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Questionable leaks raise hopes that Apple will release new Lightning cable with reversible USB...

post #1 of 53
Thread Starter 
Reversible male "Type-A" USB plugs are not new, but they also aren't compliant with the cable's official specifications, which means that newly leaked Lightning cables showing reversible USB connectors probably were not made by Apple.


Photo via Sonny Dickson.


Over the last week, a number of new cables showing reversible plugs on both ends --?Lightning and USB Type-A --?have surfaced online. These have been accompanied by claims that the cables were made by Apple and will be unveiled alongside the "iPhone 6."
Knock-off Lightning cables and unauthorized reversible USB Type-A plugs are not new. These "leaks" may be an example of both.
Of course, knock-off Apple cables are nothing new, and manufacturers were quick to reverse engineer the Lightning standard shortly after it launched in 2012. Unauthorized Lightning cables, many of which could easily be mistaken for Apple-made plugs, quickly flooded the market.

One of the key selling points of the switch from the legacy 30-pin connector to Apple's new Lightning standard was reversible plugs. While 30-pin needed to be inserted in a specific direction, Lightning works from either side, making it easier for users to quickly plug in to charge and sync their iPhone, iPad or otherwise.

But while the Lightning connector is reversible, the USB connector on the other side of the cable is not. This is the legacy "Type-A" connector approved by the USB Compliance Committee, the group that sets the official standards for USB-authorized cables and accessories.

The fact that the committee has not authorized reversible Type-A USB plugs hasn't stopped cable makers from selling such products for years. For example, Tripp-Lite sells an entire range of accessories with reversible USB Type-A plugs, featuring connections to micro USB, mini USB, and even another reversible USB Type-A plug.




Last week, a number of leaks online showed a new Lightning cable with a reversible USB Type-A port. Most notably, Sonny Dickson posted pictures and video to his Twitter account showing what appear to be functioning Lightning cables with USB Type-A plugs that can be inserted into a computer or wall charging adapter in either direction.

However, there's been no indication that the USB Compliance Committee has given the greenlight to reversible USB Type-A plugs. That would mean that if Apple were to make such plugs, it might not be able to certify them as compliant with the USB standard.

The USB Compliance Committee does have a new forthcoming connector that is, in fact, reversible: USB Type-C. But the new, smaller connector features an entirely new form factor, unlike the reversible Type-A plugs shown by Dickson and others.

August 15, 2014


The specifications for USB Type-C are noteworthy because they do not specify which type of plug must be on each end of a cable. That means that authorized Type-C to Type-C cables, or even Type-C to Lightning connectors, could become a reality, setting the stage for the USB Type-A plug to begin to fade away.

Of course, that would require entirely new laptops and wall adapters with USB Type-C female capability, and that kind of transition will take time. In the interim, Apple fans are excited about the possibility of a reversible version of the traditional USB Type-A plug.

Whether the recently pictured parts are knock-off Lightning accessories made by unauthorized third-party cable makers, or if Apple really is planning to redefine the USB Type-A spec, the mystery should be settled soon enough: The company is expected to hold a media event on Sept. 9 to unveil its next-generation iPhone, and any potential changes to its Lightning-to-USB cables would likely be unveiled at that event.
post #2 of 53
What i can say... since, Sonny Dickson leaks are mostly from Chinese knock off and claim it was made by Apple.
post #3 of 53
I tend not to raise hopes on 'questionable leaks', but that's just me.
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post #4 of 53
Just because it's not a part of the official spec doesn't mean that they won't or can't produce them. The lightening bit on the other end isn't official USB either, obviously. It would merely prevent them from using the USB name and logo. These are *not* USB cables, they are Apple cables with a USB connector on one end. If they change that to Apple cables that are compatible with USB Sockets, then it's the same thing.

That said, if it was this easy, why has it taken so long for anyone of note to start to make them?
post #5 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by stuffe View Post

Just because it's not a part of the official spec doesn't mean that they won't or can't produce them. The lightening bit on the other end isn't official USB either, obviously. It would merely prevent them from using the USB name and logo. These are *not* USB cables, they are Apple cables with a USB connector on one end. If they change that to Apple cables that are compatible with USB Sockets, then it's the same thing.

That said, if it was this easy, why has it taken so long for anyone of note to start to make them?

Current Lightning cables do feature the official USB "trident" logo on the Type-A connector, making them sanctioned USB accessories. It doesn't appear that Apple would be able to continue using this logo if it switched to an unsanctioned reversible Type-A plug.

post #6 of 53

I don’t understand how such a plug is physically possible. Obviously the metal sheath can’t be any larger than the spec, so how can the interior pin slot make contact with the port’s slot in either direction? I see that it’s smaller than a standard, but that won’t do anything... 

