Apple’s new Lightning connector is freaking teeny tiny and incredibly awesome. Apple managed to shrink the connector down to just eight contact pins and give it the ability to insert it in either orientation. While some users may have wished for Apple to use micro-USB, the Lightning connector is full of amazing little pieces of tech that make it a lot better than other options.
Rainer Brockerhoff has been doing an autopsy on the Lightning connector all weekend and has discovered some really cool features. For instance, did you know that the Lightning connector has the ability to detect which types of devices it’s connected to and re-assign pin functionalities for each situation?
On his blog, Rainer states –
- All 8 pins are used for signals, and all or most can be switched to be used for power.
- At least one (probably at most two) of the pins is used for detecting what sort of plug is plugged in.
- The device watches for a momentary short on all pins (by the leading edge of the plug) to detect plug insertion/removal.
- The pins on the plug are deactivated until after the plug is fully inserted, when a wake-up signal on one of the pins cues the chip inside the plug. This avoids any shorting hazard while the plug isn’t inside the connector.
- The controller/driver chip tells the device what type it is, and for cases like the Lightning-to-USB cable whether a charger (that sends power) or a device (that needs power) is on the other end.
- The device can then switch the other pins between the SoC’s data lines or the power circuitry, as needed in each case.
- Once everything is properly set up, the controller/driver chip gets digital signals from the SoC and converts them – via serial/parallel, ADC/DAC, differential drivers or whatever – to whatever is needed by the interface on the other end of the adapter or cable. It could even re-encode these signals to some other format to use fewer wires, gain noise-immunity or whatever, and re-decode them on the other end; it’s all flexible. It could even convert to optical.
Fascinating stuff that Apple is doing with it’s new connector. Head over to Brokerhoff’s blog to read his full breakdown on the new Lightning connector and it’s eight pins.