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Apple deploys specialized anti-theft dock connectors at retail stores

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
Apple Stores appear to be stepping up anti-theft measures with a proprietary piece of equipment that serves as both an iDevice dock connector and a security tether.

AppleInsider reader Chris first noticed the new cable on Wednesday when visiting his local Apple Store, and it has been confirmed that a number of locations nationwide have started to implement the new connector, though supply may be an issue as not every iDevice has their own, with most of the units being reserved for expensive third-generation iPads or products near the store's entrance.

By looking and playing the part of the dock connector that comes with every iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, Apple's new security cable belies its ability to completely lock down a device to avoid theft. The difference lies in how the security unit is removed, or rather how it can't be removed, from an iDevice.

Perhaps the only way to tell the mechanism apart from its less-secure counterpart is the "lock" logo emblazoned on its front, which takes the place of Apple's usual "line within a box" representation of a male/female connector. When attached to an iDevice, the cable physically locks in to the product's metal chassis just as a normal dock connector, but the internals have been tweaked to prevent the unit from disengaging, essentially tethering the product to the display table.

While the inner workings of the new cable are a mystery, a simple reshaping and bolstering of the attachment prongs could easily do the job, much like the first-generation 30-pin connectors that could only be released when users pinched two side-mounted actuators. It is thought a special tool may be needed to disengage the unit, though representatives declined to comment on the mechanism's intricacies. Also unknown is how the USB side of the cable works with the system as it was hidden within the display table, but it is most likely attached via conventional means.

Security Cable Close
Close-up view of "lock" logo.


It is unknown if a third party is producing the product, but retail personnel say the cable is functionally different than previous "contact" security measures taken by all brick-and-mortar Apple Stores. Currently, a wire cable is affixed to the back of display units with an adhesive patch which, while fairly strong, can be pried off with the right amount of force. The thin cables can also be connected to an alarm, alerting staff when a wire has been cut or tampered with. One person familiar with the matter claims the new cables are alarm-capable, but did not explain how the system functions.

Security Cable Front


Besides the extra safety ensured by the physical mechanism, the new connector provides a more elegant lockdown solution than having a multitude of wires sprouting out of a device.

One employee likened the cable to the Kensington lock slot used to protect MacBook Pros from would-be thieves. It should be noted that the slot is not included in the MacBook Pro with Retina display, likely due to the laptop's thin design.

Security Cable Back
Back side of security dock connector.


When asked if Apple would be releasing a version of the cable to the public, representatives said they were unaware of any such plans.
post #2 of 28
Interesting. I hope we find out how it's done because it's very seamless to the standard connector. The iPad itself looks standard.

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post #3 of 28

What's the other end of the cable like?

post #4 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Magic_Al View Post

What's the other end of the cable like?

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post #5 of 28
This is way old news, I remember noticing these at several stores back when the new iPad launched. On iPads and phones

My guess is that they switched to this after iFixIt started selling the pentalobe driver making it easy to just unscrew and remove the back plate to steal the iPhone

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(She's family so I'm a little biased)

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A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

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post #6 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Interesting. I hope we find out how it's done because it's very seamless to the standard connector. The iPad itself looks standard.


Internally, it is almost identical to the standard 30 pin male connector with the spring-actuated release; however, it is missing the pinchable "buttons" on the two sides. To actuate the spring release, you need a custom tool to reach "into" the connector instead. The photos here do not show the sides of the connector where the openings of the tool are.


Edited by Harbinger - 8/22/12 at 9:12pm
post #7 of 28
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

 

*Boom!*, Indeed.

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

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Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

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post #8 of 28
This is anything but new. Stores have been using this for at least the past 12 months.

Functionally, they're the same as the really old iPod cable that you needed to press in. Instead of the "buttons" on the old cable, there's two holes ether side and we have a special tool to unlock it.

They just plug into the alarm system exactly the same as the rest of them: and the end it's a USB cable for charging, and like a telephone jack that plugs into the alarm
post #9 of 28

Damn Apple and it's proprietary connectors! The world demands openness!

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post #10 of 28
Originally Posted by sennen View Post
Damn Apple and it's proprietary connectors! The world demands openness!

 

This just in, Master loses court case in EU about having proprietary locks, forced to manufacture all future locks that require only one key so that people don't have to buy new keys when they buy new locks.

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

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Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

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post #11 of 28

Even the security cables are getting simpler and more elegant.

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post #12 of 28

I wonder how they'll do this locking with the new iDevice cable. ;-)

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post #13 of 28

This seems rather trivial, but really is a tiny detail that makes a big difference.  There's nothing worse than going to look at a competitor's phone or tablet and see some big honking gas station like keychain attached.

 

Still I wonder how many people they catch trying to grab and dash, not realizing the alarm is going to go off.

post #14 of 28

Talk about old news, these nifty cables have been in place at the Apple Stores in London and Glasgow for about 2.5 years...

post #15 of 28

I was going to mention what about the supposed new style connector, but dahacouk beat me to it, hours ago. Damn the hours I work. :-D lol

 

Could be why there're rationed, if they are, though.

post #16 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Interesting. I hope we find out how it's done because it's very seamless to the standard connector. The iPad itself looks standard.

