Apple looking to add USB 3.0 support to Lightning connector

By , Feb 24, 2013

lightning_usb_cable1

Apple is probably looking to add compatibility with high-speed USB 3.0 interconnect to its new Lightning connector. The tiny Lightning I/O debuted on the iPhone 5 in September 2012 as a replacement for Apple’s decade-old 30-pin Dock connector. The controversial move has introduced incompatibilities with legacy accessories that now require an additional $29 or $39 adapter from Apple, even earning a funny Joy of Tech treatment

Apple recently advertised for a Senior Software Quality Engineer (USB) to join its USB Connectivity Compliance QA Team. The ideal candidate should have knowledge of bus device testing, including both USB 3.0 as well as USB 2.0, “to help lead testing efforts on our exciting iOS and iPod product lines.”

As Apple’s latest Macs and MacBooks now feature USB ports that are compatible with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 – unlike most PCs that have separate USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports – it’s only a matter of time before the Lightning connector supports USB 3.0 for high-speed data sync between Mac/Windows PCs and Lightning devices such as the iPhone 5, the fifth-generation iPod touch and the latest iPads.

Currently, hooking up an iPhone 5 to your Mac’s USB 3.0 port will result in USB 2.0 data transfer speeds only. Per usual, Apple’s job posts should be taken with a few pinches of salt – even if there’s a reasonable likelihood that the company is developing ways for iOS devices to fully utilize USB 3.0.

USB 2.0 peaks at theoretical data transfer speeds of 480Mbit/s (USB 1.0: 12Mbps), but USB 3.0 elevates that to as much 4.8Gbps in the new SuperSpeed mode. Apple in November 2012 acquired the “Lightning” licensing trademark from Harley-Davidson.

Lightning Teaser

Interestingly, the Cupertino firm on Valentine’s Day released a shorter 0.5-meter Lightning to USB cable which will run you the same nineteen bucks as its twice as long sibling. The online Apple store also sells the $19 Lightning to micro-USB adapter, the $29 Lightning to USB Camera adapter, the $49 Lightning to VGA adapter and the $29 Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader adapter, to list a few.

Lightning connector has been found to support USB hosting, but iPhones and iPads cannot be used as portable USB drives to move data between computers without special software. While it could have opted for USB, Apple went with its own proprietary solution because USB just wasn’t smart enough.

iPhone 5 lightning

For example, Lightning connectors are reversible so they fit either way. Of course, Apple’s Lightning cables and adapters have a premium attached to them, with a few official and unofficial alternatives now appealing to price sensitive buyers.

One example is Griffin, which in November released its Lightning cables, seen below.

griffin lightning cables

Scosche is another official accessory maker that just launched its Lightning chargers. As for unofficial support, iPhone5Mod offers Lightning cables and adapters for half the price.

As detailed by Mophie, Apple’s Lightning accessory program is pretty strict.

The company goes to great lengths to prevent Chinese vendors from selling cheap, and possibly harmful, Lightning knockoff products.

In addition to using authentication chips in the Lightning cables, Apple imposes a fee on third-parties that sell official Lightning products, even adding serial numbers to the connectors so it can track these when vendors submit their accessories for testing.

  • Share:
  • Follow:
  • Christopher Deal

    Out of curiosity, is the flash memory inside iDevices even fast enough to saturate USB2, much less USB3?

    • http://twitter.com/Nullbrand Niclas

      USB2 yes, USB3 no.

  • Howard

    I’m still waiting for a thunderbolt to USB 3 adapter…

    • Falk M.

      I’ll have grandchildren before that happens.

  • http://www.facebook.com/linton.findlay Linton Findlay

    hopefully true, sync times are horrible when you have alot of music

    • Tim Tringle

      Why would you synch music any longer with iTunes match? With that you can play any music right over your home wireless connection. Or play the small amount of music it takes between wireless signals over your phones data connection. At the very least, synching is now possible over wireless which is still way faster than USB 2. It will be nice when Apple fully supports usb 3 in the iPhone and iPod lines but it’s hardly necessary.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=829245704 Matthew Cleveland

    It should have started with USB 3.0 from the start. Give it a name like “Lightning” but it has regular speeds?

    • Tim Tringle

      Um, Thunderbolt which uses the lightning connecter type is way faster than USB 3, eventually going to 10GB connections and even faster with Thunderbolt 2 already in the new Mac Pro’s. The connector is simply to make the current devices able to connect to a single plug type down the road.

  • Hyr3m

    About fucking time ?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=511304427 Derek Williams

    “As Apple’s latest Macs and MacBooks now feature USB ports that are
    compatible with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 – unlike most PCs that have
    separate USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports”

    I’m sorry but that’s incredibly misleading. While most PC’s do come with a mixture of USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports, every USB 3.0 port ever made is backwards compatible with any USB 2.0 device or cable, just like Apple’s. Apple did make the decision to update ALL ports, instead of just having one or two, but the ports themselves are the same.

    In other news, that’s great. They should have had that from the minute they first announced the Lightning connector – a new connector should always be able to claim faster speeds.

    • Tim Tringle

      The connector type wasn’t about getting more speed out of the gate it was about improving usability over the 30 pin connecter while allowing them to eventually move to thunderbolt down the road on supported macs. All while making it compatible with things like USB3 etc down the road with out having to change the connector type again.

  • Todd Jenkins

    “As Apple’s latest Macs and MacBooks now feature USB ports that are compatible with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 – unlike most PCs that have separate USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports –” Bullshit! My pc has both usb 3.0 and 2.0 and usb 2.0 devices work just fine in my 3.0 ports. I am sick to death of people thinking it’s only apple’s usb ports that are like this. It’s ALL usb 3.0 ports, that’s STANDARD! Not just apple.

  • brian0918

    “unlike most PCs that have separate USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports” ???

    Since everyone knows that USB 3.0 is backwards compatible with USB 2.0, what you’re saying is that it’s better to have a FEW ports that are ALL USB 3.0, rather than a bunch MORE ports where some are 3.0, some are 2.0.