All about the new Apple Lightning cables/plugs...UPDATE: the plot thickens!
Sep 20, 2012 at 8:42 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 106


MOT: Double Helix Cables
Nov 24, 2008
Everybody knows and loves it, right?  Head-fi is certainly in a bit of a flap about the new Lightning plug, as is the rest of the world, since it's a big departure.  I've got a few Lightning cables on hand so the point of this thread is to be a permanent source of information on this plug since curiosity abounds.
Pix (sorry for the crap quality):
UPDATE: The person has authentication chips in it.  Keep in mind this is super small, and magnified with a 1:1 macro lens...




2 of the standard cables from Apple arrived today.  First thing I noticed is that the Lightning plugs are SMALL.  Pinky fingernail size.  The contact points on the plug are so tiny, it is hard to probe them with a multimeter.  Also, they are tough and look really good.  This is not a cable that is going to break easily.  It is a fraction of the width of a dock plug and isn't going to snap off or have weird problems with locking, and so on.  
Removing the plastic shell around the plug reveals a two piece metal crimp surrounding the solder area of the plug, as well as some injected silicone rubber cushioning.  This plug is built like a tank, it is armored.  Modders are going to want to give up on the idea of building their own charge cables/CLAS cables from scratch for this, until a DIY version of this plug surfaces.  I don't expect a DIY version of this plug will go for that much, despite how pretty they are, since at wholesale you can get a healthy discount on these cables.  The amount of force required to remove the crimp is insane, it is really on there.  I got it off without completely destroying the plug, and was greeted with a generous coating of epoxy.  Scraping all that off reveals a tiny PCB with the 4 wires of the USB cable connected to it.  The PCB extends into the end of the cable, where I'm guessing the traces split off and cross to allow the two-sideness of the connector.  
For modders, we have a tiny ~32awg pair of green and white wires which are for data.  I'll post the exact specs when I get home.  There is a 26awg red power wire for V+.  V- duties are done by the cable's shield, which has several easily accessible drain wires for soldering to the plug of your choice.  It is trivial to chop the end on this, strip it with a 14awg stripper to get the shield and jacket off, then, strip & solder these wires to a USB plug or micro USB plug if you wanted to make your own custom version of the long and annoying stock Lightning cable.  
I will post the exact pinouts soon.  For now, let's look at it this way: if you face the plug straight at you, the contacts facing up (and it should be the same on either side) are 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8.  Pin 1 is V- or shield, and it is connected to the shell of the plug on each side, so the power ground also serves to ground the shells of the cable ends together.  Pretty standard USB layout.  Pins 6 and 7 are the data pins (forget the exact configuration, will fix this in my next edit).  Here's where we get to the strangest thing about this.  Perhaps I just had a broken cable, but when the cable was fully intact, and afterwards, I tried to figure out where V+ connects to.  I had the V+ wire stripped and hooked up to the multimeter, and I probed the crap out of the Lightning plug.  No resistance, no continuity, to any of the pins on the Lightning plug.  I will keep at it but for now this is a really strange mystery.  The V+ wire is soldered to the little board inside the Lightning plug.  Where it goes from there inside the PCB that extends into the metal contact end of the Lightning plug is anyone's guess.  There does not appear to be any resistors or circuitry in this cable.  It is just a regular USB cord as far as I can tell, so far.  Except for this V+ problem.  I have a 2nd lightning cord I can test here in a little while.  
Sep 20, 2012 at 9:28 PM Post #3 of 106
Hello - new member here, but Scootermafia earns extra points for posting the first pics Anywhere i can find of whats going on in the new Lightning cable.
My hunch - it appears to be an Apple authentication IC inside the small Lightning housing. 
Also I'm now thinking the info here is correct

Which basically states that Apple is using a special active diff line
driver circuit, powered by the attached device (typically a PC or Mac
USB 2.0 port)

Of course most have hears a rumor that future "Lighting to USB Host" adapter is possible, but sketchy details if IO6 on Iphone supports USB Host. Sheer speculation, but Apple may easily continue the same path as the Camera Connection Kit paradigm of crippling USB host on iphone, while enabling it on the Ipad 
We should know in a couple months  - since a new  IPad MINI with Lightning port is reportedly due in December 2012
Sep 20, 2012 at 9:30 PM Post #4 of 106
Perhaps the power + wire is going through a chip. I will test this soon.
Sep 21, 2012 at 3:56 AM Post #5 of 106
Buzzing away the epoxy coating with a steel brush Dremel attachment reveals what's inside.  Authentication chips galore.  They are gating the V+ wire - this is why it's not continuous between the voltage pin of the USB connector and the Lightning connector.  There be chips in between.  
Sep 21, 2012 at 4:07 AM Post #6 of 106
Thanks for the effort Peter, very nice job!
Sep 21, 2012 at 4:11 AM Post #7 of 106
I don't think it would be the end of the world to build an USB LOD for this.  You would just need the mini-board piece + lightning end that goes along with it.  There are four pads, one for each wire.  If you could just buy the end piece without those nasty crimps on it, you could surely do it.  It is just VERY hard to get it all apart in one piece.  The real question is this - are the lots of 10,000 lightning cables on going to actually work when whoever bought them gets them?  If the authentication chip really is proprietary, does every Tom, Dick and Harry over in China have access to them?
Sep 21, 2012 at 5:01 AM Post #9 of 106
I just saw Tavis Smiley talking with some tech heads about the iPhone 5, the connector is definitely regarded as more robust that it predecessor. They demonstrated that it made better contact, is not prone to locking (or not) issues, is more durable, really a better connector all the way around. The issue that they had was Apple forcing these $30-40 plastic bits adapters on people if they want to connect their i-Thing to their car or clock radio etc.
Sep 21, 2012 at 12:55 PM Post #10 of 106
Some more news has surfaced.  It is thought to be a Texas Instruments accessory authentication chip, but nobody has shown its existence until that pic that I posted following my teardown.  I've submitted the story to a few tech sites so we'll see if they put it up there.  They say the projected cost on this connector is $3.50.  So, the cables selling for $1 or less on Alibaba are surely non-functional.  I would be amazed if we see any working 3rd party accessories from the grey market type vendors anytime soon.  The usual suspects will have done their due diligence and have working accessories (deep pocketed US companies).  
Sep 21, 2012 at 1:35 PM Post #11 of 106
 It is thought to be a Texas Instruments accessory authentication chip, but nobody has shown its existence until that pic that I posted following my teardown.

Apple Authentication chips have been around for a while, and yes they are quite small. They have been a requirement for any product that directly attaches to an Apple IOS device.
The Apple mFI developer program is the source for details
But in my mind, if a DAC is what you are after, might explore the new "USB Audio" standard that several new DAC products support. Apparently IPhone 4/ 4S/ 5 (and new Android devices like the S3) all support "USB Audio" which is now being used to describe the direct streaming of Audio via USB
There are a new category of DAC boxes with a USB Type A Host port - and these support "USB Audio":
like these 
RATOC  RAL-1648iP1
and the new JVC car Head units
More here:
Sep 21, 2012 at 4:32 PM Post #13 of 106
So if the identification chip is in the cable could that mean all we need is a cable without the chip and we could have digital out with Apple uncertified devices?
Sep 21, 2012 at 4:52 PM Post #14 of 106
I'm pretty sure the point here is that without the chip, the iPhone won't talk to whatever you're plugging in.
Sep 21, 2012 at 4:57 PM Post #15 of 106
I'm pretty sure the point here is that without the chip, the iPhone won't talk to whatever you're plugging in.

I see, that makes sense. Thanks

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