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Kickstarter-backed portable charger gets shut down due to Lightning connector restrictions

Edison Junior, a technology and design lab, has been forced to shut down their POP portable charging station campaign on Kickstarter after failing to get a license from Apple to use the new Lightning connector. The Edison Junior was designed to charge multiple devices on the go, with retractable cables so that users wouldn’t have to worry about bringing their own cables along with them. Apple refused to grant permission for Edison Junior to use a Lightning connector, in part because the POP also contained a micro-USB cable, for charging Android and other non-Apple devices. John Koetsier reports for VentureBeat

That’s a problem with Apple. In fact, even combining Apple’s new Lighting connector with the old 30-pin connector in a charging device was verboten; Apple would not approve, forcing the team to abandon the project.

Apple’s restrictions regarding Lightning accessories are much tighter than Apple’s past rules governing the 30-pin Dock connector. However, that's been known to accessory manufacturers since the introduction of the Lightning connector (iMore was one of the first to write about them in our iPhone 5 review back in September).

Yes, that sucks on a lot of levels for a lot of people, from small manufacturers to would-be customers of those manufacturers. But it's also a known quantity. The POP was announced before the introduction of the Lightning connector in September, but Edison Junior should have checked the restrictions on the connector before going ahead and adding it to the product. It’s also one thing to call Apple’s policies restrictive, but quite another to abandon the project and blame them for not making an exception when they have been clear on the rules from day one.

Edison Junior will be providing full refunds to the POP’s backers, as the current project has been scrapped. However, they are not abandoning the concept of a portable power station. Their redesigned concept still incorporates retractable micro-USB cables for non-Apple devices, while also having USB ports for Apple users with 30-pin or Lightning-to-USB connectors.

Source: VentureBeat

Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.

