Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mysteries of modern capitalism: The missing iPhone 2.5 mm headset adapter

The B000YE54F8 2.5mm to 3.5mm Stereo Audio Headset Adapter for Apple iPhone is a piece of .99 cent junk. I know it’s junk, because the identical pair I bought a year ago have both broken (APLIPHONEHFA2) and there’s no reputable reseller of any variant of these devices.

I also know that before they came apart, my adapters worked.

Junk this is, but it’s also #14 in its Amazon sales category: Cell Phones & Service > Accessories > Data & Connectivity > Data Cables.

This is curious.

There’s clearly a lot of demand for a product that allows one to use an older high-quality headset (2.5 mm) with an iPhone (3.5 mm). Lots of people who’ve spent $50 or more on headsets are taking a flyer on buying this, and that market is not going away. (Really, Bluetooth sucks. And even if it didn’t, why spend $100 for a decent Bluetooth headset when you already own a great high end headset that doesn’t burden the iPhone’s hurtin’ battery?)

So why doesn’t a company like Griffin sell a decent adapter for, say, $20 for a pair? I suspect good ones would cost $2 to make and package, so we’re talking a pretty sweet profit margin. It’s not like Griffin has a line of Bluetooth headsets they need to protect.

That’s the mystery.

Of course I have a theory.

I suspect Apple has a patent on the layout of the iPhone’s headset connector [1]. The license fees are probably wicked, or even unavailable. Apple does sell Bluetooth headsets. The cheapo vendors are dodging the licensing fees, and Apple can’t be bothered to go after them.

Any other theories?

[1] Yes, I also used to think these layouts followed some kind of standard. That was before I experimented with various AV connectors. If there is any kind of standard manufacturers don’t follow it.


Charlie Stross said...

I use Shure earphones (because I like my music and have more money than sense). Shure earphones typically have a really short cable, and then an extension cable to connect to the device you're listening to. They make an iphone compatible mike-equipped cable; I grabbed one for about $40 (I said I had more money than sense) and it turned my high-end sound-junkie earphones into a workable wired headset for my iphone 3G.

YMMV, of course.

JGF said...

I'll far outdo you on frivolous purchases -- I have a set of Bose QC II headphones. I didn't buy their iPhone adapter though, i got a generic mike equipped cable.

You're right that even though these vendors weren't producing the adapter I need they were producing something that worked with the iPhone.

They also charged a lot of money.

Suggests Apple is licensing use of their patented adapter, but the license fee may be steep.