Lightning vs. mini- and micro-USB connectors: How do they compare?

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by bollweevil, Sep 21, 2012.

  1. bollweevil macrumors 6502

    Feb 1, 2008
    Aside from the iPhone, most smartphones on the market use some kind of USB connector (mini-A, mini-B, micro-A, micro-B). The iPhone now uses the Lightning connector. How do these two types of connector compare, from a technological standpoint?

    I can't find much on the internet. Here is what I know so far:

    Lightning pros:

    1. Reversible

    USB pros:

    1. Standardized

    2. Cheaper (but this may only be because it is not proprietary, manufacturing costs for Lightning are unknown)

    3. More accessories currently exist on the market
  2. retrostate macrumors newbie

    Oct 8, 2011
    Bristol/Swansea UK
    Essentially the lightning connector allows for far more complex data transfer. The Mini usb is basically a dumb connection that allows charging and data transfer. For example, a mini usb audio dock does not stream the audio through the connector, the file is transferred to the player.
    Apple's 30pin connector and the lightning allow for actual audio streaming, hence why apple choose to use a proprietary connector.

    Also my car stereo is a USB iPod connection. I believe it transfers the file to the player for each song (i.e the stereo reads it like a file system) I have noticed that the new lightning connector is much quicker and the stereo reads the library maybe even twice as fast as the old 30 pin.
  3. NewbieCanada macrumors 68030

    Oct 9, 2007
    Transferring 30 GB of music, apps and videos to my phone was a lot quicker than with the old connecter.
  4. bollweevil thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 1, 2008
    1. You don't need to do that very often. Many iPhones only get a huge sync once at the very beginning of their life, and then they get small syncs where the difference is smaller.

    2. Because the 30-pin dock connector is a totally proprietary piece of hardware, it is technically only limited by the capabilities of the USB port on the other side and how the cable is manufactured. I have studied electrical engineering and I now make medical devices for a living, so maybe you will believe me when I say the following:

    The 30-pin dock connector to USB cable is just a collection of wires, some of which connect. The Lightning to USB cable is also just a collection of wires, some of which connect. If you can get X Mbps through the Lightning cable, then you can get X Mbps through the 30-pin dock connector, if you want.

    To make a higher speed 30-pin dock connector, you would need to change the chipset in the iPhone (which they did anyway when they created Lightning) and you might need to make the cable itself thicker to decrease crosstalk between the wires inside. It would actually be easier to upgrade the 30-pin dock connector than to make a whole new connector.

    Downsides: You might only get full speed with new 30-pin dock to USB cables, the old existing cables would still work but might only be capable of the old slower speed.

    Major upside: All the old 30-pin dock accessories would continue to work with the iPhone 5, but the iPhone 5 would have all the speed of the Lightning connector.

    I checked my reasoning with an MIT-trained electrical engineer, and he agreed. He makes these things for a living.

    He did make one point: The 30-pin dock connector on his iPhone collects dust, and he could imagine things getting stuck in it. The Lightning has a smaller hole and may be a bit more reliable. However, I have never heard anyone complain about this kind of unreliability, and Apple didn't mention it.

    tl;dr - The capability of the USB port on your computer is almost the only thing that limits how fast your iPhone syncs. The 30-pin dock connector is just a different shape, it could be made as fast as Lightning if Apple wanted.
  5. freddiecable macrumors 6502a


    May 16, 2003
    but - the new lightning is still usb2 right? dont we want faster transfer speeds!?

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