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Lightning (connector)

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500px-Lightning connector
Lightning is a proprietary computer bus and power connector created by Apple Inc. for its 2012 range of handheld consumer products. It is currently used by the iPhone 5, the iPhone 5C, the iPhone 5S, the iPod Touch 5th generation, the iPod Nano 7th generation, the iPad 4th generation, the iPad Air, the iPad mini, and iPad Mini 2. It replaces Apple's previous proprietary 30-pin dock connector and is incompatible with cables and peripherals designed for that connector, unless used in tandem with an adapter provided by Apple.

Lightning uses nine 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 the 2012 models of Apple devices.

History

The Lightning connector was introduced during a special media event by Apple Inc. 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 iPad 4th generation and the iPad mini were added as Lightning devices in October 2012.

Technology

Lightning is an all-digital nine-pin connector, that can, unlike the 30-pin dock connector, be inserted into the device with either side facing up. Presently, the Lightning connector only provides an interface to USB 2.0 (for data and charging) or a 30-pin adaptor (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.

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.

Analysts say that Lightning could, just like the 30-pin connector, last for about a decade.

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.

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