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Suppliers: iPod Speaker Systems “Partially Compatible” With iPhone

New York — The 6 million iPod speaker systems sold in the United States since 2004 will be partially compatible with the new iPhone, suppliers told TWICE.

Existing speaker systems will charge the iPhone and play its music, but the iPhone won’t be able to receive calls when docked, the suppliers explained. In addition, some iPod speaker systems might require a special plastic insert to hold the iPhone snugly while the phone is plugged into the system’s 30-pin connector, they added.

Some of the first speaker systems, available as early as September, will be fully compatible with the iPhone, enabling users to receive calls while they’re listening to their docked iPhone, suppliers also said. They’ll carry the “Works with iPhone” logo.

“Generically, what Apple does is if you plug the iPhone into an accessory that is not ‘Works with iPhone’ approved, then the iPhone goes into ‘airplane mode’ [in which it can’t receive calls] because it wants to avoid interference [with music playback],” explained Wells Brimhall, Logitech mobile product manger for home speakers.

To get their iPod speaker systems iPhone-approved, suppliers will add shielding and incorporate a new “authentication chip,” which is just becoming available, suppliers said.

iHome said its first fully compatible “Works with iPhone” speakers will be available late in the fourth quarter to allow for incoming calls when the iPhone is docked. Sonic Impact will make a running change to its newly released iP23 and iF3 portable speaker systems to be fully iPhone compatible as of September, the company said. Altec Lansing plans to offer full iPhone-ready speakers this fall. Logitech said it is not ready to announce shipping dates.

The iPhone retains the same 30-pin connector as the iPod, so it will make the electrical connection with existing iPod speaker systems, products’ connectors, but because the iPhone is wider than an iPod, it might not fit securely in some docking cradles, suppliers added. Logitech and Altec Lansing, however, said the iPhone will fit most of their products, although some might require a small plastic adapter.

iHome president Ezra Ashkenazi noted that a new spate of iPhone accessories in the fourth quarter could pose a challenge for retailers “who will need to figure out what percentage of their assortment needs to be for the iPhone.”

One supplier expects that the newly designed “Works with iPhone” products will carry a 20 percent to 30 percent price premium over standard iPod speaker systems. Altec Lansing, however, said some suppliers might simply absorb the additional cost.

Overall, suppliers believe the iPhone will create plus business in speaker docks. “Every time Apple steps down on the gas, it generally helps us,” said Robert Heiblim, Altec Lansing’s sales and marketing senior VP.

iHome’s Ashkenazi agreed and noted that his company has hired several engineering companies to develop iPhone-ready products.

Almost every speaker supplier contacted said they purchased the iPhone at launch, just as any consumer would, and that they were not given a product sample beforehand.

Sonic Impact’s newest portable iPod docking speakers were released this week but are slated for upgrading to full iPhone capability in September.

The Sonic Impact iP23 runs on four double AA batteries and offers alarm clock functions. It has a 16- to 18-hour battery life and will carry a suggested retail of $119. The step-up iF3 uses rechargeable lithium-ion batteries with a 14- to 16-hour battery life and adds an FM radio at $179.