Rumors of the new iPhone 5 model are flying high. The release date could be as soon as next month, and it's still unclear whether this next-gen phone will go from the iconic 30-pin port connector to a smaller 19-pin connector (or even more nano-sized) on its base. Everyone is worried that the new model won't be compatible with older/existing Apple accessories.
We couldn't help wondering what kind of impact that could have on diabetes-related iPhone products like the Glooko cable and the iBGStar plug-in meter. Will they need a redesign, or just an adaptor? How much will this cost, and where will PWDs go to get the upgrades?
Since Apple's not talking, we went straight to the diabetes experts to see if we could eke out any answers.
Famous technology blogger living with type 1 diabetes himself Scott Hanselman — who recently wrote the must-read article "The Sad State of Diabetes Technology in 2012" — told us: "If Apple does change the connector, which is likely, it will totally cause problems with the diabetes folks, but the real problem will be the much larger (1000x larger) accessories ecosystem."
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The vendors are being more coy.
Yogen Dalal, founder of Glooko Inc., responded to our email query with these thoughts (which he emphasizes are just "a perspective" at this point):
"As you know Apple has not commented on any of this. Is it 19 pin? Is it 8 pin? No one knows.
"I am confident that if Apple makes such a change they will provide an adapter of some form that will attempt to virtualize the 30 pin connector through the use of an adapter and software under the appropriate APIs.
"There has been a lot of press that Apple makes these kinds of changes as they have in the past and users get screwed. But today there are millions of iPhones, iPads, iPod touches worldwide -- many magnitudes more than the many Motorola 68000 apps for Macs when Apple switched to Intel. You will recall that Apple had an amazing virtualization environment that allowed these 68000 compiled apps to run under Intel until they slowly became native, and then Apple did away with the 68000 compatibility environment.
"Apple is a technology powerhouse and I suspect they will not disappoint the millions of iOS device owners and accessory makers if they make a change to the connector pin count. If they can tackle the Motorola 68000 to Intel transition with such elegance I am confident that they have put in a lot of thought to any such connector change.
A powered I/O interface distinguishes iOS devices from Android devices and this is an advantage Apple will continue to capitalize on and encourage all kinds of interconnectivity with accessories.
Also I doubt that iPhone 4S will go away and the sales of iPod touches and iPads will continue until they incorporate any new connector. Therefore there will be a need for the 30 pin accessories for a long time.
But let's see what happens!"
Shawna Gvazdauskas, VP and Device Head for US Diabetes at Sanofi, makers of the iBGStar meter, writes to us:
"Of course, we've also heard the rumors of a new dock connector. Such a change could significantly impact a number of products, so we're confident that Apple will consider the huge ecosystem of products already available with the current connector and continue to nurture the innovation these devices bring.
In regards to the iBGStar in particular, we're working closely with AgaMatrix to ensure that our users will be able to continue to enjoy our products. We can't get into the details at this time, but at a high level, we are indeed working on ways to respond rapidly to such a change, if it were to happen, and offer our customers several options that we hope will fit into their lifestyle."
Later, in a phone conversation, Gvazdauskas commented that she's "not at liberty to say" whether there are any specific agreements or solutions in the works between Sanofi and Apple. Which makes us think there are, of course.
She simply said that Sanofi is "confident there will be a connector available" for the iBGStar. If and when the connector is necessary, it is also not yet determined whether customers would get it directly from Sanofi or from Apple stores, Gvazdauskas said.
But the new cases Sanofi is planning to launch soon for your iPhone/iBGStar (pictured here, not on the market yet) definitely will not be in Apple stores, she said. Rather, they'll be available via a new "customer loyalty" promotion for iBGStar customers, details TBD. All Gvazdauskas would say is that customers won't have to purchase the cases, and btw, they are all-black. Just black for now. Hope you like black.
And yes, they'll have different cases available to fit the iPhone 3, 4 and 5. Gotta keep up with the changing times, you know!
UPDATE: After the iPhone 5's release on Sept. 12, we requested and received this response from Sanofi, which doesn't really say much...
As you know, given Apple's new 8-pin connector, all accessory manufacturers must evaluate how best to accommodate this connector change, including Sanofi for iBGStar®. We are committed to providing innovative solutions that support people living with diabetes and we are working with AgaMatrix to provide a solution so that current users can still safely use their iBGStar® if they choose to upgrade to the newest iPhone®.
Additionally, from what we've heard via Apple's presentation yesterday, the iPhone 4 will be offered for free with wireless service contracts and the 4S will be priced at $99. Given this, there may be an opportunity for new iBGStar® users.