SAN FRANCISCO -- For nearly a decade, consumers have gotten used to the familiar white 30-pin connector cable from Apple. It did everything from charging up iPhones, iPads and iPods to connecting devices to a host of 150 million devices, such as home stereos, radios and car units.
Now, with the new iPhone 5, which you can preorder starting today and which ships Sept. 21, Apple is ditching the old cable for a new, thinner one, called Lightning. Consumers already are confused. And businesses are scrambling to adapt to the new cable.
Rachel Sederberg, a senior at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., calls the new cable a "pretty big nuisance. Now older products won't work together in that seamless way they used to."
Apple defends the new cable connector, saying it was needed to make the iPhone 5 thinner. "I think when everybody holds the product, they're going to say, â??Wow, this is absolutely the right thing to do,'" Apple CEO Tim Cook told USA TODAY this week.
Additionally, Apple hopes to ease the pain by selling a $29.99 adapter that will work with the new cable. "It would have been an issue had they not created an adapter," says Tim Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Strategies.
Manufacturers who make their living churning out iPhone accessories have their hands full. Blue Microphones, which makes a line of popular consumer microphones sold in the Apple retail stores, recently released the Mikey Digital microphone, which snaps directly into the iPhone via the 30-pin connector for improved sound.
Now the company has to go back to the drawing board.
"We're looking into how to adapt to the new connector," says Hillary Money, Blue Microphones' event manager. Belkin International, which makes a host of iPhone accessories â?? cases, cables and chargers â?? got busy figuring out its next move after the iPhone 5 announcement on Wednesday.
"The race is on," says Belkin senior design director Oliver Duncan Seil. "We need to make sure we don't lag and get the products out as soon as possible."
A major change, such as the one Apple is undertaking, "is great for companies like us," he says.
He expects to release many new products for the Lightning cable, as well as update the old ones.
Even though Apple will try to ease the pain of the new cable by selling an adapter, the change will hurt, says Krishna Subramanian, chief marketing officer for mobile advertising company Velti.
"It's a huge deal," he says. "Everyone has multiple accessories tied to lots of cables. Now you have to decide: Do I buy one adapter and take it with me everywhere, or buy one for home, work and the car. And now it starts to scale up to hundreds of dollars it's going to cost me, and that's burdensome."
For the future, "Apple needs to find a way to charge the phone without plugging it in," he says.
Some manufacturers embrace the change. Jawbone, which makes a popular line of Bluetooth-enabled wireless speakers, put a video online titled The Dock is Dead.
"The future is wireless," says Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman. "We think docks make your mobile device immobile. Wireless speakers are the only way to go."