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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.

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.
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

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49 months ago
Lightning >>> 30-pin
Rating: 12 Votes
49 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:
Rating: 10 Votes
49 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.
Rating: 9 Votes
49 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.
Rating: 6 Votes
49 months ago
Nothing more exciting than cable technology
Rating: 5 Votes
49 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.
Rating: 5 Votes
49 months ago
plugging cables in is the new rocket science
Rating: 4 Votes
49 months ago
It's not *that* complicated. The real complexity is in the device side. That's why Chinese manufacturers are able to make fully functional knock offs of this cable and sell them for under $3 each.

But the adaptive nature of this connector allows it to do all the things that the old 30 pin connector could do with few pins and less bulk. This is a brilliant, well engineered cable design, IMO. Much easier to use than MicroUSB. (Have you ever noticed that it usually seems to take 3 tries to insert a two sided microUSB cable?)
Rating: 3 Votes
49 months ago

Uh huh, well some of us do venture outside of the house to jobs and vacations. Do you expect people to shlep around with a charging pad where ever they go?

If you want wireless charging, just go buy a tesla coil. I guarantee that you will get a real charge out of it.

or you could use the regular charging adapter in those cases :rolleyes:
Rating: 3 Votes
49 months ago

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:

Why do you need a giant pad? You can use neat "orb" like what Nexus 4 has:


So what would be the point of the charging pad then? Too lazy to plug in the phone to the cable sitting on the desk?

And why would Apple go with simmetrical adapter for Lighting? Do they think Apple users are too lazy to figure out how to plug in the cable or something? Convenience matters. And when someone calls you and your phone is charging - it is much easier to just pick the phone up (and go away if you want to)
Rating: 2 Votes

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