Teardown revives hopes that Lightning might be USB 3.0-compatible

Arstechnica – Earlier today we linked to iFixit’s iPhone 5 teardown, and there’s something interesting lurking in the pictures of the Lightning connector. Although it’s clear at this point that the iPhone 5 only sports USB 2.0 speeds, initial discussions of Lightning’s support of USB 3.0 have focused on its pin count—the USB “Super Speed” 3.0 spec requires nine pins to function, and Lightning connectors only have eight.

 


 

However, iFixit’s teardown shows the pins in the iPhone 5’s Lightning receptacle, and there are two extras on either side:

 

Enlarge / The iPhone 5’s Lightning connector disassembled. Note two extra pins, possibly for ground return.

 

The Lightning connector itself has two divots on either side for retention, but these extra electrical connections in the receptacle could possibly be used as a ground return, which would bring the number of Lightning pins to the same count as that of USB 3.0—nine total.

If this is the case, then it shows that Apple has at least thought ahead with its new plug, and may have future-proofed it to support USB 3.0. This would be a wise tactical move on Apple’s part and could open the door to Lightning being used to supplement Thunderbolt as a second high-speed standard port, rather than as a one-off iPhone connector competing awkwardly with USB 2.

Of course, the need for extra pins is obviated if the connector’s shield can be used as the ground return; in that case, the extra pins are just extra pins, which would be used in some form or fashion for Lightning signaling. As usual, Apple is mum on the details and no official confirmation exists one way or another.

Apple spokespersons have confirmed that HDMI and VGA cables utilizing Lightning will be available soon, so the interface is clearly destined for more than just USB 2.0 data syncing.

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