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back to article Apple Lightning adaptors reveal limitations

Apple has introduced a Micro USB adaptor for its new Lightning dock connector. Speed freaks will be disappointed to hear it's a USB 2.0 connector. USB 3.0 imposes a less-compact connector than the older version of the bus standard. Since USB 3.0 is essentially two separate buses in one - Superspeed USB and USB 2.0 - its version …

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Joke

Thunderbolt and Lightning...

... very, very frightening. Are they really naming connectors after Queen lyrics?

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This post has been deleted by its author

Galileo, Galileo

Galileo, Figaro --

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TRT
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Windows

Re: Galileo, Galileo

I hope not. I get confused with which version I need to order as it is... M-M, M-F, F-M, F-F...

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Re: Thunderbolt and Lightning...

Appears so. The next one is to rename a video connector as Scaramouch.

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Coat

Re: Thunderbolt and Lightning...

Better than Fat Bott-- ....

Right, sorry.

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FAIL

It gets worse

Thirty of her majesty's smackaroonies to make the new shiny work with the old shiny. Come off it Apple.

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Magnifico-o-o-o

I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me --

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Magnifico-o-o-o

I'm just a fanboi, everybody loves me......

no, no, no, no,. no..........

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Facepalm

Yikes!

So the Apple tax just went up, yet again.

At least with the older connector standard it was possible to pick up a generic (read realistically priced) replacement cable if your original, over priced, Apple branded cable was lost or damaged. Mine cost the equivalent of under two quid from a bargain store, vs the exorbitant priced one from an Apple store. Given the new adaptor will need to contain electronics to convert signal types, it'll be a long while before that becomes true for the new crop of Apple products.

Good thing I have a Samsung phone then!

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He's just a poor boy, from a poor family --

-- spare him his cash, from this monstrosity!

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Silver badge

Re: Yikes!

Who says that third parties won't be able to make these? You're assuming this because there aren't any available on launch day? Maybe it takes more than a few hours for the Chinese factories that sell the $2 connector cables and adapters to reverse engineer this new one and ramp up production? There will be some electronics involved in the adapter, so it may not be $2 - it could be (gasp!) up to twice as much!

Screw waiting and seeing rather than assuming, I'm sure it's more fun for you to whine, despite the fact this won't affect you since you own a Samsung phone and presumably would not buy an iPhone 5 no matter what kind of dock connector it had (or even if it made you a cup of coffee in the morning and then walked the dog)

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Devil

Re: Yikes!

That depends on what are the license conditions and the royalties. The new connector will surely have a few patents slapped on it (this is Apple we are talking about after all).

Apple effectively killed the 3rd party power adapter market for the Macs a few years back. I would not be surprised if they refuse to issue licenses for power-only accessories for the new one (they definitely will not kill the home/car electronics interface golden goose).

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Re: Yikes!

Re. Voland's right hand's comment "Apple effectively killed the 3rd party power adapter market for the Macs a few years back." Bollocks. Since the power adapters are basically a USB cable and a power brick with a USB port, you can pick them up for peanuts in any mobile shack. Once you have a Lightning cable, I'm sure the same will apply (heck, you can just use the same power brick, although it may take a bit longer to charge).

The Lightning/30 Pin adapters are a rip-off, though - and I'm sure that black-market ones will be available a few weeks after they get their hands on the real thing.

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Devil

Re: Yikes!

"Good thing I have a Samsung phone then!"

A Fanboi might read that as "Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me".

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Re: Yikes!

Not bollocks at all. He was talking about Macs, not iDevices. When the MagSafe adaptor was introduced, the market for third-party, non-combustible and adequately constructed power supplies for Mac laptops disappeared overnight.

This wouldn't be so bad if Apple's units were any good, but they're not - they sacrifice strength and cooling for a svelte transformer - and they're not earthed, which results in the unsettling "electric fur" sensation on the aluminium-bodied machines when you plug them in to a slightly unbalanced mains supply.

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Re: Yikes!

For Macs, not iPhones. The Magsafe power connector is patented, so third parties have to pay for licenses (which is why third party powerpacks are so thin on the ground and solutions like this exist for powering a Macbook from a car.

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Boffin

Re: Yikes!

"Given the new adaptor will need to contain electronics to convert signal types, it'll be a long while before that becomes true for the new crop of Apple products."

