB spec. When contacted for comment, Apple told us that it was adding the port to the MFi program at the request of licensees, not because it’s trying to push licensees to support a new kind of connector.

Well that’s certainly obscure.