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Lightning is a proprietary computer bus and power connector developed by Apple and was released on September 21, 2012, alongside the iPhone 5 for its range of mobile consumer products. It was also adopted by the 5th-generation iPod touch, the 7th-generation iPod nano, the 4th-generation iPad, the iPad Air, the iPad mini, and subsequent models. It replaces Apple's previous proprietary 30-pin dock connector and is incompatible with cables and peripherals designed for that connector, unless used with an adapter or dongle.

Lightning uses 8 pins rather than 30, and can be inserted with either face up. It is significantly more compact than the 30-pin connector. Lightning received a mixed to negative reception from the technology community, largely due to its incompatibility with any common standards, and the resulting necessity to possess a separate cable for use with Apple devices introduced after 2012. In 2018, Apple began phasing out the use of Lightning connectors in favor of USB-C with the 3rd-generation iPad Pro.[1]

History

The Lightning connector was introduced by Apple during a special media event on September 12, 2012. The connector was introduced as a replacement for the 30-pin dock connector for all new hardware that were announced at the same event. Devices that were intially compatible with the connector were the iPhone 5, 5th-generation iPod touch, and the 7th-generation iPod nano. The 4th-generation iPad and the 1st-generation iPad mini were added as Lightning devices in October 2012.[2]

Technology

The lightning connector is reversible.

Lightning is an all-digital 8-pin connector, that can, unlike the 30-pin dock connector, be inserted into the device with either side facing up. The Lightning connector was introduced as an interface to USB 2.0 (for data and charging) or the previous 30-pin dock connector (for USB data and power or analogue audio). The Lightning connector is significantly smaller than the existing 30-pin connector, but slightly larger than the ubiquitous Micro-USB-B connector. To comply with the 2009 Common External Power Supply standard, Apple sells an adapter which converts between Lightning and Micro-USB in the European Union. In 2015, the iPad Pro became the first device to support USB 3.0 speed over Lightning, but only if an updated USB 3.0-compatible Lightning cable is used.

The pins in the Lightning connector span the whole thickness of the plug. In other words, the leftmost pin on one side of the plug and the rightmost pin on the other side of the plug are just the top and bottom side of the same pin. Inserting the plug in one orientation is not electrically equivalent to inserting it the other way around (it is not palindromic). The plug itself incorporates a processor which detects the plug's orientation and routes the electrical signals to the correct pins. Anton Shilov from Xbit Labs suggests that this processor is also an authentication device.

Pinouts

Pin Function
1 GND Ground
2 L0+ Lane 0 positive
3 L0- Lane 0 negative
4 ID0 Lane 0 ID/control
5 Vcc 5V power
6 L1- Lane 1 negative
7 L1+ Lane 1 positive
8 ID1 Lane 1 ID/control

Reception

Lightning received mixed to negative reactions from press and users after the event, some praising its improved functionality, somewhat-improved throughput speed and smaller size compared to its predecessor, with others noting that nearly all accessories for previous iPod and iPhone products were rendered obsolete by the new connector. Apple has released an adapter that goes from Lightning to 30-pin, allowing some accessories to work with the 2012 devices. In addition, Apple received criticism for choosing to create a new proprietary connector instead of adopting the ubiquitous and standardised Micro-USB connector.

In addition, the USB end of the connector is much smaller and security latches are deeper making it difficult to get a hold of it to separate it from the power plug or USB socket.

References

  1. Models with a USB-C connector, Apple Support. Accessed 2022-02-07.
  2. Models with a Lightning connector, Apple Support. Accessed 2022-02-07.

External links

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