Custom iPhones

What Is The Lightning Connector On iPhone?

Discover the evolution connectors on iPhone, including the transition from 30-pin to USB-C, the MFI program, and the black pins issue.

What Is The Lightning Connector On iPhone?

The Lightning connector is a proprietary computer bus and power connector created by Apple and was introduced on September 12, 2012. Designed to replace the older 30-pin dock connector, Lightning offers a smaller, more versatile solution for connecting devices and accessories.

What Came Before: 30-Pin Connector

Before the introduction of Lightning, Apple devices used the 30-pin dock connector, which debuted in 2003 with the third-generation iPod. The 30-pin connector was much larger and allowed for various functionalities, including charging, data transfer, and audio output. However, as devices became thinner and more compact, the need for a smaller connector became apparent.

How Does It Work

The Lightning connector is an 8-pin reversible connector, meaning it can be inserted into a device in either orientation. Lightning supports faster data transfer and charging speeds compared to the 30-pin connector, and its compact design frees up space within devices for other components.

The pins in the Lightning connector span the whole thickness of the plug. The connector itself incorporates a processor which can detect the orientation and routes the electrical signals to the correct pins. The processor is also used as an authentication device to check for a genuine Lightning cable.

Lightning Connector Pinout

PinCodeFunction
1GNDGround
2L0+Lane 0 positive
3L0-Lane 0 negative
4ID0Lane 0 ID and control
5VCC5v power
6L1-Lane 1 negative
7L1+Lane 1 postive
8ID1Lane 1 ID and control
Lightning Connector Pinout

iPhone 15 Pro in White Titanium sitting on black carpet
iPhone 15 Pro In White Titanium

What’s Next: USB-C

In recent years, Apple has gradually transitioned to USB-C for many of its devices, starting with the 2015 MacBook. USB-C offers a universal standard for connectivity, providing faster data transfer, higher power delivery, and broader compatibility with various devices and accessories.

The iPhone 15 and the latest iPads now also come with USB-C to align with the European Union’s directive mandating a common charging standard to reduce electronic waste. The EU declared that all electronic devices sold within its member states must use USB-C for charging by the end of 2024, prompting Apple to adopt this standard across its products.

Made For iPhone

The MFi (Made for iPhone) program is a licensing program for developers of hardware and software peripherals that work with Apple’s devices. Accessories that meet Apple’s standards for performance and quality receive MFi certification, ensuring compatibility and reliability. This program is meant to maintain a high standard for accessories and reduces the risk of damage to devices from low-quality peripherals.

Closeup Of A Black Pin On A Lightning Cable
Closeup Of A Black Pin On A Lightning Cable

The Black Pin Phenomenon

A phenomenon exists with Lightning connectors in which Pin 1 or Pin 4 blackens over time, causing one side of the connector to cease functioning. These pins hold either a positive or negative electrical charge.

If there is some liquid on the pins on the connector or in the charging port, the gold plating begins to wear out over time. This causes extra current which can corrode the copper and gold pins, blackening them.

Changes To The Plating

In 2019, Apple released a new version of the Lightning connector and stopped production of the old version. These new versions included many improvements, such as ruthenium and rhodium plating which is silver in colour, instead of the gold and copper plating.

This change was to improve durability and reduce the possibility of corrosion, but can still happen over time.