Tag Archive for ‘Lightning’

Apple Testing iPhones With USB-C Ports ➝

“People with knowledge of the situation” is a pretty loose citation, but Mark Gurman’s track record is pretty darn good. Along with what feels like everyone else on the planet, I would love to see the iPhone move to USB-C. Lightning is a better connector in a lot of ways, but having a single cable type for all of my devices would be so much nicer.

➝ Source: bloomberg.com

Belkin Debuts First MFi-Certified Power Bank With Lightning Input ➝

Eric Slivka, writing for MacRumors:

Belkin today is launching the first power bank with Lightning input to be officially certified under Apple’s MFi licensing program, assuring that the product meets Apple’s standards for quality and compatibility. Belkin’s BOOST↑­CHARGE Power Bank Lightning 10K, priced at $59.99, offers 10,000 mAh of charging power and is recharged over a Lightning connector using either a USB-to-Lightning cable or a compatible Lightning dock sold separately.

I bought Aukey’s 3600 mAh power bank with Lightning input last year in my quest to go Lightning everything in my travel kit. But the Aukey isn’t MFi certified, the capacity is fairly small, and the unit tends to get hot while in use. This Belkin model looks like a great replacement and it even features LED indicator lights that give you a decent amount of granularity regarding the battery’s current charge.

I’d like to see Belkin head this direction with their Valet Charger as well, which has an Apple Watch charging pad on top. That would be an ideal travel charger for me because I wouldn’t have to clutter my bag with an Apple Watch charging cable. But the Valet Charger charges over Micro-USB and I’d likely want to keep a compatible cable in bag, which defeats the purpose. If Belkin offered a Valet Charger with Lightning input, it would be a no-brainer.

Update: Greg Morris noted on Twitter that Besiter has been selling MFi certified power banks with Lightning inputs for some time.

Lightning Everything

It’s safe to say that I was a bit concerned when the Wall Street Journal published a piece that indicated Apple would be removing the Lightning connector from future iPhones and replacing it with a USB-C port. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of an open standard for charging — having a single cable that will work on Android phones, iPhones, MacBooks and potentially iPads would take a huge step towards simplifying the charging process for everyone.

My concerns were primarily selfish in nature, though. Just a few weeks ago I started the process of transitioning everything in my travel bag to replacements that charge over Lightning. The primary goal was to reduce the amount of cables I needed to bring with me and eliminate the frustration associated with finding the right cable for each device when I’m riffling through my bag.

Imagine my surprise when I read that Ming-Chi Kuo had clarified the rumor, saying that future iPhones would retain the Lightning connector, but that it would gain USB-C capabilities — much like the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which supports USB 3.0 transfer speeds and faster charging when used with a Lightning to USB-C cable. This was great news. I could continue transitioning to Lightning everything without the worry of reverting my bag to a mess of cables when I purchase the next iPhone this fall.

You may be wondering what I could possibly have in my bag that allows me to go all-in on Lightning. There certainly must be something that requires, at least, a micro-USB cable. Well, no, everything in my bag has a Lightning connector.

My bag contains my entire everyday computing setup. I’ve been able to pare it back considerably since I’ve switched to iOS, but I’m still able to get everything done on these devices without ever needing to interact with a non-Lightning power cable. I specify “power” because I still have to carry an HDMI cable with me for the times when I want to watch video content on our hotel room’s television.

The first, and most obvious item in my bag is the iPad Air 2. It’s my primary computing device and where I do the vast majority of my work. It’s powered over Lightning, like the iPhone in my pocket, and every other iOS device Apple makes. And will make for the foreseeable future, thankfully.

Next, we have the Magic Keyboard and the Aukey 3600mAh Portable Power Bank. The Magic Keyboard isn’t anything particularly special. I’ve only had it for a few weeks and I’ve been lukewarm on it so far. The slim design and Lightning charging port are fantastic, but I still find myself getting a little lost in areas of the keyboard — especially the arrow keys. I haven’t found the shallow key travel to be as irritating as I was worried it would be. The pleasant clicking sound of the butterfly mechanism more than makes up for their lack of travel.

The Aukey Power Bank is a unique product, though. It’s the only external battery I’m aware of that charges over Lightning. It doesn’t appear to feature MFi certification, so my impression is that Aukey made it without Apple’s blessing. That would explain why no one else is making portable batteries with Lightning ports. But this is a tremendous product. It isn’t going to give you multiple-days-worth of charge for your iPhone or iPad, but its small enough to fit in your bag without adding much weight and the convenience of the Lightning port is unparalleled.

