All of which is to day that we shouldn't be surprised that Apple has, with the debut of the iPhone 5 and new iPods, slimmed down the dock-connector port. Specifically, the new models sport what Apple is calling the Lightning connector. (Yes, Apple now has Thunderbolt and Lightning connectors. Cue "Bohemian Rhapsody" jokes.)
The new connector uses an 8-signal design that works in both orientations, so you never need to worry if you've inserted the plug the wrong-way-up. Apple says that in addition to being easier to use, the Lightning connector is also more durable than its predecessor. The company also describes the new connector as all-digital.
Of course, the other big advantage of the Lightning connector is its size: It's 80% smaller than the 30-pin connector, which means the space required on your device to accomodate the new plug is smaller by at least the same amount--and that's not counting the reduction in the amount of interior circuitry required to support the connector's features. This new, smaller connector is part of the reason the new iPhone is 20% thinner than the iPhone 4S. (The other part is that the iPhone screen's touch sensors are now integrated into the display, so the display itself is thinner.)
Adapt or buy
Easier to use, sturdier, smaller--what's not to like? The downside of this change is that the new Lightning connector renders Apple's latest devices incompatible with the millions of 30-pin-connector accessories on the market and in people's homes. Apple includes with the new iPhones and iPods a USB-to-Lightning-connector cable, but no adapter to use the new devices with older accessories.
If you've got expensive older accessories that you don't feel like replacing, Apple does offer the $29 Lightning to 30-pin Adapter and the $39 Lightning to 30-pin Adapter (0.2 m) (the latter a 20cm cable), each of which lets you connect older 30-pin-dock-connector accessories to the new iPhone and iPod models. (Extra Lightning to USB Cables will run you $19 a piece.)
The adapters support analog and USB audio, as well as syncing and charging. However, according to Apple, the adapters don't support video output, and "Some 30-pin accessories are not supported."