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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  • 1008anan - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    This is a significant update. Could you post a picture of the 8 pin dock connector next to a micro USB for size comparison?

    Jason Inofuentes, why do you think Apple doesn't just switch to Micro USBs like everyone else?
  • tipoo - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    No video output for docks.
  • sabot00 - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

  • steven75 - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    Two connectors instead of one means twice the space usage. How is this better?
  • steven75 - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    Twice the cables needed as well. Terrible solution.
  • tuxRoller - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    Well, the cynic in me says they enjoy the thriving iDevice only aftermarket toys which rely on the nonstandard Apple connector. Those devices exclude all non-apple connectors and adds a barrier to those who more might want to change to android/windows at some later time.
    My angel, however, says that their new connector has horizontal symmetry, which none of the USB connectors have, so it is a bit easier to connect. Of course if they really wanted it to be easy to connect they would've added some friggin' magnets instead of fiddly pin connectors.
  • Belard - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    Because MicroUSB ports SUCK. They really do.

    While I admit to one of those who said it could include Thunder or USB 3.0 (Okay, it is Lightning) - nobody knew for sure. But, there is no reason why the cable cannot support USB 3.0 in the future. So apparently, the lack of 3.0 ability is a matter of costs and space.

    Also, this new Apple connector can do other things than USB - which Apple will do sometime in the future (digital audio/Video? As the said in the intro video "Audio and video is used more and more over wireless". There are already Android Speakers which are wireless (HTC One X with Beats anyone?).

    Okay, back to your question: "why Apple doesn't just switch to Micro USBs like everyone else?"

    Answer: Micro USB SUCKS! I have several USB 2.5" drives and of course an Android phone with a mini-micro-USB connector. I've also used a mico-USB HD-DOCK caddy system which LOOKED good but.... they don't make good docking connectors.

    They are made as cheap as possible. They wear out and are easy to break. Same as comparing an old 9-pin 80s style joystick port (Atari / Amiga) to that of a Super Nintendo/Game Cube or PS-One joystick connectors... the newer consoles were much better.

    So with my PHONE, I always have to check orientation of the cable and still have to angle the thing into the phone's USB port. On my iPad1, plugging in the connector is far easier to aim. The fact that Apple made this reversible is an EXCELLENT idea. It saves hassle and wear on the connector. (Too bad Apple spends far too much time in the court room!)

    My guess... Apple will be adding this connector to ALL their desktop/notebook computers in the next product refresh.
  • Pessimism - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    "They wear out and are easy to break."
    Micro USB mechanical spec : 10,000 insertion cycles.
    Ipod Dock Connector spec: 10,000 insertion cycles.

    Now, MINI USB, was terrible at 1000 insertion cycles. Zillions of Blackberry 8300 series phones suffered from this when they used mini-usb as the charge port. Kept phone shops in business soldering in new connectors.

    I agree reversible is convenient. However, USB does not require angled insertion. That is simply false. If your phone does for some reason, it is a result of terrible industrial design on the case plastics or too bulky of a moulded connector head on the cable.
  • steven75 - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    I've always found MicroUSB to be terrible in use vs full size USB. Do you disagree?
  • Pessimism - Friday, September 14, 2012 - link

    Nope. All the micro connectors (USB, HDMI and friends) are delicate compared to their full size cousins despite being a necessary evil. Heck I even find full size HDMI to be a bit weak looking. I miss 36 pin centronics printer cables complete with locking wire loops on the sides for added clamping force

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