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Apple Lightning adaptors reveal limitations

Missing the bus?

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Apple has introduced a Micro USB adaptor for its new Lightning dock connector. Speed freaks will be disappointed to hear it's a USB 2.0 connector.

USB 3.0 imposes a less-compact connector than the older version of the bus standard. Since USB 3.0 is essentially two separate buses in one - Superspeed USB and USB 2.0 - its version of the Micro connector is a B-shaped affair comprising an old-style Micro USB jack bonded onto a smaller connector that carries the USB 3.0 lines.

In fact, the inelegant nature of the Micro USB 3.0 connector may explain why Apple devised its own, sleeker alternative.

It's not yet clear whether Lightning is based on USB 3.0, but given that all new Macs now support the standard, it seems unlikely that it's USB 2.0 only.

Apple has to offer a Micro USB adaptor in Europe after the European Commission mandated the connector as a standard for AC adaptor interoperability in a bid to reduce the number of phone power supplies in circulation and thus minimise the number of them ending up in landfill because new handset otherwise need new PSUs.

Meanwhile, the 30-pin adaptor Apple announced at the iPhone 5 launch will be accompanied by a 20cm cable version for folk who don't fancy balancing the new handset on an old speaker or cradle with the new adaptor in between.

If the docking hardware is too old, neither adaptor may work. "Some 30-pin accessories are not supported," Apple warns.

The Lightning Micro USB adaptor costs £15 - the old version was only eight quid. The 30-pin adaptor is £25 and the cabled version £30. ®

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