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

Skika Avatar
144 months ago
Lightning >>> 30-pin
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bungiefan89 Avatar
144 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)
LagunaSol Avatar
144 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)
newagemac Avatar
144 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)
redman042 Avatar
144 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)
iapplelove Avatar
144 months ago
Nothing more exciting than cable technology
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iOS 17

iOS 17.5 Bug May Also Resurface Deleted Photos on Wiped, Sold Devices [Updated]

Friday May 17, 2024 12:24 pm PDT by
A bug in iOS 17.5 is apparently causing photos that have been deleted to reappear, and the issue seems to impact even iPhones and iPads that have been erased and sold off to other people. A Reddit user wiped an iPad following Apple's guidelines in September of 2023 before selling it off to a friend. That friend updated the iPad to iPadOS 17.5 this week, and began seeing the Reddit user's old ...
iphone se 4 modified flag edges

When to Expect the Next iPhone SE to Launch

Friday May 17, 2024 2:03 pm PDT by
It has been over two years since Apple released the third-generation iPhone SE, and rumors continue to surface about a new model. The latest word comes from The Information, which today reported that Apple plans to release a new iPhone SE with a design similar to the standard iPhone 14 in the spring of 2025. If this rumor is accurate, the iPhone SE would finally gain Face ID and a notch...
oled m4 ipad pro grainy display reports

OLED iPad Pro Users Report 'Grainy' Displays, But It May Not Be a Defect

Friday May 17, 2024 5:57 am PDT by
Some new M4 iPad Pro models are exhibiting a visible static grain pattern across the OLED display, according to several user reports on Reddit (1, 2, 3) and the MacRumors Forums. Image credit: MacRumors user bk215 Users who see the grain generally report that it is most noticeable in dark environments with the display set at a low to medium brightness while viewing content with gray or muted...
iOS 17

Troubling iOS 17.5 Bug Reportedly Resurfacing Old Deleted Photos

Wednesday May 15, 2024 5:29 am PDT by
There are concerning reports on Reddit that Apple's latest iOS 17.5 update has introduced a bug that causes old photos that were deleted – in some cases years ago – to reappear in users' photo libraries. After updating their iPhone, one user said they were shocked to find old NSFW photos that they deleted in 2021 suddenly showing up in photos marked as recently uploaded to iCloud. Other...
Delta Hands On Feature

iPhone Emulators on the App Store: Game Boy, N64, PS1, PSP, and More

Thursday May 16, 2024 12:45 pm PDT by
In April, Apple updated its guidelines to allow retro game emulators on the App Store, and several popular emulators have already been released. The emulators released so far allow iPhone users to play games released for older consoles from Nintendo, Sony, SEGA, Atari, and others. A list of some popular emulators available on the App Store so far follows. Released Delta Delta is...
iphone 15 pro max vs iphone 16 pro max

iPhone 16 Pro Max Looks This Much Bigger Beside iPhone 15 Pro Max

Thursday May 16, 2024 4:51 am PDT by
This year's upcoming iPhone 16 Pro Max is expected to get a boost in overall size from 6.7-inches to 6.9-inches, and a new image gives us a good idea of how the current iPhone 15 Pro Max compares to what could be Apple's largest ever iPhone. The image above, posted on X by ZONEofTECH, shows a dummy model representing the ‌iPhone 16 Pro‌ Max alongside an actual iPhone 15 Pro Max. Dummy...