Despite its name going hand-in-hand with Apple’s Thunderbolt connection, it still connects to a USB port, and the changes come at the business end. It’s 80-percent smaller than the old connector, apparently less likely to break and it’s reversible too, so you can plug it into your phone or new iPod without checking its orientation first.
A lot of adapters
All this sounds good, but it’s not all positive, as anyone with an accessory for an older iPhone that relies on the 30-pin connector won’t be able to instantly use it with the new iPhone 5.
Not to worry, as Apple has a plan, and it involves buying an expensive adapter. The first, and most basic, is at least 80-percent larger than the Lightning and a full 100-percent uglier too. The Lightning to 30-pin adapter costs $29/£25, and is ideally suited to use with audio docks, where the iPhone has to sit on a base. It’s overall steadiness in this situation though, remains to be seen.
If you’d prefer not to precariously balance your new phone on a series of ever-smaller connectors, the Lightning to 30-pin adapter with a cable maybe preferable. It’s as it sounds — splitting the two ends between a 20cm long piece of cable — but will cost you $39/£30 instead. Apple will also sell standard USB to Lightning cables, priced at $19/£15.
No audio and video out
Apple has warned that not every piece of equipment will function even with an adapter, so don’t be surprised if you end up having to buy a new accessory anyway, and the adapters don’t support audio or video out either.
Heading over to Europe, we find another Lightning adapter, and it’s one that Apple has to provide whether it likes it or not. In 2009, a piece of EU legislation was introduced for manufacturers to adopt a common standard for mobile phone chargers, which turned out to be the micro-USB.
Neither the 30-pin connector, nor the new Lightning comply with this, but it’s acceptable to offer an adapter instead, thus we have the Lightning to micro-USB Adapter, which costs £15, or 19 Euros.
If you’re ready to order your new iPhone 5, and want a new dock to go with it, Apple told GigaOm.com that JBL, Bose, Bowers & Wilkins and Bang & Olufsen will be among the first to offer Lightning-equipped docks, and we should look out for them as we get closer to Christmas.
Building on the subject of Apple’s new Lightning adapter not offering audio or video, the Apple Store page says “Video and iPod Out not supported,” with the added caveat that “some 30-pin accessories are not supported” underneath. Could this seemingly innocent change bring about a world of problems for those with a wide range of non-Apple accessories?
Of course, Apple will argue that it has given you AirPlay and iCloud, so there’s no real need for annoying cables; but that won’t help everyone. Time for some investigation, so stay tuned.