It won't contain electronics, it's literally just wires and plastic (which is why the £30 price tag sticks in the throat). There's no signal conversion going on, which is why some (most?) dock devices won't work.

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Re: Yikes!

It's not unbalanced mains supplies that make that happen - it's because there is a small capacitive coupling between the output DC and the mean voltage of the input pins at any given time. So with the neutral pin at or near ground-potential and live going between plus and minus 230V (RMS), the mean will alternate between plus and minus 115V with respect to ground. The output DC is lightly coupled to this mean through the very small capacitance of the transformer in the SMPSU, so it normally doesn't take much to hold the output near ground potential. i.e. a small current to ground easily defeats its ability to exhibit a high voltage.

With no earthing in a PSU, I believe this effect is expected to some degree whether the PSU is good or cheap.

If alternatively you ran the SMPSU on AC that had both pins alternating about zero, like the RLV supplies that building site tools run on, then the average voltage would always be close to zero and the whole effect would be history.

I always wonder whether the visible sparks that jump around when I plug HDMI cables between the boxes by my telly are really a sign of good engineering ...

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Re: Yikes! - they're not earthed

Magsafe PSUs are earthed, but you need to use the cable that goes between the PSU and the mains, not the diddy little adapter. For some strange reason, the UK plug adapters don't connect the earth pin to the PSU. EU/US adapters are only two pin so no earth there.

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Re: Yikes!

It is likely that Lightning does not directly carry USB signals itself, but that the cable includes a Lightning->USB convertor chip (I believe someone already took a Lightning cable apart to see a small chip within the connector housing).

It's probably an i2c bus to communicate with the on-cable/peripheral chip, and some data lines for high speed data transfer using a custom Apple "lightning" protocol.

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@Richard Ball

No, the original poster is right: it IS unbalanced mains supplies. There is a deliberate capacitor between live and output ground, and another between neutral and output ground, for interference suppression. (Parasitic capacitances would be too small to matter.) If the mains supply were balanced about earth potential, then the voltage at the junction of these capacitors would be at earth potential; because it is not balanced ("neutral" is connected to earth at the substation or closer), you get half mains voltage relative to earth at the junction - albeit at a high impedance due to the capacitors. Indeed it is possible to see small sparks when connecting ground of such a device to an earthed appliance.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yikes! - they're not earthed

"EU/US adapters are only two pin so no earth there"?

I know for a fact that French (EU) mains sockets have an earth built into the top of the plug (so it connects/disconnects first/last) so only 2 pins there.

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Slx

Re: Yikes! - they're not earthed

European CEE 7/7 "Schuko" plugs are actually fully earthed (grounded) and have a 3rd contact.

The earth's a strip of metal across the top/bottom of the plug which connects to two clips at the top and bottom of the recessed socket (in most countries).

Or, in France/Belgium there is a pin which sticks out of the recessed socket and connects to a hole in the face of the plug. This also polarises the socket/plug connection i.e. you can only insert it one way. (German and other European countries use non-polarised sockets. However, EU appliances [including those sold in the UK] are designed to operate 100% safely in either polarity, so it makes no difference)

The sockets are recessed to prevent you from being able to touch the pins when inserting the plug and the earth connection makes first and breaks last. Quite a safe design actually.

The Apple adaptors are weird however:

If you use the snap-on plug (regardless of which one, including the UK one) it is not earthed.

If you use the original cable that came with the adaptor, it is earthed. There's a metal lug on the transformer that goes into a slot on the cable connector which has an earthing contact.

You'll notice with the MacBook Pro that if you use the adaptor with the cable, you get no tingling and if you use the snap on plug or a figure-of-8 connector you do get tingling !

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@Annihilator

Why do you say that the adaptor won't convert signal types?

The slide at the iPhone clearly states that their new cable is "all digital", whilst most docks receive an analogue signal from a iPods. This suggests that any dock adaptor twixt the old and the new requires a DAC, if a new iDevice is to be used with an older speaker dock.

Or am I missing something?

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@Dave 126 - Re: @Annihilator

Yes, you are missing something. The speaker jack is on the bottom now, so even if Apple doesn't do it, a third party could easily produce an adaptor with the 30 pin dock connecter to hook up to your speaker on one end, and attach to both the new dock connector AND the speaker jack on the other end, so you can still get your analog audio.

