Is Apple about to make your iPhone accessories obsolete?

July 23, 2012, 12:17 PM UTC

Old and new dock connectors. Source: etradesupply

FORTUNE — Rumors have been circulating for months that Apple (AAPL) was planning to replace the familiar 30-pin dock connector that has been used to charge, sync and accessorize its mobile devices — iPods, iPhones, iPads — since the format was introduced nine years ago.

We’ve seen plenty of photos, and even a pretty convincing video, that seem to show the frame of a new iPhone with a smaller dock connector.

But you don’t know how seriously to take these rumors. Apple is famous for building prototypes that never get released.

So when Reuters — one Apple’s chief pipelines to the trade — reported Monday that “two sources familiar with the matter” had told it that the next iPhone has indeed been designed with a smaller, incompatible, 19-pin connector, analysts suddenly started taking those rumors more seriously.

“Apple needs to find a solution not to disappoint their current clients who want to upgrade to the new iPhone but are tied to an expensive accessory that have bought,” IDC’s Franciso Jeronimo told the news service. “I believe Apple will come up with some sort of adaptor so the new iPhone can be used with previous connectors.”

But as the Reuters piece points out, the change will difficult for Apple to manage, even with an adaptor. Many of the thousands of speakers, chargers and whatnot sold for the iPod and iPhone are designed to have the device slot directly into the accessory.

For the manufacturers of those accessories, the change represents an exciting new market for them to address.

For users, it’s a pain in the butt.

Below: The most detailed video we’ve seen of the new connector, posted by etradesupply on YouTube in early June.