For trips when I expect to have a fair amount of downtime (which is rare) I have the SteelSeries Nimbus. It is, what I’d consider to be, the absolute best MFi controller available. I can prop up my iPad in the Twelve South Compass or plug it into whatever television is available, with the Lightning to HDMI adapter, and play some of the best games that iOS has to offer. And when I’m finished gaming, I can recharge the controller using the same cable I used with my iPhone.

The Future

There are two more Lightning-powered items that I’d like to add to my kit — AirPods and the Beats Pill+ (or a similar, Lightning-powered Bluetooth speaker). I’ve already ordered the AirPods, but Apple’s having serious supply issues and the estimated ship date isn’t for another five weeks. I’m hoping, by some miracle, that Apple will get them to me sooner than that. I’m growing tired of fighting with wires and I’d like to take them with me on a weekend trip in early April.

Everything I’ve read about AirPods have been positive overall and I imagine my experience with them will be no different. I’m ready for this courageous, new wireless world and a pair of Bluetooth headphones that charge over Lightning and are built on the W1 chip seem like the absolute best way to go.

I wish Apple offered a similar solution in the Bluetooth speaker market. The closest device available is the Beats Pill+, which charges over Lightning but isn’t built on the W1 chip. It’s a nice speaker, by most accounts, but I would hate to spend over $200 on a speaker that could be replaced by something significantly better sometime this year.

Luckily, I don’t find myself wanting a Bluetooth speaker too often. I think I’ll be able to hold out until later this fall to find out if Apple releases one with the W1 chip. If not, I’ll probably end up with the Beats Pill+, if only because its powered over Lightning.

To recap, here are the Lightning-powered devices that I currently have at my disposal, or plan to have in the near future:

As I said, that’s my entire, everyday carry computing setup. I do have a Mac mini at home that I occasionally use for tasks that require a Mac, but those are few and far between. And of course, I always interact with the Mac mini over VNC using Screens on the iPad — I almost never need direct access to the machine, I can do it all remotely, wherever I am.

I couldn’t have been happier to hear that Apple isn’t going to leave Lightning behind anytime soon. With everything in my bag being powered by the same cables, I can reduce clutter and limit the total number of cables required to power all of my devices. For the foreseeable future, I don’t expect to need more than two Lightning cables and a single, two-port charger when I travel. And that is something to get excited about.

Ming-Chi Kuo: All 2017 iPhones Will Have Lightning Connectors ➝

Joe Rossignol, writing for MacRumors:

Kuo expects Apple to retain the Lightning port given it has a slightly slimmer design compared to a USB-C port, to sustain MFi Program licensing income from Lightning accessories, and because he believes USB-C’s high-speed data transmission is “still a niche application” for iPhone.

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro already supports USB 3.0 speeds and fast charging with a Lightning to USB-C cable, while iPhones and other devices with a Lightning connector still transfer at USB 2.0 speeds.

This should allow for backwards compatibility with existing cables and accessories while improving charging time and data transfers when using a Lightning to USB-C cable.

I think Nick Heer had the best take on this:

One of the great things about the Lightning connector is how it’s able to abstract all of this under-the-hood stuff and make it really consumer-friendly. […] Lightning is just Lightning, even when it isn’t; the only thing consumers will notice about the new iPhones will be how much faster they charge.

Apple May Replace Lightning Connector With USB-C in iPhone 8 ➝

Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9 to 5 Mac:

The Wall Street Journal has outlined their current thinking on the next new iPhone from Apple, colloquially dubbed the iPhone 8. They believe that Apple will replace the Lightning connector on the bottom of the phone with a USB-C port, ditching its own propriety connector with an industry standard.

I hope this rumor is inaccurate. In an effort to simplify my travel setup, I recently started transitioning all of my portable accessories — external battery, wireless keyboard, and headphones — to models that charge over Lightning. Only needing to pack one type of cable is a big deal and I’d like to keep it that way for more than six months.

At the very least, I’d prefer Apple move to USB-C in only the rumored iPhone Pro and iPhone 7s Plus models, rather than the entire line. This would give me an additional two years with a single type of cable in my bag.

I’m all for moving to a more open standard, but I think it would be a mistake transitioning so soon after they doubled down on Lightning as the only connector on the iPhone 7.

