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The 9-pin "Lightning" connector used with the iPhone 5 and 2012 iPods offers many advantages over the old 30-pin connector, including a smaller size and reversibility. However, does it offer faster data transfers? Was this update only for aesthetics? Or does the 9-pin actually offer something more?

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The adaptive part means that Apple will use it going forward and add features - possibly up to a thunderbolt interface - in the future, but only with newer devices. The iPhone 5 will likely only ever support the 30 pin adapters and perhaps a few upcoming dongles such as video and audio connections. –  Adam Davis Sep 13 '12 at 3:51
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Is the question about the connector or the cable? What is true of the Lightning to USB2 Cable is not necessarily true of all future implementations that use the Lightning connector. –  Daniel Lawson Sep 13 '12 at 12:26
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The lightning cable in terms of USB speed is not any faster than the cable it replaces according to the Apple Store product description for the Lightning to USB Cable

This USB 2.0 cable connects your iPhone or iPod with Lightning connector to your computer's USB port for syncing and charging or to the Apple USB Power Adapter for convenient charging from a wall outlet.

It is still only rated to be a USB 2.0 cable, so that implies all the currently just released devices with the new Lightning connector are still USB 2.0.

So as far as USB connectivity and transfers go it can only go as fast as USB 2.0 allows, which should make it an equal with the old 30-pins usb interface.

The all digital aspect might be a plus for some users / uses, eg outputting to digital audio devices directly, but even that is unclear, it not really clear what all you can do with the new interface.

Apples description of Lightning's features shown during the iPhone 5 launch event. Credit James Martin CNET

Although one point taken from the Media event slides is "Adaptive interface", not sure what that means exactly, but it may mean that hardware & software developers may be able to program how the pins can be used to interact with devices and accessories. If that is true that could be a huge long term benefit from this major re-factoring of the interface connector for iOS devices.

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