post

Why Apple’s Lightning Connector is Perfect

lightning-connector

When Apple first released the lightning connector to go along with the introduction of the iPhone 5 last year, many people were very upset they would have to replace all of their 30-pin connecting cables and devices with this new “Apple standard” connector.

Since I was just compelled to buy new lightning accessories when I received my new iPhone 5S last week, I hadn’t given this much thought until now. But then I read this today and thought, “Seriously Europe?“: 

Apple may be forced to drop Lightning connector for MicroUSB
European law makers may force Apple to drop the
Lightning connector for charging the iPad and iPhone in Europe 

A microUSB connector. You can see it's smaller on one side and larger on the other making it more challenging to plugin correctly.

A microUSB connector. You can see it’s smaller on one side and larger on the other making it more challenging to plugin correctly.

MicroUSB sucks. Apple did the right thing and the connector is amazing and here’s why:

  • Inserting a MicroUSB isn’t easy. It can only go in one way and all the microUSB devices I have usually take at least a couple of attempts to plug it in. The lightning connector can go in either way and I can plug and unplug it in my sleep in the dark (which I never could do with a microUSB device)
  • It’s too simple to choose the wrong power supply. If I had a dollar for every time a family member or friend plugged in the wrong power supply to charge a device just because it was USB or microUSB—choosing one with the wrong amperage or wattage which would have fried their device—I’d have at least 50 bucks  ;-)
  • There are dozens and dozens of third-party microUSB power supplies. Some are cheap, many are rock-solid, but it’s a crap-shoot on what you get when buying. As we’ve seen with Apple being compelled to mitigate the risks with these sorts of devices (see Apple Takes Charge of 3rd-Party Charger Problem With Special Offer) and so many people I know completely clueless about what to buy, Apple is clearly ensuring that these incredibly sensitive devices (i.e., iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) aren’t inadvertently destroyed by plugging them in to God-knows-what.

My $.02 for today.

About Steve Borsch

I'm CEO of Marketing Directions, Inc., a trend forecasting, consulting and publishing firm in Minnesota. Prior to that I was Vice President, Strategic Alliances at Lawson Software in St. Paul where I was responsible for all partnerships at this major vendor of enterprise resource planning software products and services. Read more about me here unless you're already weary of me telling you how incredible and awesome I am.

Comments

  1. Except that the entire rest of the freaking world of electronic devices can’t use that connector. It would be a great connector if anyone but Apple could use it, but it’ll be a cold day in hell before they promote something as useful – and such a small part of the “appeal” of their device – in order to be altruistic to the rest of the device world. How cheap is your lightning-enabled charger? How much of that is an Apple tax for no good reason?

    If a device has a micro USB connector, I can plug it into practically any charger and get at least a little charge out of it. If you have a power brick that has a micro USB on the end and it’s not giving 5V, then you should throw it away, because it’s stupid and dangerous. The micro USB standard states 5V. The wattage shouldn’t matter, because that is limited by how much can be used by the device. The only concern is for example charging a power-hungry device like an iPad or other tablet and having enough watts. Having too many watts just means that you have overhead you’re not using.

    The European lawmakers do this for a reason – so you can’t get roped into buying idiotic expensive adapters. If Apple wanted you to install a special plug in your wall to charge your device, should it be okay? No, there is a standard there for the same reason.

  2. Steve Borsch says:

    “How cheap is your lightning-enabled charger? How much of that is an Apple tax for no good reason?”
    I buy from Monoprice.com and USB adapters are less than $6 and, in fact, I just bought two, 3-foot USB-to-lightning cables this morning for $12 each and one 10-foot for $14. So for $26 I got three *certified* cables for less than buying one Apple 6-foot cable for $29. None of this is an “Apple tax” since I always prefer to not ruin my device (or compromise the battery) by using cheap chargers or non-certified cables.

    “If a device has a micro USB connector, I can plug it into practically any charger and get at least a little charge out of it.”
    True, but remind me to never lend you one of my computers, iPads or iPhones! ;-)

    All chargers should be rated for 5.1V output but they’re not…especially many of the cheap ones I’ve seen made in China. Besides just voltage what matters is the mA rating which has to be the same as the phone’s stock charger. But guess what? They often are not (just go and look at chargers at MicroCenter and you’ll see what I mean). If it’s less, you’ll risk burning out the charger as well as damaging the phone or its battery. I’ve had that happen, and thankfully I could replace the battery in my Treo650 at the time.

    Again, a guy like you who is a geek and understands voltage, amperage and electronics overall (or so I assume based on your Twitter profile) there should be zero problem using a microUSB charger (though I’d heartily recommend never trying to “get a little charge out of it” if you value your electronics). As I’ve said above too many times I’ve seen my own family and friends reach for some miscellaneous charger just because it had a microUSB connector since they were at my house and forgot their charger (and, of course, had NO idea what the voltage and amperage requirements were for their phone).

    Rather than go on with all the reasons why all chargers and microUSB cables are NOT alike——and that voltage and amperage DO matter——check these out:

    + Gizmodo: Can I Use the Same Charger for Multiple Devices?

    + Lifehacker: Does It Matter Which Charger I Use?

  3. Definitely an Apple tax: I might point out that from monoprice, I can get literally 10 times as many cables at the same lengths (10 foot microUSB cables are $1.25, 3 footers are $0.75) for the same price. I call it an Apple tax because if they had a standard microUSB you wouldn’t even need to bother finding a “certified” cable – that’s what standards are for. As a bonus, being a geeky person you could even check that the cable is connected up correctly!

    If your charger with a USB plug in is isn’t 5V out, then something is seriously wrong, and that charger should go in the trash – it is dangerous. Of course the quality of cheap counterfeit crap from China is always going to be suspect.

    It’s completely wrong to say that you need to match the mA rating of the device’s original charger. If the charger cannot supply the mA, the device’s charging electronics will not break, and the desirable outcome of just charging at a slower rate will occur instead. If this didn’t happen, then every modern phone wouldn’t be able to plug into a computer’s USB socket, which can only supply 500mA when it’s actually providing data (excepting USB 3, which has added some overhead for more power).

    At the end of the day, We both agree that the Lightning plug is great – the aesthetics are good, the connection is solid, and it’s reversible with no issue – these are wonderful things for a connector to have. It’s just another Apple contrivance though unless anyone else can use it. The right way to make a new, great connector is to open it for everyone to use. Lightning connectors could have taken the mobile world by storm. Instead it will just sit in it’s little corner of the market and cost an order of magnitude more than normal cables.

  4. 1. This is nothing new. There has been a voluntary agreement in teh EU that charging with a micro USB charger must be possible. It only came up again after the agreement ended, and the manufacturers were resistent to renew it. So far, Apple has simply complied by offering an adapter. Of course, nobody uses that.
    2. The better solution than a charger with a micro-USB ending cable would be chargers with a full USB female connector into which all kinds of USB cables could be plugged in, including micro USB cables and lightning port cables. Much more versatile, future proof, and it even saves some cables, since most devices need a USB cable anyway for connecting with a PC. Again, this is what Apple has been doing for years.
    3. The only reason I can imagine why the other manufacturers refuse to offer such versatile chargers is mere greed. So, it is actually not Apple, and their flexible approach, but the other manufacturers that forced the EU to discuss such a directive.

Leave a Comment