Apple's Lightning Connector Detailed in Newly-Published Patent Applications

As noted by AppleInsider, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today published three Apple patent applications related to the company's Lightning connector introduced on its iOS devices late last year.

lightning_connector_patent_1

Perspective view of Lightning connector

The first application describes the hardware itself, while two nearly identical applications outline the adaptive technology used to assign pin functions. The only difference between the latter two applications appears to relate to one describing implementation on an electronic device while the other addresses its use on an accessory.

The present invention generally relates to connectors for connecting two devices. Specifically, certain embodiments of the present invention relate to reversible connectors with configurable contacts. [...]

Embodiments of the present invention provide techniques for dynamically configuring contacts of a host-side connector that is associated with a host system. In one embodiment of the present invention, a contact in the host-side connector is capable of being assigned one of several functions. The function to be assigned to the contact (and other contacts in the connector) may depend on the accessory coupled to the host system and the signals provided/used by the accessory. For example, when an audio only accessory is coupled to the host system, at least one of the contacts on the host-side connector can be configured to carry audio data.

lightning_connector_patent_2

Example pin-out diagram of Lightning connector

As part of the hardware-focused patent, Apple shares several examples of implementations for the Lightning connector, including the Lightning Digital AV adapter, Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader, and even an as yet unreleased Lightning dock of similar design to the company's iPad dock for the first-generation iPad with its 30-pin connector standard.

Apple's three patent applications published today were filed in November and December of last year, but are continuations of similar applications filed on September 7, 2012, five days before the company officially announced the standard as part of the iPhone 5 introduction. The patent applications can, however, be traced back even further to several provisional patent applications filed by Apple in November 2011.

Tag: patent

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
97 months ago
Lightning >>> 30-pin
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
97 months ago

Wireless for God sake!

Because having a giant pad on your desk to rest your phone on for charging is so much more convenient than a little plug, right? :rolleyes:
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
97 months ago
It's amazing how dismissive some people can be over what is literally a breakthrough connector design.

Parallel: Directional = challenging to connect.
Serial: Directional = challenging to connect.
ADB: Directional = challenging to connect.
USB: Directional = challenging to connect.
Mini-USB: Directional = challenging to connect.
Firewire: Directional = challenging to connect.
HDMI: Directional = challenging to connect.
30-pin Dock: Directional = challenging to connect.

Lightning: Non-directional = easy to connect.

Has there ever been a electronic connector that accomplished so much in so little space yet required so little effort from the user?

Yet people are going to dismiss this as unnecessary, over-engineered, pointless?

Good grief. This company can do no right.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
97 months ago

I'm confused as to why the connector is so complex. The plug has eight pins on either side, but the jack only has eight pins on a single side. It seems that if the function of the pins on the plug were identical on each side, everything should work just fine. Even though the old dock connector had 30 pins (most of which were never used), I'm not sure what flexibility Apple is gaining by having adaptive Lightning connectors. I would think eight non-adaptive connectors would be able to carry all the needed power and data.


Because this is what allows the connector to work no matter which side you plug in. Probably my favorite feature of the Lighting connector. Nice little innovation IMO.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
97 months ago
I see that, for a lot of people, Apple continues to do nothing right. Now that people are bored of complaining about Antennagate, I guess this is the next best thing to whine about.

Yeah a connector change is a bit painful at first, and some people are still waiting for more compatible accessories. But Apple has always "skated to where the puck is going" instead of "where the puck is" and this is no exception. Other than being a robust, tiny, easy to use little cable, it's highly adaptable to future needs. For those who see this new connector as a big complaint, may I suggest you skip a generation and hang on to your 30 pin devices a while longer until accessory makers catch up and prices drop.

I've had the iPhone 5 since it came out, and I like the new cable. It's not a big deal or anything, but it's one more coat of polish on a great product line, and I expect the change to pay more dividends down the road.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
97 months ago
Nothing more exciting than cable technology
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iPhone 12 Pro in Graphite and iPhone 12 in Blue Shown Off in Unboxing Videos

Monday October 19, 2020 8:20 am PDT by
While the iPhone 12 Pro does not launch until Friday, we now have an early unboxing video of the device courtesy of Twitter account DuanRui, providing a closer look at the shiny new flat-edge design and sleek Graphite color option. Ben Geskin re-uploaded the unboxing video to YouTube, which we've embedded below: Geskin has also uploaded an unboxing video of the iPhone 12 in Blue: ...

