Everything You Need to Know About Apple’s All-New Lightning Connector

Apple’s iPhone 5, 5th generation iPod touch and 7th generation iPod nano that were unveiled on Wednesday came with a new dock connector dubbed Lightning, which replaced the 30-pin dock connector that was first launched in 2003.

Apple is widely expected to use the new Lightning dock connector across its entire iOS product line in the future, including the rumored iPad mini, the tweaked iPad 3, which are expected to be launched later this year.

Here’s everything you need to know about Apple’s new Lightning dock connector:

  • The obvious change is the size – the new Lightning dock connector is 80% smaller than the 30-pin dock connector. Phil schiller – Apple’s Vice President of Worldwide marketing said that it simply wasn’t possible to build products as thin as the new iPhones and iPods without changing the dock connector.
  • It features an all-digital, eight-signal design. AnandTech explains what that means: “The basic conceit of this new connector is that at any point in time, not all the pins of the 30-pin connector were active. So, if a particular use case involved the charging pins and some audio pins, or the charging pins and USB pins, why not design a system that provides just enough pins for any given use case. The iPhone senses what pins are being requested and some on-device signaling sends the necessary bits over the available pins.”
  • Apple also claims that it is a lot more durable.
  • The Lightning connector is reversible, so it means that there’s no wrong way to plug in the cable, which is probably the biggest benefit from a consumer point of view.
  • A new Lightning to USB cable will cost you $19, which is the same cost as the old Apple dock connector to USB.
  • Adapters: As expected, Apple has also launched a two adapters for the new Lightning connector.
    • Lightning to 30-pin dock connector: It allows you to connect your iPhone 5, 5th generation iPod touch and 7th generation iPod nano to 30-pin accessories such as speakers, car chargers etc. It supports for analog audio output, USB audio, as well as syncing and charging. It does not support video output. It’s available for $29.

 

    • Lightning to 30-pin dock connector (0.2m): It’s similar to the one above, just that this one comes with a 0.2m cable. It does not support video output. It’s available for $39.

 

    • Lightning to HDMI and Lightning to VGA adapters: Apple is apparently also planning to release a Lightning to HDMI and Lightning to VGA adapters in coming months.
  • The lack of video out support means that you may not be able to connect to your in-car aftermarket entertainment systems that use the video out function of the 30-pin connector to display and control apps from head units.
  • It also looks like Apple will be the sole seller of the new Lightning adapters initially, which rules out cheaper cables and adapters at least for the time being.
  • Apple has said that the Lightning connector will be supported by a number of third-party accessory makers, including Bose, JBL and B&W.

We still don’t know if the new Lightning connector will offer much faster I/O connectivity and transfer rates as rumors had suggested. Apple marketing pitch for the new dock connector is “Smaller. Smarter. Durable. Reversible”, which indicates that it may not be significantly faster as we had hoped, which would be quite ironic given the name. We’ll get a confirmation once iPhone 5. the new iPod touch and iPod nano are available.

Overall, we understand why Apple had to make a new dock connector, but it could have avoided some of the criticism it’s getting in the press for making such a pivotal change by making the adapters more affordable.

Let us know what you think about Apple’s new Lightning connector.

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