 

magnets, how do they work?

post #17 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

When asked if Apple would be releasing a version of the cable to the public, representatives said they were unaware of any such plans.

 

Well Duh - if you released the same cable to the public you would also have to provide instructions and or the special tool required to remove it - which would then render the security of the cables at the store null and void. 

 

Even if they had one version for the store and a different version for the public I think it would not take long for people to figure it out - and what about places like Best Buy - do they get the Apple version or the public version of the security cable? 

post #18 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by OllieWallieWhiskers View Post

 

magnets, how do they work?

 

This has nothing to do with magnets.

post #19 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by GonnaGetFired View Post

This is anything but new. Stores have been using this for at least the past 12 months.
Functionally, they're the same as the really old iPod cable that you needed to press in. Instead of the "buttons" on the old cable, there's two holes ether side and we have a special tool to unlock it.
They just plug into the alarm system exactly the same as the rest of them: and the end it's a USB cable for charging, and like a telephone jack that plugs into the alarm

Yeah, this isn't new.

 

 


Tim Cook using Galaxy Tabs as frisbees

 

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Tim Cook using Galaxy Tabs as frisbees

 

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post #20 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by macslut View Post

This seems rather trivial, but really is a tiny detail that makes a big difference.  There's nothing worse than going to look at a competitor's phone or tablet and see some big honking gas station like keychain attached.

 

Still I wonder how many people they catch trying to grab and dash, not realizing the alarm is going to go off.


You can't grab and dash. You need to use a custom tool to release it. Or else you need to cut the cable.

post #21 of 28

Now if they pair it with an app on the idevice that will alarm real loud when the connector is removed and will work no matter what the volume is set to and prevents you from turning off the device, then you have a winner...I would buy one....
 

post #22 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by OllieWallieWhiskers View Post

 

magnets, how do they work?


Read the previous posts. No magnets.

post #23 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by icoco3 View Post

Now if they pair it with an app on the idevice that will alarm real loud when the connector is removed and will work no matter what the volume is set to and prevents you from turning off the device, then you have a winner...I would buy one....
 


How is that superior to the Find My iPhone app?

post #24 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Harbinger View Post


How is that superior to the Find My iPhone app?

 

They can be used together obviously...

 

Also, if it is at my desk and I step away, how far do you think it will go if someone grabs it in the office?  Or at the local coffee shop??

post #25 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by icoco3 View Post

Now if they pair it with an app on the idevice that will alarm real loud when the connector is removed and will work no matter what the volume is set to and prevents you from turning off the device, then you have a winner...I would buy one....
 

 

If hypothetically I was thief and tried to grab-and-dash with someone's device and had an alarm like that go off, my first reaction would be to throw the device at the ground as hard as I could to shut it up before continuing to run away.  Not my device anyways, all I'd care about at that point is getting away....

post #26 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by sennen View Post

Damn Apple and it's proprietary connectors! The world demands openness!

 

I realize this was probably intended to be humorous, but just in case it was a serious comment, I respectfully disagree.  The world demands convenience.  The world demands things that are simple and not confusing.  If that goal is best achieved by an industry-wide standard, great.  If it's best achieved through other means, that's fine too.

 

It's been my experience that openness is usually only demanded by those who need/want access to the proprietary technology - like application developers and manufacturers of competing products.  And people who are more interested in politics than in products.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dahacouk View Post

I wonder how they'll do this locking with the new iDevice cable. ;-)

 

I'm sure Apple has considered it.  They probably have a means for the new cable to support locking tabs as well.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ombra2105 View Post

Talk about old news, these nifty cables have been in place at the Apple Stores in London and Glasgow for about 2.5 years...

 

Interesting.  I haven't seen them here in the US.  For the iDevices, I've seen them secured with the sticky-pad described in the article.  I've also seen cables using the lock slot, and I've seen alarm cables connected to the Ethernet port.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lilgto64 View Post

Well Duh - if you released the same cable to the public you would also have to provide instructions and or the special tool required to remove it - which would then render the security of the cables at the store null and void.

 

I assume a consumer version of this cable would have a key or combination lock on the connector and would not simply require a special tool.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bluefish86 View Post

If hypothetically I was thief and tried to grab-and-dash with someone's device and had an alarm like that go off, my first reaction would be to throw the device at the ground as hard as I could to shut it up before continuing to run away.  Not my device anyways, all I'd care about at that point is getting away....

 

You're a much more violent man than I would expect of most thieves.  I think most would simply drop the device and run, not take the extra time to smash it to pieces.

post #27 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by icoco3 View Post

Now if they pair it with an app on the idevice that will alarm real loud when the connector is removed and will work no matter what the volume is set to and prevents you from turning off the device, then you have a winner...I would buy one....


Such products already exist.  A Google search found the Mi-Zone Bluetooth Proximity Alarm. This is a BlueTooth key fob that you pair with your device.  If the two get separated by more than a configured amount, both sound an alarm.  (So it can protect your keyring as well as your phone.)

 

This is probably more useful than a cable-based solution for when you're using your device in a public place.

post #28 of 28

Wow, I would really like to get my hands on some of these cables. They would be perfect for my line of work. Right now we use Anchorpad products and they require adhesive.

 

I wish Apple would sell these products to the public or a company like Kensington would take advantage of this idea.

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