Questions about the Lightning Adapter


One of the major changes with the iPhone 5 and new iPods going forward is the Lightning adapter. Apple has used 30-pin dock connector for many years but has moved on to smaller and better things claiming the size of the 30-pin connector was creating design problems. The new Lightning connector brings many advances, but it also leaves millions of dock-enabled accessories behind. 

Now, I'm not against change. The 30-pin connector has been around many years and had a good run. Also, let's not forget Apple's going to make a fortune in licensing fees and adapter sales and third party vendors are going to make a killing selling new products. (So maybe this is how the Lightning raises the GDP) However, as with any pre-release device there are still many unanswered questions about exactly how this Lightning adapter is going to work while we transition to new Lightning enabled devices.

During the keynote I tweeted this photo of my current car audio setup: 

IMG 1386

I understand I'm probably an edge case, but I have a 1997 Toyota with an after-market JVC audio system installed. The head unit is pre-iPhone which means it uses FireWire for power. The First adapter in line is a Scosche passPORT charging adapter which allows accessories that do not support USB charing to work with the newer iPods and iPhones.   The second adapter is the RadTech ProCable Shortz Dock Extender which was necessary because the Scosche adapter was too think to fit through the Bumper and most other cases.  I tweeted, sarcastically, that I was no going to have to add yet another ridiculous adapter to my collection to keep my antiquated system running. 

However, upon further review of Apple's online store: 


The fine print indicates that it works with "many" accessories and that Video and iPod Out are not supported. After searching Apple's site and the web I haven't been able to find any explanation. My suspicion is this means that the iPod control pass through isn't supported, meaning the dials on my head unit (or on any third party speaker systems, etc) won't control the iPhone and instead i'll have to manually control the iPhone to advance my music and podcasts. this is problematic, but something I can live with.

However, some have suggested this means iPod audio is not supported, which would be a much more stringent limitation and would mean that this adapter wouldn't work with millions of existing car stereo and speaker systems. In the Keynote, it was mentioned this adapter could be used with car stereo systems and speakers. But I am cautious because until early reviewers are able to release their hands-on accounts or these items are widely available to the public we just won't know.

If your stereo system supports an auxiliary input or bluetooth, you should be fine. Regrettably, mine does not. So I may start pricing new head units this weekend in advance of the iPhone's arrival.

One final thought  - how are these adapters going to work in "dock based" systems? I have an iHome alarm clock unit I keep by my bed where I dock my iPhone at night. I can use an adapter to make it work with my new iPhone, but based on the design, it looks like the iPhone would only be supported by the Lightning port creating stress on both the 30-pin dock on the iHome, the adapter itself and the innards of the iPhone. There is a Cable based adapter for $10 more that could be used, but you'd no longer be able to "dock" the iPod. Looks like I'll be in the market for another alarm clock this holiday season.