Lightning (connector)

Lightning is a proprietary computer bus and power connector created and designed by Apple Inc. Introduced on September 12, 2012 (2012-09-12), to replace its predecessor, the 30-pin dock connector. The Lightning connector is used to connect Apple mobile devices like iPhones, iPads, and iPods to host computers, external monitors, cameras, USB battery chargers, and other peripherals. Using 8 pins instead of 30, Lightning is much smaller than its predecessor, which was integrated with devices like the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2. The male Lightning connector is symmetrical (same pins on either side), so it can be inserted into a female Lightning port in either orientation. The male plug is indented on each side to match up with corresponding points inside the female port to retain the connection.[1]


Lightning connector-1-8.png
Top-down view of a Lightning cable, showing an 8-pin connector at one side (Pin 1, GND is at bottom)
Type Data and power connector
Production history
Designer Apple Inc.
Produced 2012–present
Superseded 30-pin dock connector
General specifications
Pins 8
Pin out
Receptacle view
Pin 1 GND Ground
Pin 2 L0p Lane 0 positive
Pin 3 L0n Lane 0 negative
Pin 4 ID0 Identification/control 0
Pin 5 PWR Power (charger or battery)
Pin 6 L1n Lane 1 negative
Pin 7 L1p Lane 1 positive
Pin 8 ID1 Identification/control 1
Lane 0 and 1 may swap in IC of device connector (lanes don't swap if the accessory identification chip is connected to the ID0 pin)


The Lightning connector was introduced on September 12, 2012 (2012-09-12), as an upgrade to the 30-pin dock connector. It would soon be integrated with all new hardware and devices that were to be announced at the same event.[2] The first compatible devices were the iPhone 5, the iPod Touch (5th generation), and the iPod Nano (7th generation).[3] The iPad (4th generation) and the iPad Mini (1st generation) were added as Lightning devices in October 2012.[4][5]

On November 25, 2012, Apple acquired the "Lightning" trademark in Europe from Harley-Davidson. Apple was given a partial transfer of the Lightning trademark, suggesting that Harley-Davidson likely retained the rights to use the name for motorcycle-related products.[6][7] Apple is the sole proprietor of the trademark and copyrights for the designs and specifications of the Lightning connector.

The iPad Pro, released in 2015, features the first Lightning connector supporting USB 3.0 host.[8] The only accessory that supports USB 3.0 is the new camera adapter. Normal USB-A - Lightning cables are still USB 2.0.

On October 30, 2018, Apple announced that their new range of iPad Pro models will replace Lightning with USB-C.[9]

In January 2020, the EU commission proposed laws to standardize charger ports. And in September 2021 the EU made a proposal that all smartphone manufacturers are required to support USB-C, in order to meet frustrations of EU consumers regarding being required to buy additional chargers and the E-waste that results from that. Commentators say that rule will impact Apple most heavily. [10] Apple has stated concerns that this will "harm consumers in Europe and around the world."[11]


Apple Lightning to USB cable (MD818)
Lightning cable connected to iPad Mini
Lightning cable with iPhone 6S
Lightning connector

Lightning is an 8-pin connector that carries a digital signal. Unlike the Apple 30 pin connector it replaces (and USB Type A or B connectors), the Lightning connector can be inserted either face up or face down. Each pin on the reverse side of the connector is connected to its directly opposite twin on the other side. Part of the processor's job is to route the power and data signals correctly whichever way up the connector is inserted.[12]

The maximum transfer speed available over the Lightning connector is 480Mbps,[13] same as USB 2.0.[14]

Apple offers various adapters that allow the Lightning connector to be used with other interfaces, such as 30-pin, USB, HDMI, VGA, and SD cards. The Lightning to 30-pin adapter supports only a limited subset of the available 30-pin signals: USB data, USB charging, and analog audio output (via the DAC inside of the adapter[15]).

Official Lightning connectors contain an authentication chip that made it difficult for third-party manufacturers to produce compatible accessories without being approved by Apple.[16] The authentication scheme has been cracked, however.[12]

The plug measures 6.7 mm by 1.5 mm.

Comparisons with microUSBEdit

Apple has not publicly discussed microUSB, but various tech news websites state that Lightning might have been used instead of microUSB because of its compatibility with docks and speaker systems;[17] the ability to insert the cable in either direction for user convenience;[18] Apple wishing to maintain control over supply chain of accessories;[19] the ability to charge a licensing fee; and the mechanical weakness of USB connectors.[18] The optional supplemental standard USB On-The-Go allows USB devices to do this.[20]

On April 10, 2015, Apple announced a new line of MacBooks that featured USB-C. USB-C has similarities with Lightning, and advantages over microUSB. USB-C, like Lightning, but unlike its predecessor microUSB, can be plugged in either direction. USB-C and Lightning are not interchangeable as they are entirely different pin-outs, protocols and connectors.