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post #7 of 53
Quote:
 However, there's been no indication that the USB Compliance Committee has given the greenlight to reversible USB Type-A plugs. That would mean that if Apple were to make such plugs, it might not be able to certify them as compliant with the USB standard

 

Why? If it work. They don't wanna make customers happy?

post #8 of 53
Apple made us realize with the lightning plug that any standard that is not reversible is antiquated.
post #9 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lawrance View Post

Apple made us realize with the lightning plug that any standard that is not reversible is antiquated.

Cables are antiquated. I finally got fed up plugging my iPhone into my computer and turned on wifi syncing in iTunes. Now it can charge at the power or sit on the table and I can send new songs to it without touching it. It would be nice if Image Capture saw it wirelessly too so I could get images off it and it would be better if it used wifi-direct rather than the wireless network. 802.11ac is probably as fast as the read/write speeds of the NAND in the phone so there's no practical advantage for syncing by plugging it in:

http://www.anandtech.com/show/7127/the-joys-of-80211ac-wifi/2
post #10 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lawrance View Post

Apple made us realize with the lightning plug that any standard that is not reversible is antiquated.

 

Right? And having to make sure batteries are pointed the right way is SO ten minutes ago...

 

/s

 

Doesn't it seem like an awful lot of fuss over such an incredibly minor inconvenience? If people are incapable of simply flipping over a connector, it's no wonder Apple doesn't want them installing their own RAM!

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post #11 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorin Schultz View Post

Doesn't it seem like an awful lot of fuss over such an incredibly minor inconvenience? If people are incapable of simply flipping over a connector, it's no wonder Apple doesn't want them installing their own RAM!

It's a trivial matter here but that mindset is what would have had people still using command-lines to do everything on a computer. Until someone says it's an inconvenience, nobody bothers improving it. It wastes time having to turn things the right way. I frequently get the USB connector the wrong way up. The Thunderbolt one is easier because it has a different shape on the top of the cable end.

The new connector is smaller too:



so potentially more ports on the laptops and they'd allow even thinner designs for the sake of it, which I know you especially love. It means they can taper the Air more aggressively on the side. If they get rid of the internal fan with Broadwell, the next Air can be very thin.

edit, here's an idea of what a thinner fanless Broadwell Retina Air with USB C ports can be like:



It can be 20-30% thinner.
post #12 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post
 

I don’t understand how such a plug is physically possible. Obviously the metal sheath can’t be any larger than the spec, so how can the interior pin slot make contact with the port’s slot in either direction? I see that it’s smaller than a standard, but that won’t do anything... 

Clearly it will not be backwards compatible. If Apple adopts the new design they might also need to design some transition adaptor as well.

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post #13 of 53
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post
It wastes time having to turn things the right way. I frequently get the USB connector the wrong way up.

 

Originally Posted by mstone View Post
Clearly it will not be backwards compatible. If Apple adopts the new design they might also need to design some transition adaptor as well.

 

Well no, this is designed to be backward compatible. The images in the article show backward compatible reversible USB A plugs.

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post #14 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post
Well no, this is designed to be backward compatible. The images in the article show backward compatible reversible USB A plugs.

The Type C, the spec for which has been finalized, is not backward compatible. I really can't see how a new Type A will be either, at least not with a sheath.


Edited by mstone - 8/19/14 at 12:25pm

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post #15 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post


Cables are antiquated. I finally got fed up plugging my iPhone into my computer and turned on wifi syncing in iTunes. Now it can charge at the power or sit on the table and I can send new songs to it without touching it. It would be nice if Image Capture saw it wirelessly too so I could get images off it and it would be better if it used wifi-direct rather than the wireless network. 802.11ac is probably as fast as the read/write speeds of the NAND in the phone so there's no practical advantage for syncing by plugging it in:

http://www.anandtech.com/show/7127/the-joys-of-80211ac-wifi/2

 

Wifi syncing in iTunes still needs improvement.  Devices sometimes disappear from iTunes for no reason and there is no quick way to make them reappear without restarting either the device or the computer, or both.

post #16 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lawrance View Post

Apple made us realize with the lightning plug that any standard that is not reversible is antiquated.

 

Actually, headphone jacks, RCA and coax cables made us realize that a long time ago.  And even though reversible USB plugs are not official spec, I think they did exist before Apple's Lightning plug.

 

The other issue with USB is why they require different connectors on each end of the cable for a computer and a device.  Doesn't seem to be a problem with Firewire or Thunderbolt.


Edited by Haggar - 8/19/14 at 12:39pm
post #17 of 53
Originally Posted by mstone View Post
The Type C, the spec for which has been finalized, is not backward compatible. I really can't see how a new Type A will be either, at least not with a sheath.

