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Why Apple’s New Lightning Connector Makes Sense

Apple wins one, loses one with new Lightning connector

In my new role as Apple apologist—kidding, kidding—I feel compelled to offer a mea culpa on my earlier comments about the company’s new Lightning connector. Sure, proprietary connectors stink, and I’m still not a fan of lock-in. But Apple got it right when it made this connector reversible. That really does make a big difference.

I can’t find it, but I had made a crack when Apple first announced the Lightning connector—at the iPhone launch event back in September—about micro-USB not being difficult. My argument, such as it was, was that, yes, micro-USB can only be plugged in one way, but once you figure out which way with any given device, it’s not hard to use going forward.

And then life happened.

To explain this, let’s just say that micro-USB has a big side and a small side. You can see that here:

And on virtually all devices—Windows Phone and Android smart phones, Kindles, whatever—when you plug in a min-USB cable, the small side is aligned to the front of the device, like so:

However, the HTC Windows Phone 8X I love so much inexplicably reverses this configuration. For some reason on this device, the big side of the plug is aligned to the front of the device:

This has really started to screw me up, since I move from device to device pretty frequently. But the thing is, of all the devices I have currently, the only two that require no thought at all are the new iPod touch and iPad mini, both of which use the new Lightning connector. Plugging those devices in is more than easy. It just happens.

So, there you go. Not a fan of the proprietary connectors. But Apple got that one right. We need a USB standard that is similarly double-sided. Perhaps we should just let Apple do it for the rest of the industry.

Next up, I’ll tackle the meaty issue of whether that connector should be on the top or bottom of the device. No, not really. :)

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