Apple's lead in Lightning accessories for iPhone 5, iPad faces challenges

JBL, Belkin, Scosche and iLuv accessories have released Lightning-compatible accessories ranging from speaker docs to chargers

A flurry of Lightning connector accessories for the iPhone 5, iPad Mini and iPad are hitting the market from JBL, Belkin, Schosche and iLuv, among others, giving users more choices beyond what Apple offers.

Lightning is an 8-pin connector, which is smaller than the 30-pin ports that have been on iPhones, iPads, and iPods for years. The switch had users grumbling as the new connector rendered older cables and accessories like speaker docks and chargers obsolete. J Apple's strict certification had delayed the release of third-party Lightning accessories by months, but companies such as Bose have pledged to ship products soon.

JBL's speaker docks

Harman International has introduced two JBL speaker docks -- the OnBeat Micro and Venue LT -- that connect to iPad Mini, iPhone 5 and the newest iPad via a Lightning cable. The US$99 OnBeat Micro is a portable speaker dock that can charge and play music from the iPhone 5. The speaker has a 20-watt amplifier and can bring "noise from ceiling to floor for up to five hours when it's using batteries," according to the company. The speaker dock uses four AAA batteries and also has a USB port to charge other mobile devices.

While the OnBeat Micro is highly portable, the $199 Venue LT is a tabletop speaker dock offering more powerful sound. The Venue LT offers Lightning and Bluetooth connectivity, so users can connect wirelessly even from older iPhone and iPad models. The speaker docks will be available mid-to-late December or early next year, a Harman International spokesman said.

Scosche's chargers

Scosche Industries has announced Lightning-compatible charger accessories that carry 12 watts of power to recharge devices faster. The StrikeDrive car chargers, priced from $25 to $50, and StrikeBase home chargers, priced from $35 to $50, are available in 5-watt to 12-watt models. The 5-watt model charges an iPad Mini in four and three-quarter hours, and a 12-watt model can charge the same device in three hours, according to the company. The 12-watt chargers also include Micro-USB ports to charge other popular Android smartphones and tablets. For $29.99, Scosche is taking orders for the two-in-one Strikeline retractable Lightning and Micro-USB cable. Some of the chargers could be available worldwide by mid-to-late December, but it "could be early February before the entire line is available," a company spokesman, Mark Olson, said in an e-mail.

Belkin's accessories

Belkin's 1.2-meter Car Charger with Lightning connector for iPhone 5 is shipping for $29.99. For the same price, Belkin is also offering the Charge + Sync Dock with Audio Port for iPhone 5, which is sized to fit the smartphone. The dock has a headphone jack and a stereo system can be connected through an AUX cable. An existing Lightning cable can be used with the dock to sync the iPhone 5.

iLuv chargers

iLuv this week announced the $44.99 EnergySeal Micro-Size Car Charger, a 1.8-meter long Lightning-to-car charger connector. Also announced was the $29.99 Premium Coiled Charge/Sync Cable, a Lightning-to-USB 2.0 cable that is also 1.8-meters long and compatible with most USB chargers. The cables will become available in January, a company spokeswoman said.

Apple's cable offerings

Apple's $29 adapter or $39 cable measuring 20 cm connect the iPhone 5 to 30-pin accessories. Apple is also selling a Lightning-to-USB cable for $19, and a Lightning-to-Micro-USB cable for the same price.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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