Lightning (connector)

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Lightning connector.svg
Top down view of a Lightning cable, showing the eight-pin connector
Type Data and power connector
Designer Apple Inc.
Produced 2012 (introduced)
Superseded 30-pin dock connector
Pins 8
Pin out
Receptacle View
Pin 1 GND ground
Pin 2 BaBan lane 0 positive
Pin 3 AnAn lane 0 negative
Pin 4 ID0 identification/control 0
Pin 5 PWR power (charger or battery)
Pin 6 L1n lane 1 negative
Pin 7 L1p lane 1 positive
Pin 8 ID1 identification/control 1
Two differential pair lanes (L0p/n and L1p/n) may swap in IC of device connector (lanes don't swap if accessory identification chip connect to ID0 pin)

Lightning is a proprietary computer bus and power connector created by Apple Inc. to replace its previous proprietary 30-pin dock connector, used to connect Apple mobile devices like iPhones, iPads and iPods to host computers, external monitors, cameras, USB battery chargers and other peripherals. Using eight pins instead of thirty, Lightning is significantly more compact than the 30-pin dock connector and can be inserted with either side facing up. However, it is incompatible with cables and peripherals designed for its predecessor, unless used with an adapter. It was introduced in 2012, and is used by the iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, 5th generation iPod Touch, 7th generation iPod Nano, all iPad Minis, the 4th generation iPad and the iPad Air.


The Lightning connector was introduced on September 12, 2012.[1] The connector was introduced as a replacement for the 30-pin dock connector for all new hardware that was announced at the same event. The first compatible devices were the iPhone 5, iPod Touch (5th generation), and the iPod nano (7th generation).[2] The iPad (4th generation) and the iPad Mini (1st generation) were added as Lightning devices in October 2012[3][4] and in 2013 Apple released the Lightning-equipped iPhone 5C, iPhone 5S, iPad Mini with retina display and the iPad Air.

On November 25, 2012, Apple acquired the “Lightning” licensing trademark from Harley-Davidson.[5]


Lightning is an eight-pin connector which carries a digital signal. It is non-directional and can be inserted into the device with either side facing up or down. Apple offers various adapters between the Lightning and other interfaces such as Lightning to Apple proprietary 30 pin, Lightning to universal serial bus (USB) as well as accessories to interface with high-definition televisions, VGA monitors, Secure Digital (SD) cards and SD card reader. The Lightning to 30-pin adapter supports only a limited subset of the available 30 pin signals: USB data, USB charging, and analog audio output. Official Lightning connectors contain an authentication chip that makes it difficult for third-party manufacturers to produce compatible accessories without being approved by Apple.[6]

Apple Lightning to USB Cable (MD818)

Comparisons with Micro-USB[edit]

Lightning (left), USB 3.0 micro-B, USB (2.0) micro-B, and USB mini-B (right) plugs
Lightning Dock for Apple Products
See also: Micro-USB

Apple has not publicly discussed micro-USB, but industry observers believe Lightning was used for the following advantages:

  • Durability and reversibility The Lightning connector is made primarily from solid metal, while USB's thin metal and plastic make it structurally weaker.[7] [8] The ability of a Lightning plug to be inserted in either direction reduces wear from attempts to insert the plug upside down, and offers user convenience.[9][10]
  • Power capacity Lightning improves on Micro-USB's limit of 9 watts, allowing at least 12 watts to accommodate the iPad.[11]
  • Forward compatibility Lightning may be forward compatible with future versions of USB, meaning devices will not become obsolete. [12]
  • Bidirectionality The Lightning port can either charge a device, or allow the device to power accessories. The optional supplement USB On-The-Go allows USB devices to do this.[13]
  • Quality and ethical concerns Apple prevents other manufacturers from producing compatible connectors without a license, which they claim prevents low quality or dangerous items from being sold.[14][10] Third-parties may have to follow Apple's supplier responsibility code regarding worker treatment and the environment.[15]

In December, 2013, the USB 3.0 Promoter Group announced a new USB Type-C specification, "expected to be published by the middle of 2014"[16][17] As listed by the Promoter Group, the key characteristics of USB Type-C are similar to many Lightning features, including power capacity and reversibility. [18]


On March 13, 2014 the European Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection approved a draft recommendation for "a renewed effort to develop a common charger".[19] The amendment does not specify if the "common charger" being proposed would be the same as the current European common EPS or not. Once formally approved by the Council of Ministers, member states will have two years to transpose the new regulations into national laws and manufacturers will have an additional year after that to comply.[20][21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pollicino, Joe (September 12, 2012). "Apple's September 12th event roundup: iPhone 5, new iPods, iOS 6, Lightning and everything else". Engadget. Retrieved October 5, 2012. 
  2. ^ Dillet, Romain (September 12, 2012). "The iPhone 5 Comes With The New "Lightning" Connector". TechCrunch. Retrieved September 27, 2012. 
  3. ^ Schultz, Marianne (October 23, 2012). "Apple Announces Fourth-Generation iPad with Lightning Connector, New A6X Chip". MacRumors. Retrieved December 2, 2012. 
  4. ^ "iPad mini Technical Specifications". Apple Inc. December 2, 2012. Retrieved October 23, 2012. 
  5. ^ Goldman, David (November 26, 2012). "Apple bought Lightning trademark from Harley-Davidson". Retrieved November 29, 2012. 
  6. ^ Foresman, Chris (October 3, 2012). "Apple revising MFi program to limit third-party Lightning accessories". Ars Technica. Retrieved October 3, 2012. 
  7. ^ Perlow, Jason (November 3, 2012). "Oh Apple Lightning connector, how do I love thee?". ZDNet. Retrieved April 11, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Hardware comparison: Lightning connector vs MicroUSB connector"., Retrieved December 20, 2012
  9. ^ "Hardware comparison: Lightning connector vs MicroUSB connector". 2012-12-20. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  10. ^ a b "Engineer explains why Apple went with Lightning instead of Micro USB". 2012-09-14. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  11. ^ "Battery Charging Specification, Revision 1.2". USB Implementers Forum, Inc. December 2010. 
  12. ^ Buster, Hein. "Apple Might Speed Up Lightning Transfers By Offering Full USB 3.0 Support On iOS Devices". Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  13. ^ "c|net: Clever adapter connects USB accessories to your Android device"
  14. ^ "Why Apple Couldn’t Go to Micro USB Charging". 2012-09-16. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  15. ^ Rose, Michael. "Made For iPhone manufacturers may have to comply with Apple's supplier responsibility code". TUAW. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  16. ^ "New USB Type-C connector is smaller, reversible, supports USB 3.1". 2013-12-04. Retrieved 2013-12-31. 
  17. ^ "With new USB connector, no more wrong-way-up cables". 2013-12-04. Retrieved 2013-12-31. 
  18. ^ "Next Generation USB Connection Definition Underway". 2013-12-03. Retrieved 2013-12-31. 
  19. ^ MEPs push for common charger for all mobile phones
  20. ^ "Europe reaches deal on common mobile phone battery charger". 19 December 2013. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  21. ^ "Common charger for all mobile phones on the way". 19 December 2013. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 

Further reading[edit]