People keep asking why Apple didn’t opt for the micro-USB connector. The answer is simple: that connector isn’t smart enough. It has only 5 pins: +5V, Ground, 2 digital data pins, and a sense pin, so most of the dock connector functions wouldn’t work – only charging and syncing would. Also, the pins are so small that no current plug/connector manufacturer allows the 2A needed for iPad charging.
As with the 30-pin connector, the Lightning connector supports video output; Apple told Macworld that Lightning-to-HDMI and Lightning-to-VGA cables will be available “in the coming months.”
Everyone keeps referring to Lightning as a “dock connector,” but I haven’t seen any reporting on actual docks for the iPhone 5.
Update (2012-09-18): Rainer Brockerhoff:
In contrast, support for Lightning will probably need no extra chips and less than a dozen extra pins on the SoC; 8 of these will go straight to the connector. One or two of the pins will probably sense which kind of adapter or charger/cable is connected and the others will go, in parallel, to the power controller – switching them will allow enough current for charging without overloading any particular pin. Any current-hungry drivers, signal converters and so forth wouldn’t on the motherboard at all but inside the plug itself, further reducing cost and power consumption for the bare device.
Update (2012-09-20): Dan Frakes:
Apple has confirmed to Macworld that these adapters support analog and USB audio-out, as well as syncing and charging. However, the adapters don’t support video-out or iPod mode, the latter a special mode that lets particular accessories, such as car stereos and some whole-home-audio systems, display your iPod’s menus on the accessory’s own screen. More cryptically, the online Apple Store’s product pages note that “some 30-pin accessories are not supported.”
Apple Senior VP of Marketing Phil Schiller has reportedly said that the company has no plans to release a standalone dock for the upcoming iPhone 5, making it the first of its kind without such an accessory from Apple.
I’ve been using docks since the original U.S. Robotics Pilot. I’ve yet to see a better way to charge a device on my desk, while making it easy to access. Cables are more difficult to connect and disconnect, and they don’t hold the device in the proper orientation.
Update (2012-09-21): Rainer Brockerhoff:
The previous connector had no serious protection against flexing, so previous docks had to grip the back and bottom of the device, which also led to a profusion of plastic dock adapters; Lightning docks should be able to get away with just a simple generic back support.
Update (2012-09-23): Rainer Brockerhoff:
Still, my point here is that everybody is used to cables and adapters that are simple, inexpensive, and consist just of wires leading from one end to the other – after all, this is true for USB, Ethernet, FireWire, and so forth. Even things like DVI-VGA adapters seem to follow this pattern. But things have been getting more complicated lately. Even HDMI cables, which have no active components anywhere, transmit data at such speeds that careful shielding is necessary, and cable prices have stayed relatively high; if you get a cheap cable, you may find out that it doesn’t work well (or at all).
Update (2012-10-04): Phil Dzikiy:
Apple has made significant changes to its Made For iPad/iPhone/iPod (MFi) policies, tightening control over the manufacturing of Lightning accessories. According to the sources, only Apple-approved manufacturing facilities will be allowed to produce Lightning connector accessories, even including third-party accessories. Moreover, Apple hasn’t approved any factories yet, which the sources say will limit the number of Lightning accessories available in the near future.
Update (2012-11-01): Phil Schiller:
We do not plan on making a dock for the iPhone 5. Most people who use docks use them with speaker or clock systems.