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I am wondering why some mobile phone company other than apple doesn't make their phone sync up to a Mac in the same way that the iOS devices do, and sync their calendars, music, etc. We can ignore the sync-by-wifi method for now -- even just using the regular cable to USB would be fine.

Is the barrier to this only a legal/licensing one? Or is there also a software or hardware technique that is used by apple to prevent this?

(I am an iOS user that doesn't want a big slab iPhone in my pocket, so I would love it if some smaller phone would grab just the essentials from the mac. That's the context here.)

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Remember the Motorola ROKR? Apple did license the technology at that point in time to build an iTunes compatible phone with Motorola, before the iPhone era. The Motorola SLVR L7 was one of the other few non-Apple devices compatible with iTunes.

There was also the case of the Palm Pre which supported iTunes syncing (unlicensed), but Apple kept breaking the syncing (purposedly?) with new iTunes versions, forcing users of Palm Pre's to search for hacks to get it working again.

I think this shows that it is technically possible (even through reverse engineering), but Apple is not going to sit by and allow it. This probably is even more true nowadays, as they are fiercely protecting the iTunes/iOS eco-system.

You could also use iSync to sync contacts and calendars with many different phone models, but it has gone missing since Mac OS X Lion. Here's a hint to install it again though.


Found a quote from Apple regarding "non-supported" devices, which illustrates their stance:

Apple is aware that some third-parties claim that their digital media players are able to sync with Apple software. However, Apple does not provide support for, or test for compatibility with, non-Apple digital media players and, because software changes over time, newer versions of Apple’s iTunes software may no longer provide syncing functionality with non-Apple digital media players.

And here's a reaction from Apple to Business Week regarding the Palm Pre:

iTunes 8.2.1 is a free software update that provides a number of important bug fixes. It also disables devices falsely pretending to be iPods, including the Palm Pre. As we've said before, newer versions of Apple's iTunes software may no longer provide syncing functionality with unsupported digital media players.

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+1 for mentioning the ROKR. I was trying to remember its name. – Andrew Larsson Jun 19 '12 at 16:24
Cool. Thanks! So to rephrase, I guess the answer is "there is not some software or hardware or encryption block that apple uses to prevent it. Furthermore it seems that there is no licensing law that apple can use to legally prevent it (otherwise it seems the two quotes above would have been less mild and tolerant, they would instead have simply used injunctions) ... Seems apple's only real method against these third-party folks is instead simply the threat of adjusting the iTunes etc. software to introduce incompatibility." – estephan500 Jun 20 '12 at 1:46

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