New Photos Offer Better Look at iPhone 12 Color Options

Tuesday October 20, 2020 2:34 am PDT by
As we wait for the iPhone 12 review embargo to lift later today, more pictures are circulating of the devices in real-world lighting conditions, providing a better look at the different colors available. Leaker DuanRui has shared images on Twitter of the iPhone 12 in white, black, blue, green, and (PRODUCT)RED. The black and white colors are similar to the iPhone 11 colors, but the other...

Kuo: iPhone 12 Pro Demand Higher Than Expected

Sunday October 18, 2020 10:39 pm PDT by
TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo released a research note this morning detailing what he's seen with the volume of iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro pre-orders in the first weekend of sales. Kuo had previously indicated that Apple's estimated shipment allocations for the new iPhone models placed the iPhone 12 at the top with 40-45% of inventory allocation (up from 15-20%). However, ...

Apple Releases iPadOS and iOS 14.1 With Multiple Bug Fixes Ahead of iPhone 12 Launch

Tuesday October 20, 2020 10:06 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS and iPadOS 14.1, the first major updates to the iOS and iPadOS 14 operating system updates that were released in September. iOS and iPadOS 14.1 come a week after Apple released the golden master versions of the updates to developers. The iOS 14.1 update can be downloaded for free and it is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access...

Hands-On With Apple's MagSafe Charger for iPhone 12

Monday October 19, 2020 11:54 am PDT by
Alongside the new iPhone 12 models, Apple introduced a MagSafe charger that attaches to the back of the iPhones using magnets embedded both in the charger and in the iPhone. It allows for speedier charging and paves the way for a portless iPhone in the future. MagSafe chargers are shipping out and are in some Apple retail locations now, and we picked one up to check it out. Subscribe to the ...

Watch: iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro Unboxing Videos and First Impressions

Tuesday October 20, 2020 6:05 am PDT by
Apple's embargo has lifted for iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro reviews. In addition to our detailed review roundups for each device, we've rounded up over a dozen unboxing videos and first impressions below. iPhone 12 in Blue on left and iPhone 12 Pro in Pacific Blue on right via Engadget Key new features of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro include a flat-edge design, 5G support, a much faster A14 ...

Some Apple Watch SE Owners Experiencing Issues With Overheating [Updated]

Monday October 19, 2020 11:38 am PDT by
There may be an issue with the new Apple Watch SE, which some users have found is overheating after a few hours of usage. Several Apple Watch SE owners in South Korea have run into problems, as noted in a Reddit post chronicling the complaints. There have been six reports from Apple Watch SE owners in South Korea who have had their Apple Watches get hot and malfunction, with a yellow spot...

Gold Version of iPhone 12 Pro Apparently Has a More Fingerprint Resistant Stainless Steel Frame

Tuesday October 20, 2020 11:56 am PDT by
iPhone 12 Pro reviews hit the web today, and one of the more interesting tidbits came from TechCrunch's Matthew Panzarino, who revealed that the Gold version of the device apparently has a more fingerprint resistant coating applied to the stainless steel frame. From his review:Most of the iPhone 12 Pro finishes still use a physical vapor deposition process for edge coating. But the new gold...

iPhone 12 Pro Max Has Smaller 3,687 mAh Battery According to Regulatory Filing

Tuesday October 20, 2020 8:48 pm PDT by
Apple's new iPhone 12 Pro Max is equipped with a 3,687 mAh battery, which is around 7% less capacity than the 3,969 mAh battery in the iPhone 11 Pro Max, according to a regulatory filing published by TENAA, the Chinese equivalent of the FCC. The regulatory filing, spotted by MacRumors, also lists the iPhone 12 Pro Max with 6GB of RAM as seen in benchmark results last week. Apple has filed ...

Hands-On With Apple's iPhone 12 and 12 Pro MagSafe Cases

Tuesday October 20, 2020 1:33 pm PDT by
Apple's iPhone 12 and 12 Pro are launching this Friday, and ahead of that release date, Apple is shipping out various accessories like the MagSafe charger and MagSafe cases. Yesterday we took a look at the MagSafe charger, and today our MagSafe case came in the mail, so we thought we'd take another look at the charger to see how it works with the case and just how strong the case magnets are. S ...