Apple's Lightning Connector: What We Know, What We Don't

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The iPhone 5 has many physical changes from previous iPhones, and one of the biggest -- or rather, smallest -- is the new Lightning connector. While it's a major departure from the venerable dock connector that's been around since 2003, it's a bit of a question mark what the new jack can do.

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Since Apple prioritizes a thin and lightweight form factor in the iPhone, the old dock connector had to go. Lightning appears to be an improvement: it's an all-digital connector that takes up a lot less room on the device. Plus, it's reversible, so you'll never mistakenly try to put it in the wrong way. And yes, there is an adapter that lets you plug your Lightning device into old 30-pin docks.

However, at no point does Apple say Lightning is faster than the old connector, even though the name is a bit of a riff on the ultra-fast Thunderbolt jack that's a feature of the more recent Macs. It also has fewer pins than the old one at just eight.

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Apple has offered some more details on Lightning since it was unveiled on Wednesday. Here's what we know so far, and what we don't:

It can relay audio: When Apple first put up the product page for the Lightning to 30-Pin Adapter, the $29 item said it doesn't support video output or "iPod Out," which many took to mean Lightning can't output audio or video.

Apple has since removed the reference to "iPod Out," which is something it introduced in iOS 4 as a means of displaying iPod information on a car dashboard. It also made clear the adapter does support analog audio (since Lightning is all-digital, the adapters are clearly doing the conversion).

It also supports video: Even though the adapter doesn't support video output, future accessories will. Apple has said, as reported by Macworld and The Verge, that accessories are in the works that will let you connect Lightning port to an HDMI or VGA input. If that's true, obviously the connector can output video.

Adapters sold separately: Neither $29 adapter nor the $39 cable come with the new iPhone. You have to buy them separately, although some carriers in some parts of the world reported an adapter was included. Apple has since clarified to CNET that it's sold separately in all cases.

Speed? Is Lightning faster than the old dock connector? If it is, it's probably not significantly, since Apple didn't say so, and it typically likes to tout big improvements in performance. Still, once the phone is available, many testers (including Mashable) will measure its performance.

What else would you like to learn about the Lightning connector? Tell us your questions in the comments.

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This story originally published on Mashable here.

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