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What is UAC? Apple’s new 'Made for iPhone' accessory and port explained

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Apple is planning to launch a brand new ‘Made for iPhone’ accessory that will introduce another connector for you to wrap your head around. So what is UAC, and why should you care?

What is UAC?

UAC is an acronym (which stands for Ultra Accessory Connector), and is an upcoming accessory in the ‘Made for iPhone’ range.

The goal is to make it easier for headphone users to connect their audio gear to different devices.

There are two key aspects to the UAC; there’s the (1) actual accessory you’ll be able to buy, and (2) and new connection standard that Apple is handing over to headphone makers.

How does UAC work?

Let’s say you have a pair of headphones with a Lightning connector. That’ll plug into your iPhone 7 just fine, but it won’t plug into the USB-C port on your new MacBook Pro.

Alternatively, you’ll face the same problem in reverse if you have a pair of headphones with a USB-C connector.

What the UAC accessory will do is function as a middle-man. So future headphones will feature a UAC-style connector that will plug into the UAC accessory. Then, from the accessory, you’ll be able to feed out to a USB-C port, or a Lightning port, or a headphone jack, with the firmware switching on the fly for the relevant connection.

Apple will allow accessory manufacturers to make:

  • Lightning to UAC
  • USB-A to UAC
  • 3.5mm jack to UAC

The UAC accessory will also allow headphone makers to save space inside a pair of headphones, versus having to use Apple Lightning port or USB-C.

Related: iPhone 7S

What does UAC look like?

It’s an 8-pin connection that measures 2.05mm by 4.85mm, and is “slightly less thick than USB-C”. This small size is intended to help device makers save space in their headphones.

It’s similar in shape to the already-existing Ultra Mini USB connectors, which you’ll be familiar with if you use a Nikon camera. Check it out:

ultra mini usbApple's UAC port will look a bit like the Ultra Mini USB (on the right)

Will UAC be on iPhones?

This is important: UAC is not going to end up as a port on your iPhone. People “familiar with Apple’s plans” told the Verge that Apple wouldn’t be replacing Lightning, or installing a new 8-in port on iPhones or iPads.

This is simply a middle-man connection that helps headphone manufacturers connect their devices to multiple ports.

UAC Release Date and Price: When does it come out, and how much is it?

Unfortunately, we have no idea when the UAC accessory will launch – or how much it will cost.

According to 9to5mac, Made for iPhone program licensees have had access to the new standard for a couple of months. So we’ll probably have to wait for these accessory makers to actually be ready to launch some UAC-friendly headphones before the accessory will arrive too.

And how much will it cost? Probably too much, if we know Apple.

Why is this better than a headphone jack?

In the sense of being able to connect your headphones to different devices, it’s not. This is Apple admitting that it’s ruddy difficult to choose a pair of headphones when there are so many different ways to connect headphones to a device. Back when headphone jacks reigned supreme, this was a complete non-issue.

But USB-C and Lightning connectors are far more versatile than the outdated 3.5mm audio jack of yore, so it’s arguably better for future audio innovation to support these new standards, over the prolific (but less versatile) headphone jack.

Plus, the iPhone 7 doesn't have a headphone jack, so 3.5mm jacks totally aren't cool any more, right? Right?

Related: iPhone 8

Watch: Apple AirPods review

What do you think of UAC? Let us know in the comments.

Phil

February 7, 2017, 3:14 pm

Oooh, so Apple create a problem which doesn't need to be created by being "bold" or whatever it was and now they're going to make a packet on dongles.... Sounds like the MacBook Pro having hardly any connections and the customers walking out with an extra £100 in dongles in their bag along with their laptop. Taking us all for fools.

I will not be spending my money on dongles, adaptor cables or new headphones which I do not need because they insist on creating problems for me and then coming up with fabulous solutions enabling me to hand over more of my own money to continue doing what I was doing already. If they offered something more, I'd be right there but they don't. There is no upside for the consumer here. I regularly listen through my earphones / headphones whilst charging my phone (most of the time actually as the battery is cack) and their obsession with removing the headphone jack just creates issues for me.

