There was little doubt by the start of the event that Apple would be replacing their nearly decade old 30-pin connector. Apple always leaves room for suprises though. The new design features a 9-pin, 8-signal arrangement and is 1/5th the size of its predecessor. An adapter is being introduced so as to not break compatibility with legacy accessories. It's not the most elegant solution but it shouldn't be long before new accessories adopt the new connector.

Lightning, as the new connector is called, is described as "all-digital", which seems more obfuscatory than necessary. The basic conceit of this new connector is that at any point in time, not all the pins of the 30-pin connector were active. So, if a particular use case involved the charging pins and some audio pins, or the charging pins and USB pins, why not design a system that provides just enough pins for any given use case. The iPhone senses what pins are being requested and some on-device signaling sends the necessary bits over the available pins. 

As an added design feature, the connector is reversible, so you'll never fumble with figuring out what way to put it in, as is so common with USB connectors. 

There's much that we still need to dig into with this new connector, but we do know what it is almost surely not. This isn't a faster interface. Rumors of a Thunderbolt connector were always a bit bonkers, and adding USB 3.0 support would have added silicon to the very slim package. Get comfortable with this one guys, because we'll be seeing this connector in all future Apple devices including the new iPods, and, no doubt, the next iteration of the iPad. 

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  • moep - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    My guess... Apple will be adding this connector to ALL their desktop/notebook computers in the next product refresh.

    To have people plug their Retina Macbook Pro into a 10 Watt charger and complain that the notebook won’t charge?

    No sir, Magsafe 2 is here to stay.
    Reply
  • KitsuneKnight - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    Surely he didn't mean replacing Magsafe ports... surely? If anything, Magsafe style ports should replace most of the insertion-style ports, being so absurdly convenient to use. Reply
  • Galatian - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    I wonder (and hope) that Apple will also release a thunderbolt version with this. Might drive adoption. Of course there needs to be speed advantage first.

    Then again, I rarely ever plug my iPhone in anymore since iOS 5 brought wireless sync.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    These devices don't even saturate USB 2 speeds yet, they will take a looong time to saturate USB 3.0, why use Thunderbolt which has only one port per computer and a much smaller install base? Reply
  • iwod - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    I am pretty sure they do saturate the 20MB/s provided by USB 2.0

    So we do need USB 3.0, although not really desperate, i hope Apple dont wait until the last minutes to do so. ( Of coz it would properly have to wait until the controller size is acceptable as well )
    Reply
  • dananski - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    Mentioned at the end of the article. Any chance of >160GB this time around? Reply
  • agent2099 - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    All that and not a faster interface? Ubelievable. Reply
  • rs2 - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    But it's "all digital"! Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - link

    A faster interface would not magically make the NAND inside faster. Reply
  • KitsuneKnight - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    People seem to greatly underestimate how slow the storage on these phones (all of them!) are. Just because a couple hundred dollar SSD drive is blazingly fast, doesn't mean a $5 flash drive will set any speed records... and the flash in the phones is much closer to the $5 flash drive than the SSD... sadly. Reply

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