The new Lightning cable used in Apple’s latest products, notably the iPhone 5 revealed in September 2012, is set to be Apple’s new standard and will replace the old, iconic Apple dock connector. While it does provide a few improvements over its predecessor, such as a significant shrink in size and being reversible, it doesn’t quite stack up to industry and customer expectations or needs.
What is to know about the lightning cable
Costing $25, the Lightning can be pricey, even though it still runs on USB 2.0 technology. That’s not to mention the $35 30 pin to Lightning adapter that’ll you’ll need to buy to make all your old Apple accessories work, and even then only in a limited capacity. Is the smaller port size in new products worth the annoyance of a new dock connector?
What does the Lightning mean for you?
The Lightning cable makes all the old Apple connectors redundant. Any cables, car chargers or speakers that you have now won’t work with new Apple products. For anyone who is already heavily invested in the Apple accessories ecosystem, this could be disastrous news as you’ll have to buy a whole suite of new products or forgo them entirely.
The Lightning to USB cable will set you back $25 AUD if you plan on buying an extra cable for work or to keep with you on outings, which may be a good idea considering all the complaints about the iPhone 5’s battery life.
Alternatively, you could buy a few Lightning to 30 pin adapters. They’ll set you back $35 AUD, but this could be cheaper than repurchasing new cables and accessories. Bear in mind though, these adapters don’t support video- or iPod-out capabilities: they can transmit analogue sound, you’ll be able to hear your music on the other end of the adapter, but won’t carry video or the data that accompanies your music (like album, song and artist titles that scroll across the screen on some stereos).
8 Pins: What exactly does that mean?
When Apple unveiled their new iPhone 5, and a host of other product updates, one of the touted features was a rebooted charging cable dubbed the ‘Lightning’. It’s 80% thinner than the old proprietary Apple dock connector and reversible, with a new 8 pin configuration.
One of the pins on the cable head functions to charge the product, while the others are dynamically assigned by the device to send or receive specific data (ie. when you are syncing your songs, videos, etc.). No matter which way you plug it in, the device will know what to do.
The introduction of an authentication chip means that cheap, third party cables will likely not crop up on the market or that they won’t work properly.
Apple have gone to great lengths to redesign the traditional dock connector and these new Lightning cables cost the company 775% more to manufacture than the old ones. We have to ask, why would Apple go through all the trouble of redesigning their iconic cable?
Apple and third party accessory manufacturers stand to make a lot of money from this move, with people rushing out to buy adapters or entirely new speakers, car chargers and so on. Consumers would be wary of this effect when choosing to purchase an iPhone 5.
You’re going to love the Lightning
A smaller dock connector means a smaller port within the device itself. If the port is smaller, there is more room for other components. Cutting 30 pins down to 8 means that new devices can pack in more in or diminish their size greatly, like with the incredibly thin and light iPhone 5. Apple’s old dock connector was bulky and cumbersome. The new Lightning is much easier to plug and unplug as you can insert it anyway. It ships with any new Apple product, from the new iPods and the iPhone 5 to the fourth generation iPad and iPad mini.
You may want to hold off on upgrading
It would seem that the change is purely cosmetic as the new look, proprietary Apple cable is still USB 2.0. This means that, theoretically, data transfer speeds won’t increase with the new cable. The cable will only be implemented with new Apple designs, meaning that you will see faster speeds due to the better processing powers of the new devices; the Lightning itself won’t make syncing your iPhone or other iProduct any faster.
The future of charging cables
The change to Lightning has come after Apple gave its support to the International Electronics Commission for the use of the micro USB as the universal mobile phone charging standard. Using a micro USB would make Apple charging cables compatible with many of its competition counterparts, like the Samsung Galaxy S3 or the HTC One X, eliminating the need for multiple cables in a household. This could cut down on the amount of cables that end up in landfill and would mean that users could save a few bucks. Apple does sell a micro USB to Lightning adapter, but it hardly seems like enough.
Although, the whole idea of cables may become pointless in the near future, what with the Lumia 920 and Nexus 4 already using wireless charging and Apple itself taking out a patent for the technology. Even now, you can sync many of your Apple devices to iTunes wirelessly if they’ve been updated to iOS 5 and have the feature enabled.
If you plan on upgrading from the iPhone 4S or an older iPhone model, make sure you are ready and willing to discard your old cables and accessories or be prepared to buy a whole bunch of adapters. If you intend to come over from an Android device, your old micro USB cables and accessories won’t help you out much here unless you get an adapter too. Be sure to factor in the price of these extra components when you’re choosing which iPhone 5 plan will suit your budget.