  • Ummm...clear on day one? Known quantity? From the very article you summarize: “We didn’t get a yes or a no up front,” Siminoff said. “But as we kept going back and forth it was clear that it was getting harder. Then, when we saw that they weren’t even going to allow a Lightning connector and a 30-pin connector together, we knew it was over.”
  • Yeah, it really sucks, but not getting a yes or no is equivalent in business to getting a "no", especially in terms of taking people's money, right? It's hard to understand how something can go to market and take money unless it's got an absolute "yes" and a licensing agreement. (No matter how dumb that licensing appears to be.)
  • Not at all -- especially when Apple's own policies demand that you have something to submit before they even give you a "maybe" -- much less a yes or no. Apple's App Store policy of "after you spend money, maybe we will give you an answer, or maybe not" is now extending to the more expensive world of hardware. Obviously, this kills kickstarter projects dead, but even for "established" corporate partners, it is hard to see how anybody can think this set of policies is good for the long-term health of the ecosystem. And summaries that misstate the content of the article, placing all the blame on the partner and explicitly denying Apple's role in this, do not help.
  • It kills everything dead. Basically, small shops can't make accessories for Apple anymore. And again, that sucks. It's not good. The opposite of good. But, the people I've spoken to who used to make 30-pin connectors all knew enough to not even offer Lightning connector accessories. (Some are switching to 3.5mm headset jack accessories.) They didn't offer anything for sale and take any money on Lightning. Both parties can be wrong in situations like this.
  • "Both parties can be wrong in situations like this." No argument here. But you underestimate the level of suckitude that needs to be laid at Apple's feet -- it kills the small shops, which is bad enough, but also hurts the larger shops, and the customers of shops large and small. As a customer, I just want a juice pack, or a car kit that works, both of which I enjoyed on my iPhone 4. (These are not small companies begging for funding or engineering talent, nor are they bad partners for Apple -- a BMW dealer spent almost an hour trying to tell my wife to dump her Android phone for an iPhone, because BMW prefers iPhones.) That these products do not exist, and there is no timetable for their release, months after the iPhone 5 hit the market, is entirely the fault of Apple licensing and secrecy policies. And they do not get *nearly* enough flack for it.
  • well they don't flack because as the owner of the technology they have the absolute right to determine the licensing policy and as long as it's fairly applied it's perfectly permissible. They have the choice to NOT license it at all. That's how it works. I'd love to have OSX on a window machine. Not gonna happen easily. And it's apple's choice to not do it. Just like it was their choice to release a windows version of iTunes. I simply don't have a problem with companies making business decisions so long as they don't cause real harm to people. I mean this is about a phone and chargers. It'd be one thing if their choices where tanking the economy or flooding the gulf with oil or killing people. I just don't see these sorts of decisions as more then just a business choice whether i like it or not.
  • Who has a problem with Apple making a business decision, or questions their right to do so? Nobody here. Though, I'm not sure why you equate "a company made a business decision" with "people are not allowed to discuss or criticize that decision."
  • If it's pretty clear that you'll get a 'no' you don't assume 'yes' until then. Is that really so hard to understand? If they don't have even THAT much business sense, they aren't going to make it anyway. But I agree. It sucks as a policy. Apple seems to be working really hard to ensure this connector has the same success as FireWire 800. Apple, this IS NOT the place to be playing the 'jerk' and maximizing profit margin! If you want a connector like this to become popular... use a bit of that war-chest to lower or even loose a bit on the cables, and bend over backwards to get 3rd parties to make products. If that doesn't work, make some yourself.
  • Sorry folks... just realized part of this is off-topic... I've got Thunderbolt on the brain lately.
  • hey at least they conveniently got some publicity (and new customers?) for their in house kickstarter competitor just sayin
  • I'm sorry, that's not just restrictive; it verges on the anal. Apple is beginning to go down a path to the dark side that many will not follow. The restrictions that Apple puts in place seem to be over the top and I’m not sure that it benefits the consumer in the long run. Yes, there can be something said for quality control, and even brand protection; but what I have been seeing is more about profit and the consumer ‘be damned’. The attitude is one that says, “if they are still spending their money, who cares if they are ‘pleased’ or not.” A one cable system for charging multiple devices is a good idea and being pitched by other manufactures, consumer groups and even governments (well, individual MP’s). In my house we have five different mobile devices and four of them can share the charger. Guess which one cannot? And guess which one has bent or broken pins / cables more often that the others. It takes time but consumers will one day say this is stupid and drop their products. Time and arrogance has a way of catching up with you and it’s an old adage that Apple should heed.
  • They're not beginning to do anything. They've always been like this. The problem is, they're not the tiny underdog any more, and that could cause them significant problems. Apple believes tight control leads to better user experience -- in this case being incredibly strict with Lightning will lead to fewer but better accessories. I don't think the loss of diversity, in this case, is worth it.
  • I'm not sure I agree they have always been like this Rene. Yes, they have always been secretive, which has caused some dud products (especially software) over the years, or at least rough starts until enough users gave them feedback and clued them on to critical features they were missing, etc. They have always been 'higher end' and kind of screw trying to be cheap-masses oriented. But, it seems an increasing number of decisions at least LOOK to be being made from spreadsheets more than just being the tough market decisions (good or bad) they have always made in this regard. A great example that really hit home for me was dropping the xServe and nerfing OSX Server. Who cares if it is cheap if it is useless? It's almost like they can't see the whole ecosystem any longer, and recognize the effects of tweaking one aspect at the expense of the other. And, having worked for really big companies in the past, I totally get how that happens... but it isn't a good thing. If they aren't careful, it will eventually bring them down.
  • As much as I despise Apple's policies, to date it is has made little if any dent in their sales. By "significant problems" -- do you mean Apple runs the risk the other guys (Android/Win/Brand X) will use their relative freedom to start making superior gear, or do you mean legal problems?
  • Am I surprised? No.
    It wouldn't even surprise me if the next step is that they require you to make the product white or black and have an apple on it. Because then they can sue you if it goes too well for you... Apple - The #1 Douche bag Company in the entire world
  • Was a good idea, i'm sure there is a way to design it to be legal according to Apple.
  • Apple or any other company, Google, Samsung, RIM is well within their rights to restrict that license as they see fit as long as it's uniform in application of the policy. This guy is trying to sell something he has not product for. That's like me trying to sell a movie service similar to netflix before i've got a license to stream any content at all.
  • Problem resolved (way to go Apple!)...
    So, was this ultra-poor planning and management from Edison Junior, or a carefully calculated publicity stunt?
  • Now that I've used the lightning connector, I really love it and wish it was the standard instead of micro-USB. My opinion on this is that quality control is important, but this is taking it too far. I know I know, the rules weren't followed. The rules are too strict. I wish Apple would market this connector to wherever it would make the difference and start the ball rolling to making it the new standard. It will never happen, but it is a really nice cable and seems far more simple than micro-USB. That said, I have probably 15 micro-USB cables and chargers that work on everything I own, except this 1 iPad mini. :(