Reports have emerged that Apple is preparing to certify and adopt a new port format dubbed the ‘Ultra Accessory Connector’ or UAC. News of this port originates from a 9to5Mac article, before eventually being independently verified by The Verge and a variety of other tech-focused publications.
While many people’s initial reaction to this news is shock that Apple is working on yet another new port format, adding further confusion to the mess that is USB-C and Lightning, it seems that is not actually the case. The overarching goal of Apple’s proposed UAC cord, is reportedly to make Lightning and USB-C work better together, creating a band-aid solution to a problem that probably shouldn’t exist in the first place.
Existing tech, new implementation
The 8-pin plug also isn’t exactly ‘new’ and has been featured in a variety of devices for years, including Canon and Nikon digital cameras, though its use isn’t widespread and it’s somewhat obscure. In the past UAC has been referred to as a UC-E6 port by some camera manufacturers, or an Ultra Mini Connector.
According to The Verge, which says it’s spoken to individuals familiar with Apple’s plans, the tech giant has no plans to feature a new jack on its iPhones or iPads. Instead, it looks like UAC will be used as a connector between disparate digital headphone formats. Ars Technica reported similar news, stating that Apple told the publication that the port has been added to its MFi certification program “at the request of licensees,” and not because the company is moving internal hardware development and third-party accessories to adopt yet another new format.
An addition to Apple’s dongle offerings
Here’s where things get complicated and how this new connector may help mitigate some of the current issues surrounding Lightning and USB-C headphones. Right now, Lightning headphones don’t work with USB-C devices and USB-C headphones only work with USB-C audio devices. In some cases USB headphones are even device specific, causing even more problems. In theory the UAC, along with the help of likely yet another dongle, would allow a pair of Lightning or USB-C headphones to adjust firmware quickly, acting as a connector between the two port formats.
If this sounds overly complicated and a step back from the universal and now slowly dying standard 3.5mm headphone jack, you’re not wrong. Given the ‘dongle life’ early adopters of Apple’s new technology, including the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, as well as some Android devices, like the Moto Z, are forced to abide by, this is an unfortunate solution to an already unfortunate problem.
Back in 2012 Apple switched from a 30-pin Lightning connector to its current interchangeable Lighting port.