My Tech Travel Bag

Early last week, my wife and I flew to Jamaica for our honeymoon. We had a wonderful time relaxing on the beach, snorkeling, and eating some of the best food we’ve ever had. This trip was also an opportunity for me to evaluate the tech we bring with us on trips and whether we could pare it down to a more simple kit. This is what we brought with us:

What's in my bag?

  1. Tom Bihn Ristretto: This isn’t the current version of the Ristretto, it’s an earlier iteration that’s designed to fit the 11-inch MacBook Air. I like it because of its sturdy construction and numerous pockets for all our gear. The newer Ristretto features a zippered front that helps prevent your stuff from spilling out. The one thing keeping me from upgrading is that Tom Bihn no longer offers it in the smaller size. Which is unfortunate, because this size makes a great iPad bag.
  2. Canon PowerShot G9 X: We bought this a few months ago, upon the recommendation of The Wirecutter. It’s a compact, lightweight camera with more features than we know what to do with. We were looking for something that was easy to use at the start, with more advanced features we could learn down the road. We wanted something that gave us photos that were better than those taken with our iPhones and the G9 X fit the bill perfectly without costing us an arm and a leg.
  3. 32GB SanDisk Extreme SDHC Card: This SD card was available for free alongside the G9 X when we ordered it earlier this year. Unfortunately, that deal is no longer available, but it’s still a great product. I’m sure there are better SD cards available, but I’ve been more than happy with this one.
  4. Tom Bihn Medium Clear Organizer Pouch: I like to keep my gear as organized as possible when I’m traveling and these zipper pouches from Tom Bihn are perfect. Their best feature is the little clip on the corner that can be used to secure the pouch to the inside of your bag. I left it attached the entire trip and only pulled it out of the Ristretto just enough to get the cables or adapters I needed without having to separate the two.
  5. Two Apple EarPods: While most of our friends have upgraded to fancier in-ear headphones, my wife and I have stuck with Apple’s white earbuds. I’m sure we’d be happier if we bought something else, but these work just fine. We find them comfortable to wear and the audio quality is perfectly acceptable given that we spend most of our time listening to podcasts with varying degrees of audio quality.
  6. Case Logic Ultra Compact Camera Case: I needed something to protect our camera from drops and prevent damage if it was jostled inside our bag. This was an inexpensive case that claimed to fit the G9 X and that’s exactly why I bought it.
  7. Lightning to SD Card Reader: While the 32GB SD card was more than enough storage for all the photos we took during our trip, I still wanted to offload images onto the iPad before we got home. That way we could view the images on a larger screen, edit, and share them throughout our trip. We could have used the Lightning to USB Camera Adapter, but this is a much cleaner solution.
  8. Canon Battery Charger: In hindsight, I don’t think I would have packed this item. We used our camera quite a bit and never ended up needing to charge it. But even if we did, the cameras in our iPhones would have sufficed. If we were going on a longer trip, maybe, but at just five days, it wasn’t necessary.
  9. Original TwelveSouth Compass and Sleeve: I bought this for my first-generation iPad several years ago and I continue to use it today. If I was in the market for one now, I’d probably purchase the Compass 2. Although, saving about $20 by buying the older model is also appealing. There isn’t that much difference between the two models and, in my experience, they last forever.
  10. iPad Air 2: Since I purchased this device 18 months ago, it has slowly taken over as my primary machine for nearly every task. I still have a Mac mini which serves as our backup target for iOS devices and hosts our iTunes and Photos libraries. But for all of my day-to-day work, this is what I use to get it done. I own the 64GB, Wi-Fi-only model in space gray. Although, I do have my eye on the iPad Pro lineup. I expect, when I eventually upgrade, I’ll purchase the newest 9.7-inch Pro with at least 128GB of storage.
  11. Tom Bihn Small Halcyon Organizer Pouch: All the features of the clear pouch, but with a punch of color rather than a translucent side. I use this one to house small adapters and cables.
  12. Anker PowerPort 4: I’ve written about this already, but the PowerPort 4 has just enough USB ports to charge all of my devices when I travel. Since I didn’t bring my Apple Watch, I could charge my iPhone, iPad, portable battery, and my wife’s iPhone from a single wall outlet.
  13. Anker Micro USB Cable: The one I have came with the PowerCore 13000 and is about two feet long. It doesn’t seem to be available separately, so I decided to link to a one-foot cable instead. The Anker battery is the only item in my bag that uses it and I’d rather have a shorter cable anyway.
  14. Apple USB Power Adapter: Like every person in the world, my wife prefers to charge her iPhone on her side of the bed. We have — what seems like — dozens of these laying around the house and they’re incredibly compact and perfect for traveling.
  15. Anker PowerCore 13000: Anker seems to have the market cornered on portable batteries. They’re inexpensive, well-built, and reliable. I bought this one specifically because it hit the sweet spot between size and capacity while also featuring two USB ports. In an ideal world, we’d never have to use this. But if anything happened to go wrong on our trip, this would be a godsend.
  16. Anker Battery Pouch: I could have listed this alongside the Anker battery — as I did with the Compass — because it comes in the box and isn’t available separately. But I don’t think I’ll be packing this again. It’s not made out of particularly good materials and it’s just unnecessary. It only holds the Anker battery and I already keep that in its own pocket inside the Ristretto.
  17. Three Apple Lightning to USB Cables: We brought two iPhones and an iPad, they have to get charged somehow. Like the Apple USB charger, we have dozens of these laying around the house and haven’t had any reason to buy new ones. I have my eye on the Night Cable by Native Union for use at home, but I’ll probably continue using Apple’s Lightning cables for travel until they don’t work any more.
  18. Herschel Supply Co. Anchor Sleeve: A very simple sleeve built out of quality materials. I’ve only had it a couple weeks and I’m already impressed by it. I don’t keep my iPad in a case, but if it took a tumble inside this sleeve, I have confidence that it would make it through unscathed. The Anchor sleeve comes in several colors — I considered getting it in black, to match most of my kit, but thought it would be wise to add a little color to my life.
  19. Tom Bihn Key Strap: This is usually just for keeping my keys from falling out of the bag, but we occasionally use it to keep oddball items that we pick up in the airport from getting lost.
  20. 3-Foot RadioShack HDMI Cable: We got this for free as part of a special deal when we ordered our fourth-generation Apple TV. There’s nothing special about it, but it works just fine for our needs.
  21.  Lightning Digital AV Adapter: We hate cable television. And although we don’t spend too much time watching TV when we travel, we like to have it on for an hour or so before we fall asleep. This lets us connect our iPhones or iPad to the hotel TV and watch Hulu, Netflix, or YouTube, just as we do at home.
  22. Tom Bihn Mini Halcyon Organizer Pouch: This was a last minute addition to our travel kit. I wanted a small zippered pouch that we could keep our headphones and a single Lightning cable in for quick access. I was more than happy with the small Halcyon Pouch we had bought previously and decided to buy another one in the “mini” size. It was just big enough to fit the items that we would need during travel while still being small enough to fit inside one of the pockets in the Ristretto’s front compartment.

