Top down view of a Lightning cable, showing the eight-pin connector
|Type||Data and power connector|
|Superseded||30-pin dock connector|
|Pin 2||L0p||lane 0 positive|
|Pin 3||L0n||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. The connector was introduced as a replacement for the 30-pin dock connector for all new hardware that was announced at the same event. Devices that were initially compatible with the connector were the iPhone 5, iPod touch (5th generation), and the iPod nano (7th generation). The iPad (4th generation) and the iPad mini were added as Lightning devices in October 2012 and in 2013 Apple released the Lightning-equipped iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPad mini with retina display and the iPad Air.
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.
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. Official Lightning connectors contain an authentication chip that makes it difficult for third-party manufacturers to produce compatible accessories without being approved by Apple. Nevertheless, Chinese company iPhone5mod began selling an iPhone 5 dock charging station in October 2012 and claimed that it could "bypass Apple's authentication functions" using "cracked chips". iOS 7 enforces a block on any Lightning plug that is not authorized by Apple.
In December 2012, Belkin became the first 3rd-party company to start selling lightning accessories (their line started with a car charger and dock).
Lightning received mixed reactions from press and users after its release, some praising its improved functionality and smaller size compared to its predecessor, with others noting that accessories for previous iPod, iPhone and iPad models were incompatible with the new connector. Still others criticized Apple's decision to create a new proprietary connector rather than incorporate the Micro-USB connector supported by most competitive low power mobile devices although some observers pointed to perceived advantages of Lightning over micro USB. Both critics and supporters pointed to the fact that Apple will likely continue to control accessory quality, availability and features as well as generate revenue through ‘Made for iPhone’ / Lightning licensing.
Apple requires all production of Lightning-based accessories to occur in Apple-approved factories which must comply with Apple's supplier code of conduct. Some critics suggested this was done so that Apple can "continue to charge a premium on its own Lightning cables and adapters," while others suggested this was done "to influence more companies to behave ethically on worker rights, environmental issues and more."
Lightning vs Micro-USB
||This section possibly contains original research. (October 2013)|
||The neutrality of this section is disputed. (November 2013)|
Regarding universality and number of products - Lightning is only used in Apple products, and is proprietary. Generally every other manufacturer of smartphones, excluding some GSM-only mobile phones and probably existing short test-series use Micro-USB. ComScore found Apple adding to its dominant U.S. smartphone market lead with over 40 percent of all subscribers iPods and those iPads that are WiFi-only are not included in this figure, but still use Lightning. According to Q3 2013 IDC results, however Android based have 81%, iOS have 12.9%. This means with summary of other main players that about only 1 in 7 sold phones have Lightning. Others have (in nearly every case) Micro-USB, especially if it is smartphone or device with more options than classic mobile phone. In the tablet market, Apple have a higher market share (around 30%).
Although Apple has not commented publicly, there are several reasons suggested by industry observers as to why Apple chose to develop Lightning instead of using micro-USB. Most of these center around the perceived advantages to users or to Apple of Lightning over micro-USB:
- Power Capacity The micro-USB port is limited to 9 watts of power. This is sufficient to charge a phone, but not larger items like tablets. The charger for the iPad delivers 12 watts; it is unknown if this is the upper limit for Lightning.
- Bidirectional Power USB supports power in only one direction. The Lightning port can either charge a device, or allow the device to power accessories such as the HDMI connector. While the optional supplement USB On-The-Go allows some USB devices to do this, few phones (as of November 2013) support this, and it is difficult to figure out which devices are compatible with USB OTG.
- Bidirectional Hosting Similar to above, (including the USB On-The-Go caveat) a device is a client, when hosted by a computer, but becomes the host itself when accessories such as stereo docks, or card readers are used.
- Non-Obsolescence Intel has already replaced the micro-USB connector with the USB 3.0 Micro-B connector,  and is developing yet another connector to replace that. Those new connectors are required to achieve USB 3 speeds from a hard drive, but being larger or different, can not be used to charge a micro-USB 2 phone. Apple on the other hand, designed Lightning to be adaptable to new technologies without physical changes.
- Durability The Lightning plug is a solid slab. Micro-USB is a hollow envelope that "is notoriously fragile"[neutrality is disputed] although neither of the connectors has been classified as "rugged" or "ruggedized" as the term is sometimes used for computer hardware.
- Reversibility The ability of a Lightning plug to be inserted in either direction is seen as a convenience advantage and also reduces wear from attempts to insert the plug upside down. If a pin on one side of a Lightning plug is damaged, it will continue to work if inserted in the other direction.
- Use as physical mount / dock connector Many devices use the Lightning port as a physical mount to hold the phone or iPad in place. While the specification for the Micro-USB 3.0 connector allows this, very few phones (as of November 2013) have the larger connector needed to fit on to such a device.
- Quality Control / Authentication Apple can resist the introduction into the market of badly made accessories from third parties. Some unauthorized devices do exist however.
- Availability While scarce at introduction, Lightning accessories and adapters are still not widely available as many 3rd companies appear to be forgoing upgrading hardware for the new connector. In many cases require a 30 pin to lightning adapter from Apple, but these may not work with the latest 5C and 5S models of iPhone.[neutrality is disputed]
- Revenue With Lightning Apple can collect licensing fees.
Lightning vs USB Type-C
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" - although it is presumed that, "Products using the [type C] connector won’t appear for another 18 months or so after that." As listed by the Promoter Group, the key characteristics of USB type C are similar to many Lightning characteristics/differences/perceived advantages when compared with existing USB micro type A/B connectors. The announced type-C, "Key characteristics…include:
- An entirely new design…" [Type-C plugs/sockets will not be (mechanically) backward compatible with current/previous USB connectors. "The Type-C specification, will define passive…adapters to allow users to use their existing products"]
- "New smaller size - similar...to the existing USB 2.0 Micro-B" [and therefore also similar to the existing Lightning connector]
- "Usability enhancements – users will no longer need to be concerned with
- plug orientation…" [The type-C connector, like Lightning, will be 'reversible']
- [or] "cable direction…" [The type-C connector will support bi-directional hosting - presumably via mandatory USB OTG support - eliminating the need for different type A ("Host") and type B ("Peripheral") connectors.]
- "…scalable power charging" [like Lightning, USB type-C promises higher electric current handling capabilities - reportedly through support of the existing USB Power Delivery specification.]
- "Scalability – the connector design will scale for future USB bus performance"
iPhone charging port controversy in Europe
Although Apple smartphones are compatible with "chargers" that conform to the European common External Power Supply (EPS) standard, Apple does not include a micro-USB charging port on their mobile phones. A micro-USB-to-Lightning adapter or the supplied USB-to-Lightning cable is required to connect Apple's iPhones with a common EPS or to any other USB port/charger/power supply. In a 2013 amendment to a "Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament … relating to ... radio equipment" the European Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection included a recommendation for "…A renewed effort to develop a common charger...". The amendment does not specify if the "common charger" being proposed (that would apply to many other types of "radio equipment" beyond smartphones) would be the same as the current European common EPS or something new/different. The proposal also does not indicate whether - like the common EPS standard - the use of connector adapters would be accepted for compliance. Some observers believe adapters would not be acceptable - requiring Apple to provide phones in Europe with a charging port different from the current Lightning port. The European Parliament is expected to sign the proposal into law in March, 2014. Once signed into EU law, member states will then have two years to transpose the new regulations into national laws and manufacturers will have an additional year after that to comply.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Apple Lightning.|
- Wingfield, Nick & Chen, Brian X. (May 5, 2013). "Accessories No Longer Tethered to Apple". The New York Times.