That's probably why they moved the speaker jack to the bottom at the same time they changed the dock connector...

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may explain why Apple devised its own ...

No. Apple are control freaks. Nothing sophisticated. No clever analysis. Just Apple do it this way and you will obey.

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Re: may explain why Apple devised its own ...

I expect anything that plugs into the port will require an AppleTax chip before it will be allowed to work to protect us from cheap cables.

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Easy come, easy go

Will you let it go?

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Re: Easy come, easy go

Bismillah NO!

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Meh

Mixed feelings

It's annoying, but the connector definitely seems less fragile than the old one.

If this design lasts nine years as well, I won't mind too much. Third-party makers should get the price down to saner levels soon. If the design lasts for two and then they change it, I'm going to be annoyed.

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BISMILLAH, NO!

They will not let it go!

...okay, enough.

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Go

Nice roll there Aaron!

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Re: Mixed feelings

What design has so far lasted 9 years? The current 30 pin standard is the second one and the iWhatever has only been around since 2006/7.

At this rate we can expect a new one on the iPhone 6S . . .

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Standrad connector not the real point

in a bid to reduce the number of phone power supplies in circulation and thus minimise the number of them ending up in landfill because new handset otherwise need new PSUs..

Bit of an irony then then when I bought a new Samsung recently it came with a new charger. Yes, it's micro-USB, but that misses the point if all new 'phones still come along with a new PSU.

And when I sent it for a repair it came back with yet another PSU (but this one was better - folding pins and a separable USB cable).

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Re: Standrad connector not the real point

I read it as "in a bid to reduce the number of (types of) phone power supplies in circulation and thus minimise the number of them ending up in landfill...."

If your new phone works with old charger you're more likely to keep and use it in some way and less likely to throw it in landfill.

Though didn't Apple lead the way on this by not including AC adapters with iThings?

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Bronze badge

Re: Standrad connector not the real point

"Though didn't Apple lead the way on this by not including AC adapters with iThings?"

AFAIK all iPads and iPhones have chargers in the box. I suspect iPods as well but I don't know.

If they stopped shipping chargers there would be an outcry over Apple forcing you to buy separately what people expect in the box.

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Re: Standrad connector not the real point

No iPods don't come with chargers, I think the mini was the last one and then only with the deluxe 4 Gb version.

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Oh mamma mia, mamma mia, mamma mia, let it go

Stevelzebub has a socket set aside for me-e-e, for me-e-e, for MEEEEEEEEE

...okay, actually done this time, I swear!

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Trollface

Re: Oh mamma mia, mamma mia, mamma mia, let it go

So you think you can screw me and spit at a standard

So you think you can charge me and make me pay

Oh Apple - can't do this to me Apple

Just going to switch over - Just going to switch over to Android

Ooh yeah, ooh yeah

Money really matters

Anyone can see

Money really matters

Money really matters to Apple

Any way the wind blows...

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Happy

Re: Oh mamma mia, mamma mia, mamma mia, let it go

Sorry, had to get to the end....

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Meh

E for effort, Gordon --

-- but it has to scan and to rhyme, dunnit? Otherwise we could just slop anything we like in there and call it a day...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh mamma mia, mamma mia, mamma mia, let it go

@Gordon 8

Brill, but I now need to go off and create several sockpuppet accounts in order to upvote you sufficiently to express my appreciation.

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Stop

Names not original

Do they know AMD have a Lightening connector which isnt the same?????

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Go

Re: Names not original

They will just sue AMD.

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Headmaster

Re: Names not original

Ah but if it just makes things lighter then AMD should have no problem.

(sorry, ive not had my coffee yet)

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Anonymous Coward

Apple Tax

Very interesting I'm seriously thinking of switching from Apple to either W8 or Andriod.

Apple cable costs are getting a bit silly!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Apple Tax

Yeah that makes sense - then you can enjoy no docks, poor in-car support and fewer accessories.

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Facepalm

Re: Apple Tax

Yes, terrible. The poor chap would just have to struggle along with Bluetooth (a non-gimped version at that) and USB Mass Storage. What on earth uses those?

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Anonymous Coward

If the standard connectors are crap then why use them?

The problem with some standards is they're designed by a committee and everyone wants to feel like they're contributed something. Think Robocop 2 where they're adding hundreds of additional directives to his memory, doesn't work out well does it.

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