|Type||Data and power connector|
|Superseded||30-pin dock connector|
|Pins of the Lightning plug|
|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|
|Lane 0 and 1 may swap in IC of device connector (they do not swap if the accessory identification chip is connected to the ID0 pin)|
Lightning is a proprietary computer bus and power connector, created and designed by Apple Inc., and introduced on September 12, 2012, in conjunction with the iPhone 5, to replace its predecessor, the 30-pin dock connector. The Lightning connector is used to connect Apple mobile devices like iPhones, iPads, and iPods to host computers, external monitors, cameras, USB battery chargers, and other peripherals. Using 8 pins instead of 30, Lightning is much smaller than its predecessor. The Lightning plug is symmetrical (same pins on either side) and therefore is reversible. The plug is indented on each side to match up with corresponding points inside the receptacle to retain the connection.
The Lightning connector was introduced on September 12, 2012, with the iPhone 5, as a replacement for the 30-pin dock connector. The iPod Touch (5th generation), iPod Nano (7th generation), iPad (4th generation) and iPad Mini (1st generation) followed in October and November 2012 as the first devices with Lightning.
On November 25, 2012, Apple acquired the "Lightning" trademark in Europe from Harley-Davidson. Apple was given a partial transfer of the Lightning trademark, suggesting that Harley-Davidson likely retained the rights to use the name for motorcycle-related products. Apple is the sole proprietor of the trademark and copyrights[dubious ] for the designs and specifications of the Lightning connector.
The iPad Pro, released in 2015, features the first Lightning connector supporting USB 3.0 host. The only accessory that supports USB 3.0 is the camera adapter. Lightning cables with a USB-A end only support USB 2.0.
In October 2018, Apple released a range of iPad Pro models that replaced Lightning with USB-C; the 2020 iPad Air (4th generation) and 2022 iPad (10th generation) similarly replaced Lightning with USB-C. In October 2022, the Siri Remote bundled with the 3rd generation Apple TV 4K replaced the Lightning port with USB-C, becoming Apple's first accessory to charge via USB-C.
In January 2020, the European Commission proposed laws to standardize charger ports. On October 4, 2022, the European Parliament approved regulations that would require all electronic devices to support USB-C, in order to meet pressure by EU consumers regarding financial costs and e-waste. Commentators said that these regulations will impact Apple most heavily. Apple stated concerns that this will "harm consumers in Europe and around the world", but on October 25, 2022, Greg Joswiak, the vice president of worldwide marketing of Apple, said that Apple will comply with the new EU regulations, indirectly confirming that iPhone models and other devices will ultimately replace Lightning with USB-C in the future.
Lightning is an 8-pin connector that carries a digital signal. Unlike the Apple 30-pin connector it replaces (and USB Type-A or -B connectors), the Lightning connector can be inserted either face up or face down. Each pin on the reverse side of the connector is connected to its directly opposite twin on the other side. Part of the processor's job is to route the power and data signals correctly whichever way up the connector is inserted.
The maximum transfer speed available over the Lightning connector is 480 Mbit/s, the same as USB 2.0.
The Lightning receptacle on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (1st and 2nd generation) and 10.5-inch iPad Pro models has 16 pins, as there are additional eight pins on the other side. It supports USB 3.0 (now USB 3.2 Gen 1) at the maximum transfer speed of 5 Gbit/s. Only the Lightning to USB 3 camera adapter provides USB 3.0 speed on those iPad Pro models.
Apple offers various adapters that allow the Lightning connector to be used with other interfaces, such as 30-pin, USB, HDMI, VGA, and SD cards. 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 (via the DAC inside of the adapter).
Lightning connectors contain an authentication chip that made it difficult for third-party manufacturers to produce compatible accessories without being approved by Apple. The authentication scheme has been cracked by some third parties.
The plug measures 6.7 mm by 1.5 mm.
Apple has not publicly discussed microUSB, but various tech news websites state that Lightning might have been used instead of microUSB because of its compatibility with docks and speaker systems; the ability to insert the cable in either direction for user convenience; Apple wishing to maintain control over supply chain of accessories; the ability to charge a licensing fee; and the mechanical weakness of USB connectors. The optional supplemental standard USB On-The-Go allows USB devices to do this.
On April 10, 2015, Apple announced a line of MacBooks that featured USB-C. USB-C has similarities with Lightning, and advantages over microUSB. USB-C, like Lightning, but unlike its predecessor microUSB, can be plugged in either direction. USB-C and Lightning are not interchangeable as they are entirely different pin-outs, protocols and connectors.
The following devices use the Lightning connector:
Many reviewers have criticized Apple for continuing to include a Lightning port on their products instead of moving to USB-C, a more universal port. Apple has claimed that it continues to use Lightning because replacing it would supposedly produce "an unprecedented amount of electronic waste". Some reviewers, like senior tech correspondent Lisa Eadicicco, have acknowledged that it is simply because Apple wants to continue profiting from its proprietary chargers and accessories.
Apple introduced the MFi Program to increase the quality of the third-party accessories and consumer confidence.
A phenomenon exists on early lightning connectors where the Pin 1 or Pin 4 would turn black over time, making one side of the connector cease functioning. These pins hold either a positive or negative electrical charge. As the gold platings of the pins wear out over time, when the connector is connected while it is stained with liquid like sweats, a spark gap can be produced due to extra current being drawn to a capacitor for a short period. This spark gap causes the copper pins to corrode, turning it black. In 2019, Apple released new versions of the Lightning connector and ceased productions of the older versions. These new versions included many improvements over older versions of the Lightning connectors, including the new silver color ruthenium-rhodium plating pins, instead of the gold plating pins, which improved platings' durability and resistance to wears, reducing possibility of corrosions.