 

Yes, but I mean the nonstandard A up there. There’s no need for the continued existence of A or B at all since the creation of C, but the A in the article is trying to be a C (dear mother of…) while retaining backward compatibility with existing hardware. I just don’t see how it works. Maybe I’d have to hold one.

 

This is all moot, really. Official C is the future for everything.

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post #18 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

It's a trivial matter here but that mindset is what would have had people still using command-lines to do everything on a computer. Until someone says it's an inconvenience, nobody bothers improving it.

 

Fair point. The judges will accept that answer. My comment was (mostly) tongue-in-cheek anyway. I'm easily convinced when I don't really have any energy about it one way or the other! :)

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

they'd allow even thinner designs for the sake of it, which I know you especially love.

 

My wife is looking at me funny because I'm still laughing out loud at that while I type this reply! Good one! Touché!

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post #19 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post
 

I really can't see how a new Type A will be [backward compatible], at least not with[out] a sheath.

 

I don't get how it's supposed to work either. Wouldn't it require an opening twice the height of a standard A jack, since there would have to be openings both above and below the pin frame?

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post #20 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post
 

This is all moot, really. Official C is the future for everything.

 

This is one case in which I'd happily replace every USB cable in the house (and there must be dozens) if a new computer incorporated that spec. The present USB plug is such an abomination that I'd welcome the opportunity to banish it just by throwing money at it. The problem is not the fact that it's not reversible per se, but that it just doesn't mate well leading one to THINK they have it upside-down when they don't (as illustrated in your diagram earlier in the thread).

 

The only challenge will be pocket flash drives which will need adaptors because we'll still have to use them with legacy A ports.

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post #21 of 53
Originally Posted by Lorin Schultz View Post

The only challenge will be pocket flash drives which will need adaptors because we'll still have to use them with legacy A ports.


Until they start making them with C, which should be as soon as ratification.

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post #22 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post
 
Originally Posted by Lorin Schultz View Post

The only challenge will be pocket flash drives which will need adaptors because we'll still have to use them with legacy A ports.


Until they start making them with C, which should be as soon as ratification.

 

No, I mean if I buy a flash drive with a C connector (which I will, on the very first day I can) I will need an adaptor to plug it into all the existing A sockets I'll still encounter on existing machines, like at work.

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post #23 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Quote:
It wastes time having to turn things the right way. I frequently get the USB connector the wrong way up.



That's exactly what I do with USB cables for some reason. I even try to come up with a system like checking the two holes face up but then realise some plugs have holes on both sides or I check where the thick part is inside the plug but then forget if that's supposed to be at the top or bottom. It ends up with me turning it twice more often than I'd like. I've even done it rarely a full other cycle so one way, nope, other way, nope, other way again, nope, checked the port to see it's the USB port I'm trying to use and verified that the current way is not happening so very slowly try the final way and success.

It looks like the USB C port won't have the two holes on it too so that should mean an end to people getting cables stuck in the ports.
post #24 of 53
So those reversible USB connectors achieve reversibility without the use of embedded chips or "dynamic pin assignment"?  If so, that makes it look like Apple went out of their way to make Lightning more complicated than necessary, despite their supposed focus on simplicity and efficient design.
post #25 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Haggar View Post


Lightning is a very small connector with 8 pins, USB type A plugs are much bigger. USB C is smaller but might still be larger than Lightning.
post #26 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post


That's exactly what I do with USB cables for some reason. I even try to come up with a system like checking the two holes face up but then realise some plugs have holes on both sides or I check where the thick part is inside the plug but then forget if that's supposed to be at the top or bottom. It ends up with me turning it twice more often than I'd like. I've even done it rarely a full other cycle so one way, nope, other way, nope, other way again, nope, checked the port to see it's the USB port I'm trying to use and verified that the current way is not happening so very slowly try the final way and success.

It looks like the USB C port won't have the two holes on it too so that should mean an end to people getting cables stuck in the ports.

 

Isn't the rule that for horizontal USB-A female sockets you need to plug the male connector in with the USB logo facing up?  Some people complain about Apple cables printing the USB logo instead of embossing it (which I believe is a non-mandatory part of the standard), which makes plugging it in without line of sight more difficult.

 

Obviously that's of no help whatsoever if the female is vertical, and I don't think there's any rule for that case.

 

 

If Apple do change the connectors I hope they change the cables too to make them more robust; I think my most recent Lightning cable set a record for me, from pristine to frayed and useless within 6 months.

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post #27 of 53
Originally Posted by Haggar View Post
So those reversible USB connectors achieve reversibility without the use of embedded chips or "dynamic pin assignment"?

 

If so, USB is less complex than Lightning, so it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that they didn’t need it.

 
If so, that makes it look like Apple went out of their way to make Lightning more complicated than necessary, despite their supposed focus on simplicity and efficient design.

 

Nice try at FUD. Much better than most; at least you were subtle about it.

