There was little doubt by the start of the event that Apple would be replacing their nearly decade old 30-pin connector. Apple always leaves room for suprises though. The new design features a 9-pin, 8-signal arrangement and is 1/5th the size of its predecessor. An adapter is being introduced so as to not break compatibility with legacy accessories. It's not the most elegant solution but it shouldn't be long before new accessories adopt the new connector.

Lightning, as the new connector is called, is described as "all-digital", which seems more obfuscatory than necessary. 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. 

As an added design feature, the connector is reversible, so you'll never fumble with figuring out what way to put it in, as is so common with USB connectors. 

There's much that we still need to dig into with this new connector, but we do know what it is almost surely not. This isn't a faster interface. Rumors of a Thunderbolt connector were always a bit bonkers, and adding USB 3.0 support would have added silicon to the very slim package. Get comfortable with this one guys, because we'll be seeing this connector in all future Apple devices including the new iPods, and, no doubt, the next iteration of the iPad. 

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  • rs2 - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    It seems that someone in Apple asked 'How do we get more money out of the millions of people who already have iOS accessories that they're happy with and don't want to upgrade?'.

    And the answer apparently is "Make a completely unnecessary change to device connectivity so that we can sell overpriced adaptor cables to anyone who wants to keep using their accessories.". Nonsense like that is why I avoid Apple products like the plague.
  • Belard - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    The 30pin old connector is big by todays standards... most of the pins were no longer needed. It keeps them from making smaller products.

    This is an improvement. The cables are not much more expensive than the usual premium cables already sold in stores. Its $20... about the same as other cables. BB sells cables for $5~30, depending on brand.

    You missed the part, they needed a smaller connector? Its better then any mini-USB cable on the market. Its a good idea, mind you - Apple still sucks for their legal BS.

    I'm not defending apple, but its kind of stupid to talk about over-priced Apple stuff...
    Most of their stuff is no more expensive than others. (Desktops/Notebooks not included) - iPhone = $200... funny, just like the Samsung Galaxy 3! Their Tablets are $400~500 - just like ASUS and Samsung models.

    If you talk about their notebooks... those are on the high side, but I don't recall Apple or anyone else putting a gun to your head to buy it... no?
  • rs2 - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    No, I didn't miss the part where Apple claims they need a smaller connector. I just consider that claim to be disingenuous. There are side-by-side comparisons of the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 4S available. Like this one here:

    Suffice to say, I'm not impressed. While the new connector is certainly narrower than the old one, it is just about as thick. So I don't see how it allows for thinner devices. Narrower, sure. But not thinner.

    Besides, if a smaller connector was needed, then why not just go with a standard option like the micro-USB form-factor? Those are about the same size as Apple's new proprietary "all digital" connector. And may people would already have cables handy.
  • Leonick - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    Not sure on the details myself but I'll point it out, it might be worth taking a look at the the part of the connector on the inside of the phone and not the part that is visible from the exterior, might be rather significant size differences there.
  • steven75 - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    Did you really just link to a picture of a pre-production leaked part instead of the ACTUAL phone that is up on now? Why?!

    The connector portion is a tab that sticks out and is way thinner. The socket that accepts the connector is also thinner. The iPhone 5 is currently the thinnest phone on the market and is significantly thinner than the 4/4S. This isn't rocket science here.

    Many are of the opinion, myself included, that MicroUSB sucks in use and even if you don't mind about that it doesn't do audio/video over the same cable which both the old and new dock connectors do. Why do people CONSTANTLY ignore this when bringing up MicroUSB? No, I don't want to carry around ANOTHER cable just for A/V use! No one does.
  • rs2 - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    "it doesn't do audio/video over the same cable"

    Now that just doesn't make any sense. Bytes are bytes. If USB can transmit data at a high enough bitrate to support a video/audio stream, then nothing whatsoever prevents it from doing video/audio over the same cable.

    USB 3.0 supports speeds of up to 5.0 Gbps. That's half of the 10.2 Gbps that you can get with something like HDMI, but still more than adequate for carrying a high quality video signal. It's worth noting that HDMI extenders exist that transmit an HDMI signal (up to and including 1080p) over a pair of gigabit ethernet cables, so even a data rate of 2 Gbps is sufficient for carrying high definition video and audio.

    So yeah, there's no reason why a standard USB port would not be able to transmit video/audio, or why using one would require a second cable dedicated to A/V purposes. Maybe that's why people keep bringing it up. No matter what form factor the connector uses, sending bytes over a wire is sending bytes over a wire. Apple's fancy wire doesn't do anything that anybody else's wire can't do.

    As for the comparison shot, the connector on the production model is just as thick as in that shot: I don't know what you're complaining about. That was the cleanest shot I could find that clearly showed the bottom edge of both phones at a good/flat angle. If you don't like it, then by all means find/make a better one.
  • Ammaross - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    So, they stole AMD's "Lightning" tag for their Thunderbolt-alike tech over DisplayPort? I smell some lawyers getting into a frenzy....
  • tipoo - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    I'd be ok with some of Apples money padding AMDs pockets :P
  • ervinshiznit - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    So if its exactly do you connect it to a computer?
  • Belard - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    There is no UP or Front side to the connector. Just plug it in.

    The other USB side, would go in like normal.

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