updated 06:19 pm EDT, Fri November 2, 2012
May satisfy EU requirements for micro USB charging mandate
Apple has quietly added another Lightning adapter to its online store, this one converting the Lightning port found on the newest iPhone, iPads and iPod Touch models to a micro USB port. The adapter is capable of syncing as well as charging when used with a compatible micro USB charger of sufficient output to charge the relevant device. Apple had previously offered a 30-pin dock connector-to-micro USB adapter, but limited its sale to Europe only. The new adapter is likely to be sold worldwide and presumably meets EU criteria.
The rationale behind the EU settling on the micro USB port as a standard for charging and syncing phones was to protect consumers from a mass of proprietary chargers and ports that weren't compatible with any other companies' phone, or even other models from the same manufacturer. A standard connector also means less waste from chargers that are no longer compatible with newer phones, much like Apple decade-old standard of the 30-pin doc connector. Users would get a new phone and be able to continue to use the same cord for charging and syncing -- and also use it with most other iOS devices.
Apple, however, chose not to go with micro USB because it would not allow them to make the iOS devices as thin and light as they thought would be needed in the future. The micro USB standard also doesn't offer some of the features, particularly throughput and versatility, that Lightning is capable of.
Apple decided to change the 30-pin standard to the new Lightning connector for a variety of reasons, but primarily to gain space and thinness that will be required in current and future iOS device plans. Marketing head Phil Schiller has been quoted as saying he expects the Lightning connector to be another long-time standard, like the 30-pin connector was. Apple sells an adapter to convert from Lighting to 30-pin so that most legacy accessories can still function, but some devices have become unavoidably incompatible with the newest iOS devices because of the Lightning connector.
In addition to being thinner and smaller, the Lightning connector may also prove to be more versatile than the 30-pin connector was, similar to its cousin the Thunderbolt port. Apple already sells a number of adapters for various types of connectors, including converting the port into an SD card reader, a VGA connector, a cable to output from Lighting to HDMI, Firewire, eSATA, various types of USB and camera connectors that replicate the existing 30-pin versions.
The adapter is available now in the online Apple Store and will appear shortly in retail outlets. It sells for $19. It is compatible only with the latest versions of the iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone and iPod Touch that have a Lightning connector.