Lightning
Top-down view of a Lightning connector, showing one side of eight pins
Type Data and power connector
Production history
Designer Apple Inc.
Produced 2012–present (end date: 2025)
Superseded 30-pin dock connector
Superseded by USB-C
General specifications
Pins 8
Pinout
Pins of the Lightning connector
Pin 1 GND Ground
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 be swapped in the IC of the device connector. (No swapping occurs 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. It was 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 connector is reversible. The plug is indented on each side to match up with corresponding points inside the receptacle to retain the connection.[1]

In 2018, Apple began transitioning to USB-C on iPad Pros and accessories. In response to legislation to standardize charging ports passed in 2022, Apple said it would comply with regulations. The iPhone 15 and 15 Plus and the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, announced on September 12, 2023, became the first iPhones to use USB-C, and the last few Lightning accessories will make the transition by 2025.[2]

History

The Lightning connector was introduced on September 12, 2012, with the iPhone 5, as a replacement for the 30-pin dock connector.[3] The iPod Touch (5th generation), iPod Nano (7th generation),[4] iPad (4th generation) and iPad Mini (1st generation) followed in October and November 2012 as the first devices with Lightning.[5][6]

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.[7][8]

The first-generation iPad Pro, released in 2015, features the first Lightning connector supporting USB 3.0 host.[9] The only accessory released with USB 3.0 support is the Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter.[10]

Transition to USB-C

In October 2018, following the implementation of USB-C across the Mac lineup, Apple released a range of iPad Pro models that replaced Lightning with it; the 2020 iPad Air (4th generation), 2021 iPad Mini (6th generation), and 2022 iPad (10th generation) similarly replaced Lightning with USB-C.[11] In October 2022, Apple released the Siri Remote for the 3rd generation Apple TV 4K with a USB-C connector, becoming Apple's first accessory to charge via USB-C.[12]

In January 2020, the European Commission proposed laws to standardize charger ports. On October 4, 2022, the European Parliament approved regulations that require all electronic devices to support USB-C,[13] in order to meet pressure by EU consumers regarding financial costs and electronic waste. Commentators said that these regulations will impact Apple most heavily.[14] Apple stated concerns that this will "harm consumers in Europe and around the world",[15] but on October 25, 2022, Greg Joswiak, Vice President of Global Marketing for 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.[16]

Released on September 22, 2023, the iPhone 15/15 Pro series are the first iPhone models to use USB-C. This means all the latest iPad models since March 18, 2022, and iPhone models since September 22, 2023, have transitioned to USB-C. The 2nd generation AirPods Pro was updated to a USB-C charging case and the MagSafe Duo Charger and MagSafe Battery Pack, which used the Lightning connector, were discontinued.[17]

The Lightning connector (used on iPhone 5 until iPhone 14) has a technical constraint that limits video output using the Lightning Digital AV HDMI Adapter to a maximum supported resolution of 1600 x 900 (slightly less than 1080p).[18] The USB-C ports on iPhone 15 and thereafter supports DisplayPort Alternate Mode over USB-C video output with HDR up to 4K resolution.

Technology

Apple Lightning to USB-A cable

Lightning is an 8-pin digital connector. Unlike the 30-pin dock connector it replaced (and USB Type-A and -B connectors), it is reversible.[19]

Most Lightning devices only supported USB 2.0, which has a maximum transfer speed of 480 Mbps or 60 MB/s. With USB 2.0, only one lane is in use at a time.[20][21] Only the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (1st and 2nd generation) and 10.5-inch iPad Pro support USB 3.0 (now USB 3.2 Gen 1), which has a maximum transfer speed of 5 Gbps or 625 MB/s.[9] This requires the Lightning to USB 3 camera adapter, which allows the iPad to connect with cameras and storage peripherals, but not computers.[22][10]

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[23]).

Lightning connectors contain an authentication chip that makes it difficult for third-party manufacturers to produce compatible accessories without being approved by Apple.[24] The authentication scheme has been cracked by some third parties.[19]

The connector is 6.7 mm by 1.5 mm.

Lightning 8-pin and 16-pin receptacles

Compatible devices

In production

iPhone

Accessories

Discontinued

iPhone

iPad

iPod

Accessories

Reception

Initial opinions of the Lightning connector in media were mixed: publications appreciated the reversibility and increased durability of the connector but were critical of its proprietary nature, of the effects of its authentication protocol on third-party accessory availability, and of the lack of performance improvements over the 30-pin dock connector.[25][26]

Reviewers criticized Apple for continuing to include a Lightning port on its products instead of moving to USB-C, a more universal port, on its introduction, with this criticism escalating as Apple adopted USB-C as the primary connector for both data and power on the iPad Pro and MacBooks.[27]

Apple has claimed that it continues to use Lightning because replacing it would supposedly produce "an unprecedented amount of electronic waste".[28][29] Some reviewers, like Business Insider senior tech correspondent Lisa Eadicicco, have suggested that it is simply because Apple wants to continue profiting from its proprietary chargers and accessories.[30][failed verification]

Problems

MFi certification

Apple introduced the MFi Program to increase the quality of the third-party accessories and consumer confidence.[31][32]