Devices using Lightning connectorsEdit

Lightning to 3.5 mm headphone jack adapter (in packaging card)

The following first-party and third-party devices use Lightning connectors:





Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader
  • Lightning to 30-pin Adapter
  • Lightning to 30-pin Adapter (0.2 m)
  • Lightning to Micro USB Adapter
  • Lightning to USB Camera Adapter
  • Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter
  • Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader
  • Lightning to VGA Adapter
  • Lightning Digital AV Adapter
  • Lightning to HDMI
  • Lightning to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter[21]
  • Lightning to 3.5 mm Audio Cable
  • Lightning to USB (Power Delivery)
  • Lightning to USB-C (Power Delivery)[22]

First-party accessoriesEdit

Third-party accessoriesEdit

  • Belkin Boostcharge Power Bank with Lightning connector
  • SteelSeries Nimbus and Nimbus+ gaming controllers
  • Backbone One gaming controller
  • Razer Inc. Kishi for iPhone gaming controller
  • Mophie powerstation with Lightning connector


Many reviewers have criticized Apple for continuing to include a Lightning port on their products instead of moving to a more modern, universal port such as USB-C.[23] Apple has stated that they continue to use Lightning because replacing it "would create an unprecedented amount of electronic waste".[24][25] Some reviewers, like senior tech correspondent Lisa Eadicicco, have speculated that it is simply because Apple wants to continue selling its proprietary chargers and accessories.[26]

Problems that affect chargingEdit

MFi Certification: Apple introduced the MFi Program to increase the quality of the third-party accessories and consumer confidence.[27][28] Many users have seen increases in quality with MFi products due to the certification.

Black 5th Pin: Users have seen a black pin. Some users have seen the cable stop charging when a pin turns black.[29]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Campbell, Mikey (May 9, 2013). "Apple's Lightning connector detailed in extensive new patent filings". Retrieved August 1, 2021.
  2. ^ Pollicino, Joe (September 12, 2012). "Apple's September 12th event roundup: iPhone 5, new iPods, iOS 6, Lightning and everything else". Engadget. Retrieved October 5, 2012.
  3. ^ Dillet, Romain (September 12, 2012). "The iPhone 5 Comes With The New "Lightning" Connector". TechCrunch. Retrieved September 27, 2012.
  4. ^ Schultz, Marianne (October 23, 2012). "Apple Announces Fourth-Generation iPad with Lightning Connector, New A6X Chip". MacRumors. Retrieved December 2, 2012.
  5. ^ "iPad mini Technical Specifications". Apple Inc. December 2, 2012. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
  6. ^ Goldman, David (November 26, 2012). "Apple bought Lightning trademark from Harley-Davidson". Retrieved November 29, 2012.
  7. ^ "Apple acquired Lightning trademark from Harley-Davidson". Apple Insider.
  8. ^ "iPad Pro 12.9 Teardown". iFixit.
  9. ^ "Apple unveils new iPads, Macs and Mac Minis at event in New York". NewsComAu. October 30, 2018.
  10. ^ "EU proposes mandatory USB-C on all devices, including iPhones". The Verge. September 23, 2021.
  11. ^ "EU plans one mobile charging port for all, in setback for Apple". Reuters. September 23, 2021.
  12. ^ a b Gary Marshall (October 24, 2012). "Apple Lightning connector: what you need to know". techradar.
  13. ^ "Sketchy rumor claims iPhone 14 Pro will feature faster USB 3.0 Lightning connector". April 20, 2022.
  14. ^ "High Speed USB Maximum Theoretical Throughput". Microchip Technology Incorporated. 23 March 2021. Archived from the original on 23 March 2021. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  15. ^ Eric Slivka (October 11, 2012). "Apple's Lightning to 30-Pin Adapter Torn Apart, Reveals Several Chips and Copious Glue". MacRumors. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  16. ^ Foresman, Chris (October 3, 2012). "Apple revising MFi program to limit third-party Lightning accessories". Ars Technica. Retrieved October 3, 2012.
  17. ^ "Engineer explains why Apple went with Lightning instead of Micro USB". September 14, 2012. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  18. ^ a b "Hardware comparison: Lightning connector vs MicroUSB connector". December 20, 2012. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  19. ^ "Made For iPhone manufacturers may have to comply with Apple's supplier responsibility code". Engadget. Retrieved July 3, 2015.
  20. ^ Profis, Sharon. "Clever adapter connects USB accessories to your Android device". CNET.
  21. ^ "Lightning to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter". Apple. Retrieved January 25, 2017.
  22. ^ "USB Type C to Lightning Cable". Apple. Retrieved December 25, 2017.
  23. ^ "Hey Apple, now would be a great time to ditch Lightning and get with USB-C". Android Authority. January 22, 2020. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
  24. ^ "Apple says losing Lightning port will create waste". BBC News. January 23, 2020. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
  25. ^ "Why iPhone 12 still won't be going USB-C". iMore. May 25, 2020. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
  26. ^ Eadicicco, Lisa. "Apple is under pressure to kill the iPhone's Lightning charger — but here's why that probably won't happen anytime soon". Business Insider. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
  27. ^ "Faqs". Retrieved June 15, 2022.
  28. ^ "All you need to know about MFi-certified accessories". iGeeksBlog. June 2, 2022. Retrieved June 15, 2022.
  29. ^ "Ever Wondered Why the Fourth Pin on Your Lightning Cable Turns Black? We Found the Answer". iOS Hacker. February 12, 2022. Retrieved June 15, 2022.

Further readingEdit