Lightning is a proprietary computer bus and power connector created and designed by Apple Inc. Introduced on September 12, 2012, to replace its predecessor, the 30-pin dock connector, the Lightning connector is used to connect Apple mobile devices like iPhones, iPads, and iPods to host computers, external monitors, cameras, USB battery chargers, and other peripherals. Using 8 pins instead of 30, Lightning is denser than its predecessor, which was integrated with devices like the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2. The lightning cable may be inserted into the female port using either side. However, without an adapter, it is incompatible with cables and peripherals designed for its predecessors.
The Lightning connector was introduced on September 12, 2012, as an upgrade to the 30-pin dock connector. It would soon be integrated with all new hardware and devices that were to be announced at the same event. The first compatible devices were the iPhone 5, the iPod Touch (5th generation), and the iPod Nano (7th generation). The iPad (4th generation) and the iPad Mini (1st generation) were added as Lightning devices in October 2012.
On November 25, 2012, Apple acquired the "Lightning" trademark in Europe from Harley-Davidson. Apple was given a partial transfer of the Lightning trademark, suggesting that Harley-Davidson likely retained the right to use the name for motorcycle-related products. Apple is the sole proprietor of the trademark and copyrights for the designs and specifications of the Lightning connector.
The iPad Pro, released in 2015, features the first Lightning connector supporting USB 3.0 host. However, the only accessory that supports USB 3.0 is the new camera adapter. Normal USB-A - Lightning cables are still USB 2.0.
On October 30, 2018, Apple announced that its new range of iPad Pros will replace Lightning with USB-C.
Lightning is an 8-pin connector that carries a digital signal. Unlike the Apple 30 pin connector it replaces (and USB Type A or B connectors), the Lightning connector can be inserted either face-up or face down. Each pin on the reverse side of the connector is connected to its directly opposite twin on the other side. Part of the processor's job is to route the power and data signals correctly whichever way up the connector is inserted.
Apple offers various adapters that allow the Lightning connector to be used with other interfaces, such as 30-pin, USB, HDMI, VGA, and SD cards. The Lightning to 30-pin adapter supports only a limited subset of the available 30-pin signals: USB data, USB charging, and analog audio output (via the DAC inside of the adapter).
Official Lightning connectors contain an authentication chip that was intended to make it difficult for third-party manufacturers to produce compatible accessories without being approved by Apple; however, the authentication scheme has been cracked.
The plug measures 6.7 mm by 1.5 mm.