Black pins

A phenomenon exists on Lightning connectors in which Pin 1 or Pin 4 blackens over time, causing one side of the connector to cease functioning. These pins hold either a positive or negative electrical charge. As the gold plating of the pins wears 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, blackening them.[33] In 2019, Apple released new versions of the Lightning connector and ceased production of the older versions. These new versions included many improvements over older versions, including new silver-colored ruthenium-rhodium plating of the contacts, instead of gold plating, which improved durability, reducing the possibility of corrosion.[34][35]

References

  1. ^ Campbell, Mikey (May 9, 2013). "Apple's Lightning connector detailed in extensive new patent filings". Retrieved August 1, 2021.
  2. ^ "Apple to complete its USB-C transition for AirPods and other accessories by 2025". September 17, 2023. Retrieved September 21, 2023.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Dillet, Romain (September 12, 2012). "The iPhone 5 Comes With The New "Lightning" Connector". TechCrunch. Retrieved September 27, 2012.
  5. ^ Schultz, Marianne (October 23, 2012). "Apple Announces Fourth-Generation iPad with Lightning Connector, New A6X Chip". MacRumors. Retrieved December 2, 2012.
  6. ^ "iPad mini Technical Specifications". Apple Inc. December 2, 2012. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
  7. ^ Goldman, David (November 26, 2012). "Apple bought Lightning trademark from Harley-Davidson". CNNMoney.com. Retrieved November 29, 2012.
  8. ^ "Apple acquired Lightning trademark from Harley-Davidson". Apple Insider.
  9. ^ a b "iPad Pro 12.9 Teardown". iFixit.
  10. ^ a b "Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter". Apple Inc. Archived from the original on October 27, 2022. Retrieved October 27, 2022.
  11. ^ "Apple unveils new iPads, Macs and Mac Minis at event in New York". NewsComAu. October 30, 2018.
  12. ^ Peters, Jay (October 18, 2022). "You can now buy an Apple TV remote with a USB-C port". The Verge. Retrieved May 27, 2023.
  13. ^ "Apple could have to change iPhone charger to USB-C under new EU rules". CNBC. October 4, 2022.
  14. ^ "EU proposes mandatory USB-C on all devices, including iPhones". The Verge. September 23, 2021.
  15. ^ "EU plans one mobile charging port for all, in setback for Apple". Reuters. September 23, 2021.
  16. ^ Sami Fathi (October 26, 2022). "Greg Joswiak: Apple Will Have to Comply With the EU and Switch iPhone to USB-C". MacRumors. Retrieved October 26, 2022.
  17. ^ Warren, Tom (September 12, 2023). "Apple announces iPhone 15 with USB-C, a camera upgrade, and the Dynamic Island". The Verge. Retrieved September 12, 2023.
  18. ^ "The Lightning Digital AV Adapter Surprise – Panic Blog". March 1, 2013.
  19. ^ a b Gary Marshall (October 24, 2012). "Apple Lightning connector: what you need to know". techradar.
  20. ^ "High Speed USB Maximum Theoretical Throughput". Microchip Technology Incorporated. March 23, 2021. Archived from the original on March 26, 2021. Retrieved March 23, 2021.
  21. ^ "Sketchy rumor claims iPhone 14 Pro will feature faster USB 3.0 Lightning connector". April 20, 2022.
  22. ^ "Damaged lightning port on 12.9inch iPad Pro, anyone with any experience of this?". MacRumors. January 27, 2017. Retrieved October 27, 2022.
  23. ^ Eric Slivka (October 11, 2012). "Apple's Lightning to 30-Pin Adapter Torn Apart, Reveals Several Chips and Copious Glue". MacRumors. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  24. ^ Foresman, Chris (October 3, 2012). "Apple revising MFi program to limit third-party Lightning accessories". Ars Technica. Retrieved October 3, 2012.
  25. ^ "Here's the Chip Apple Is Using to Stop You from Buying Cheap Cables". Gizmodo. September 24, 2012. Retrieved August 21, 2023.
  26. ^ "iPhone 5 review – after 11 months of use how do we rate the iPhone 5?". Macworld. Retrieved August 21, 2023.
  27. ^ "Hey Apple, now would be a great time to ditch Lightning and get with USB-C". Android Authority. January 22, 2020. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
  28. ^ "Apple says losing Lightning port will create waste". BBC News. January 23, 2020. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
  29. ^ "Why iPhone 12 still won't be going USB-C". iMore. May 25, 2020. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
  30. ^ Eadicicco, Lisa. "Apple is under pressure to kill the iPhone's Lightning charger — but here's why that probably won't happen anytime soon". Business Insider. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
  31. ^ "Faqs". mfi.apple.com. Retrieved June 15, 2022.
  32. ^ "All you need to know about MFi-certified accessories". iGeeksBlog. June 2, 2022. Retrieved June 15, 2022.
  33. ^ "Ever Wondered Why the Fourth Pin on Your Lightning Cable Turns Black? We Found the Answer". iOS Hacker. February 12, 2022. Retrieved June 15, 2022.
  34. ^ "一口气搞懂苹果C94到底是咋回事?". chongdiantou.com (in Simplified Chinese). Retrieved August 3, 2023.
  35. ^ "Different Apple MFI Lightning Connector Chips: C48/C89/C91/C94/C100/C101". bytecable.com. Retrieved August 3, 2023.

Further reading