This setup worked well and there isn’t much I would change about it. I’ll probably drop the Anker battery pouch and, unless I’m going on a longer trip, I don’t think I’ll be packing the camera charger again.

I would like to add a headphone splitter, though. On the plane, my wife and I ended up sharing a single pair of headphones because we wanted to listen to a podcast episode together. A headphone splitter would let us listen from a single device without accidentally pulling the earbud out of the other person’s ear.

One last thing that’s worth pointing out: I didn’t bring my Apple Watch. My original packing list included my Watch charging cable and a couple extra bands, but I decided against bring it on this trip. Don’t get me wrong, I still wear my Watch everyday while at home, but I didn’t want yet another device to keep track of and worry about charging during our travels.

Fully Functional Lightning EarPods Shown Off ➝

Mitchel Broussard, writing for MacRumors:

Today, MobileFun posted a video of a working pair of Lightning EarPods, and the overall look of the accessory appears more in line with Apple’s design than any of the previous leaks.

The housing around the lightning connector looks a bit longer than I would have expected from Apple. But I expect something that looks a lot like this to be in-box alongside the next iPhone in a month or two.

Possible Apple Lightning-to-Headphone Adapter Surfaces ➝

Mitchel Broussard, writing for MacRumors:

As shown in the pictures shared today, the adapter’s cord appears short and visually similar to that of Apple’s current adapters sold on its website, including the USB-C to USB and Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet accessories. The Lightning plug does not appear to fit particularly well into its sheath, but it’s unclear if it might be an incomplete part, damaged during disassembly, or simply a knockoff product.

The legitimacy of this particular adapter seems sketchy to me, but if Apple does release a product like this, I expect it will look very similar.