We’re now hearing from a source close to Apple’s accessory manufacturing partner that the company plans to hold a conference in Shenzen, China for its Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad (MFI) program partners on November 7 and 8, similar to the one it held last year between December 7-9 when it expanded the MFI program to promote adoption of new AirPlay and Bluetooth standards. We’re also hearing that Apple will strictly regulate sales of Lightning connectors for MFI partners, and that the cost per part for those components, while not unreasonable, is fairly high compared to other widely-available standards like USB.
iLounge reported earlier in October that the confab in Shenzen for MFI partners was planned for November, and that it would detail new rules. One of those new rules, according to one of our sources close to the program,is that Apple’s Lightning pin supply is controlled by the company itself, and it supplies approved MFI partners with production quantities of the pin once their product is determined to have met its standards and specifications. It sells them in volume, and our source says the pricing is actually very fair when you consider the advanced technology involved in the connector’s construction.
Another source believes that while Apple regulating sales isn’t surprising in the least, unauthorized copies from Chinese engineers are likely to still appear, but that using their products in accessories could incur legal action or goods being confiscated by customs authorities at border checkpoints. That source also noted that Apple seems to have provided additional security against low-quality copies, something supported by a new Chipworks teardown in which a potential security chip was found. Still, there is evidence that some companies are already ramping up to create off-brand Lightning cables at prices that undercut Apple’s, as one of our tipsters was able to negotiate a quote for volume orders of the same at between $10 and $12 per piece, with an estimated ship date for later this month.
Of course, as with any product as popular as Apple’s mobile devices, a shadow economy of unauthorized goods and accessories is bound to pop up. The good news on the official side is that once Apple lays out its MFI guidelines in this upcoming forum, we’ll likely see a lot more Lightning-enabled accessories come to market, with some hitting shelves in time for the holiday shopping rush. Apple’s extensive dock connector-based gadget ecosystem won’t be easy to replace, but getting the wheels turning on the expanded Lightning MFI program certainly should help.