 

Apple focuses on simplicity and efficient design FOR THE END USER. Their products contain some of the most complicated electronics and involved designs out there.

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post #28 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Haggar View Post

So those reversible USB connectors achieve reversibility without the use of embedded chips or "dynamic pin assignment"?  If so, that makes it look like Apple went out of their way to make Lightning more complicated than necessary, despite their supposed focus on simplicity and efficient design.

I think Apple's simplicity and efficient design is focussed on the end user experience, not the internal workings of cables.  From what we've seen of this reversible cable it has a big flappy tongue on the inside.  I'm sure Apple will ship something that's the best they can make it, but whichever way you look at it a big flappy tongue isn't as simple or elegant as the Lightning connector's small form factor and single piece design.

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post #29 of 53
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Originally Posted by Crowley View Post
 

 From what we've seen of this reversible cable it has a big flappy tongue on the inside.  [...] a big flappy tongue isn't as simple or elegant as the Lightning connector's small form factor and single piece design.

 

To be clear, we're talking about the clusterhump of a connector shown in this article, right? I have serious doubts about Apple ever supplying those. Much more likely they will choose to use the new Type-C connector that both solves the issue AND allows them to stick with an "official" and "sanctioned" design.

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post #30 of 53
I thought Type C is for the device end, not the master? In which case Apple already has Lightning to do that part.
Edited by Crowley - 8/20/14 at 1:36pm

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post #31 of 53
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Originally Posted by Crowley View Post

I thought Type C is for the device end, not the master? In which case already has Lightning to do that part.

 

Forget Lightning. It just confuses the issue. We're talking about USB connectors, period.

 

I don't know one way or the other, but am under the impression that the Type-C connector is intended to be used on both ends. No more having one type of connector at the source and a different one at the destination. So, your iPhone will come with a cable that has USB Type-C on one end and Lightning on the other. A portable hard drive cable would be USB Type-C at both ends.

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post #32 of 53
Interesting, I didn't realise that. But since there are currently no Apple computers with the USB-C female port, we'll be stuck with either USB-A or USB-A-reversible cables for a little while yet.

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post #33 of 53

Why isn't the reversible USB not compliant with the committee?

post #34 of 53
Originally Posted by Yazolight View Post
Why isn't the reversible USB not compliant with the committee?

 

You mean ‘why isn’t it compliant’? Because the whiners don’t want anything they haven’t personally ratified. Makes sense, except the decisions they make are moronic.

 

LightPeak used a modified USB port for its first implementations. Had the USB morons allowed them to keep doing it, we would have had Thunderbolt ports that were backward compatible with USB. Imagine what that would have done for Thunderbolt adoption and what it would have done for keeping USB relevant.

 

Alas, they dug their own grave.

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post #35 of 53

Hahaha it took me at least 30 sec to spot my grammar mistake, thank you :D

 

Yeah it's obviously a bureaucratic reason, but Apple could certainly throw a few millions for lobbying and get this ratification done in a blink so I thought there could be something else.

 

Concerning thunderbolt, for Apple and a Apple product user point of view, the fact that they had to develop their own connector, would you say now its a good thing? I am very happy that Apple didn't switch to usb when they ditched the 30-pin! But I never use thunderbolt, so I can't say anything about it.

post #36 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post
 

LightPeak used a modified USB port for its first implementations. Had the USB morons allowed them to keep doing it, we would have had Thunderbolt ports that were backward compatible with USB. Imagine what that would have done for Thunderbolt adoption and what it would have done for keeping USB relevant.

 

In that hypothetical parallel universe I wonder if we'd be talking about a reversible Thunderbolt cable.  Because that'd be nice.

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post #37 of 53
Originally Posted by Crowley View Post

In that hypothetical parallel universe I wonder if we'd be talking about a reversible Thunderbolt cable. 

 

Thunderbolt 3 could be reversible. It’s going to be a new port, so they may as well do it.

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post #38 of 53

Is it confirmed it'll be a new port?  Think I missed that.

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post #39 of 53
Originally Posted by Crowley View Post
Is it confirmed it'll be a new port?  Think I missed that.


I think they said it has to be, since they’re carrying 100 watts across it. If that’s not the reason, I at least know it’s going to be a new port.

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post #40 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crowley View Post

I think Apple's simplicity and efficient design is focussed on the end user experience, not the internal workings of cables.  From what we've seen of this reversible cable it has a big flappy tongue on the inside.  I'm sure Apple will ship something that's the best they can make it, but whichever way you look at it a big flappy tongue isn't as simple or elegant as the Lightning connector's small form factor and single piece design.

Looking at it it seems like it would wear faster and be prone to breaking more than the current Type-A connector. I think the new Type-C connector looks like a better design, of course that should since it's not trying to be backwards compatible with the tried and true Type-A port interface.

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