Officially announced and briefly discussed at this week’s iPhone 5-focused event in San Francisco, Apple’s next-generation Lightning Connector has quickly become a flashpoint of confusion for iPhone and iPod users. Revealed piecemeal in several leaks ahead of the event, the Lightning Connector replaces Apple’s 30-Pin Dock Connector, a ubiquitous rectangular port found on every iPhone, every iPad, and every iPod released since 2003, except the iPod shuffle. The first device to feature the new port will be the iPhone 5, with the iPod nano and iPod touch following soon thereafter; iPads will reportedly begin to make the transition this year. To enable some prior accessories to work with the new devices, Apple is now selling three types of Lightning Adapters, two for old 30-Pin Dock Connector accessories and one required in Europe for Micro-USB chargers. Through a spokesperson, Apple has also announced plans to release at least two more Lightning Adapters for HDMI and VGA output.
Despite Apple’s connector and adapter announcements, significant uncertainty remains regarding prior accessory compatibility, and the availability of Lightning Adapters. Conflicting reports this week suggested that the “all-digital” Lightning Connector might not be able to support analog audio or video output; however, Apple has confirmed that its Lightning to 30-Pin Adapters will be capable of passing iPhone 5 audio to prior Dock Connector-based docks, speakers, and cables, but will not support video out from the iPhone 5 to older video accessories, or “iPod out” mode transmission of data and album art, used in some car and home video dock accessories. It remains unclear whether the iPhone 5 will display jarring error messages when used with Apple’s Lightning Adapters, or just gracefully pass through what it can share. The first third-party accessories built with Lightning Connectors are not expected to hit stores until late this year or early next year, according to an iLounge source.
Adapter availability has also become a point of concern. The iPhone 5 will be delivered to users starting next week, however, Lightning Adapters will apparently not be available until some time in October, so the first round of customers will not be able to test their prior accessories with the iPhone 5 until well after the phone arrives. Apart from one brief and apparently erroneous hint during the iPhone 5 ordering process, Apple has not suggested that the iPhone 5 or new iPhones will include Lightning Adapters. According to a dialogue box spotted by TheNextWeb during iPhone 5 pre-ordering this morning, Apple’s web site told some European customers that the iPhone 5 “includes a Lightning to 30-pin Adapter,” and offered the purchase of “this additional adapter to have a second adapter for your home or office.” Some time afterwards, Apple changed the language to omit references to the “included” and “additional” adapters, with sales representatives describing the text as “an error.”