Apple's Lightning Interconnection Imposes Tricky Authentication Process, May Affect Third-Party Accessories

Apple's Lightning Connector May Make Life of Third-Party Accessories Makers Harder

by Anton Shilov
09/25/2012 | 06:37 PM

The new Lightning connector included into the Apple iPhone is clearly more reliable than its predecessor and brings a number of other benefits as well. However, it appears to be pretty complex, which may not allow to make inexpensive third-party cables and which may also make the life of third-party accessories makers a lot harder.


The Lightning connector can be plugged into the device in either orientation. However, as a researcher found, if USB power connections are symmetrical on each side of the plug, data pins are not, which means that they have to be dynamically assigned for a particular operation. To do that, Apple not only implemented a special hardware into the iPhone 5, but also included a special authentication chip into each Lightning cable.

"Dynamic assignment of the pins is the only way for the USB data to be routed, since I've proven that top pin 2 and bottom pin 2 are the pins that go to the Data+ connection of the USB," said a cable specialist from Double Helix Cables in a conversation with AppleInsider web-site.

The authentication chip not only stops third-party makers to manufacture Lightning cables for various accessories for the iPhone 5, but naturally makes life of various add-ons for the iPhone a lot harder since they not only need to learn how does the Lightning work, but also to get the chips from Apple. In fact, some analysts noted last week that Apple could not get enough Lightning cables on time from its suppliers, which is a yet another factor that keeps availability of iPhone 5 relatively limited.

It is noteworthy that a legendary Apple employee and a former chief evangelist, Guy Kawasaki, criticized Apple's new connector and called it "a pure arrogance"

"This connector thing, I think it is pure arrogance. They say 'we want to save space and go from 30 pins to whatever number of pins it has now'. Well, if the goal was really to save space why didn't you just go to a micro USB like everybody else in the world, and we could all get a cable at 7-11 for $5. But no, you had to have a proprietary one. It fries my brain, I don't understand it. It's just arrogance and I'm disappointed very much in that," said Mr. Kawasaki in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.