iPhone 5’s Lightning Connector Is Magical, Assigns Pins Dynamically To Allow For Reversible Use

Apple has introduced an all new Lightning connector in the iPhone 5, replacing the old dock connector for all future iOS devices. The new connector is not only incredibly small, but also allows for reversible use i.e you can plug the cable into the device in either orientation. A closer look at how this new Lightning connector works has revealed that the 8 pins on each side of the plug are dynamically assigned that takes advantage of iPhone 5’s unique chip, Apple Insider is reporting.

Cabling expert Peter from Double Helix Cables has discovered that Lightning connector cables feature integrated authentication chips. He has also learned that the layout of the pins must be dynamically assigned based on how the cable is physically plugged in to a device like the iPhone 5.

Some features of the Lightning cable, such as USB power connections, are symmetrical on each side of the plug. That means that if the pins on Lightning are numbered from one to eight on each side, pin one on the top row connects with pin eight on the bottom row.

This allows users to flip the connector and plug Lightning into an iPhone 5 in either orientation. With this design decision, the lower right pin always makes contact with the same spot in the corresponding Lightning jack on the iPhone. However, while the USB power connection is symmetrical, Peter’s testing found that the data connections in Lightning are actually asymmetrical.

Peter believes that the iPhone 5 Lightning port probably reads the type of data being sent from one of the pins, and then dynamically adjusts based on the orientation that the cable has been inserted. He also said that there is no way for cheap third party lightning cables available though Chinese resellers to be functional.

The report also claims that given the apparent complexity of the new Lightning plug, Apple is already seeing shortage of Lightning cables following the launch of the iPhone 5.

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  • aRhyno

    crap, thats not good if true, i bought a teambuy deal for a cable and adaptor for 15bucks. any idea how true it is if 3rd party cables will not work?

  • hgushee

    So I guess the “magic” of which this article speaks is the magical profit margins that selling proprietary cables will direct to Apple’s bottom line.

  • ThatGuy

    I heard the cable has an authenticator chip to prevent knockoffs, if this is the case won’t accessories be harder to develop too?

  • aRhyno

    thats a good point

  • draz

    This might be why my iPhone 5 dings 2 or 3 times whenever I connect it to my computer or into my car’s headunit. The pins are ‘magically’ assigning itself to work.

  • Johnnygoodface

    Complex: I get it… Shortage, I get it too… What is you break your Lightning cable? … Better have good friends until you get a new one! 🙂

  • Jonathan W.

    Looks like they solved a problem that didn’t need to exist…just because they could. It would have been easier if they just made all the pins on both sides symmetrical. Sure sounds like Apple, in a good way.

  • Patrick

    Wow can use the cable in either orientation. Wow like OMG, thats worth having to buy a new adapter.

    What a rip off. Pure $$$$ maker

  • Patrick

    Like OMG, I can finally use the cable in either orintation. That’s worth having to buy new adapters. Just a pure $$$ maker for Apple

    Have to give the credit.

  • FPGA_FTW

    LOL, with any FPGA and a trace pin (ie. is it gnd or power) this feature is easy.
    But hey, it is convenient.