When the Lightning connector was released by Apple back in 2012 there were many cynics, critical of the reasons for changing their uniform charging/transfer cable. After Apple boasted about the fact that all of their products were interconnected and standardised, they introduced the Lightning connector, discontinuing the previous 30 pin connector and dividing their product line. While this is something of an outdated issue, the real motives for altering their connection ports may finally be coming to light.

lightning connector 30 pin

Going Against The Grain

The main issue for consumers was that previous Apple devices would not be compatible with the new connector. While not a major issue for file transfer or charging (a simple inconvenience of changing cables), when it comes to peripherals such as docking stations or speakers, newer devices would not be compatible. The wider criticism was that instead of incorporating the Micro-USB connection, they chose to install their own connection method, isolating themselves from their competitors.

Apple could yet run into problems in the EU as the Consumer Protection Committee in Brussels voted unanimously in favour of a universal smartphone connector in a bid to reduce environmental waste. Apple signed an agreement that they would make their devices compatible with Micro-USB, but instead of installing Micro-USB connectors, they simply produced adapters, and kept the Lightning connector in place. While this is just a proposal at present, if it was to be set as European law, Apple could face costly measures to produce EU-only Micro-USB smartphones.

Why Lightning?

There are benefits to using the lightning cable though. File transfer is quicker than the 30 pin cable, and the durability of the head is much improved. A common ailment of the 30 pin was cracked casing where the cable meets the connection. You can also plug in the cable in any direction and it will still function properly. The size of the head is much reduced too (an importance we will come to in a moment). You can read about the features of the lightning connector on TechRadar.

connector comparison

Core Products

Apple have recently culled a lot of their range, and slimmed down the options available to those looking to get on board the iBandwagon. The release of the iPhone 5s and 5c saw the halt in production of all past iPhones which were compatible with the 30 pin chargers, so that now all phones in the iPhone range have Lightning ports.  The iPad collection also has been reshuffled this week, as Apple brought back the iPad 4 (with Lightning connection) and got rid of the iPad 2 (30 pin).

More than meets the i?

This move to bring all of their devices in line in terms of connectivity may just be a small part of why Apple have chosen to move forward with the Lightning connector. After all, their devices were already uniformed with the 30 pin connector as it was. Apple claim that they would not have been able to make the iPhone 5 as slim and compact as it is without a smaller connector. So while speed of transfer and charge is faster with the Lightning connection, perhaps the purpose for the change is to cut down on its physical size.

iphone 5 lightning connector

Lightning is certainly narrower than the 30 pin, but when it comes to thickness there is very little difference. For Apple to claim that the iPhone 5 wouldn’t have been as slim without Lightning is a little hard to believe; the 30 pin would still fit into the bottom. Not to say Apple were being deceptive, rather trying to keep future plans for the Lightning connection under wraps...

Watch This Space

TechRadar wrote an in depth piece about why the iWatch is a very real possibility with Apple employees speaking about a wearable device (like a watch) as early as 2008. This is where the Lightning connector starts to make even more sense. A 30 pin connector would have a lot of trouble fitting into something as small as a watch, or at least would restrict the design process. The assumption is (based on Samsung’s Galaxy Gear) that the iWatch would be a “secondary” device, which would work in conjunction with users’ iPhones. For Apple to introduce a new charger just to accommodate a minor device would make very little sense. Perhaps they had the foresight to take into account the way we would use devices in the future.

This may not just extend to watches but a whole host of wearable tech, or even just more compact phones and tablets. On the face of it, the Lightning connector may seem like an unnecessary change to some, however it could have a much larger impact on future Apple products than anybody predicted.


Sources: Apple's New Lightning Connector Sends Shockwaves Through The Accessory Market | The VergeApple Lightning Pin Charger Threatened by Common Charger EU Law Draft | Trusted ReviewsApple Lightning Connector: What You Need To Know | TechRadarApple Resurrects iPad 4 As Ageing iPad 2 Is Laid To Rest | TechRadarApple iWatch Release Date, News and Rumours | TechRadar