I have a couple of pairs of expensive Grado Labs and Sennheiser headphones and I will not be forced into paying out for adaptors so I might continue to use them. Adaptors I'm liable to lose, not have when I want them and if I carry them around with me they'll inevitably break eventually. And this idea that it'll enable new innovation sounds utter cack to me - if that was the case it would already be in use by high end headphone amp manufacturers who were playing with all these new possibilities. I'm also unsure that there are any serious high end headphones with the USB connector - I've not seen any but I'm willing to be corrected. This is not sending more or better data, it's the same data down a differently shaped plug. It's not going to allow any innovation unless you start sending the raw data to be processed in a better set of opamps, etc in an external unit... which you could just do with Bluetooth (and might as well as the headphones would need to be powered anyway) or the existing USB socket... and I really can't see a market for this kind of thing for your average smartphone buyer.

This obsession with consolidating connectors into one is maddening, removes options, adds cost, reduces redundancy (increased use of the one socket means it's more liable to fail - if your 3.5mm socket goes you can still use your phone but if your sole USB socket goes, you're screwed) and increases complexity of repairs. Just accept that your smartphone is going to have holes in it.

Sean Keach

February 7, 2017, 3:49 pm

Just so we're clear, you won't be buying the dongle, right? :)

Phil

February 7, 2017, 4:38 pm

Ha, was quite a rant, wasn't it? I just hate them creating problems rather than solving them and us being expected to pay for the privilege of carrying on doing the same thing we've done for years with no added benefit. The only people who benefit here are Apple (who will get licencing fees for the connector standards) and the OEMs who make the dongles. The customers just get shafted......

.... damnit, you've started me off again!

LeeTronix

February 7, 2017, 6:08 pm

I completely agree with you. They are counting on people putting up with all this mess because its Apple.

Menorca Man

February 7, 2017, 6:19 pm

"What is UAC?
UAC is an acronym (which stands for Ultra Accessory Connector), and is an upcoming accessory in the ‘Made for iPhone’ range."

How about UAC is an acronym (which stands for User Account Control), which has long been a feature of the Windows operating system!!!

Phil

February 7, 2017, 6:45 pm

I don't mind Apple doing it so much in that I have committed myself to never buying from them again due to customer service issues I had. It's that other companies are following their lead like HTC and that upsets me. You do Not have to lead where Apple follows.

RonRoyce

February 7, 2017, 7:30 pm

UAC. The United Airspace Corporation. I expect Apple will try and sue ID for using this acronym next...

Jason Dimopoulos

February 8, 2017, 1:41 am

exactly! And we all know these dongles and perceived dead devices will end up in the rubbish! Apple doing their bit to help the environment I see...

Phil

February 8, 2017, 9:25 am

True, it's just another way of limiting the lifespan of our tech and making sure you buy more of it. So now people will buy a pair of earphones which connect using USB and then when they change the size of the socket for little reason you have to buy another pair. Most accessories are bought as disposable as we anticipate they'll only work with that phone and won't be transferrable (cases, bespoke car kits) but now they're working on the last bastion of long lasting tech - the humble headphones.... let's make them disposable too!

Trevor Totten

February 8, 2017, 11:14 am

Should be "Made for iDiots". Seriously, if you fall for this and fork out even more money, then more fool you.

Word Merchant

February 8, 2017, 12:02 pm

So:
1. We had the headphone jack and this worked.
2. Apple took it away. This didn't really work.
3. People got irritated... but...
4. Tim Cook's ego wouldn't let him back down.
5. So now we'll have a new headphone plug that isn't compatible with anything...
6. ...but can be DRM'd.
7. And this is obviously better for everyone. Really.

Nice one Apple.

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