Apple Sneaks a USB 3.0-Compatible Lightning Port Into the iPad Pro

Andrew Cunningham, Ars Technica:

Our full review of the iPad Pro covers a lot of ground, but there is one small item that escaped our notice. When iFixit tore the device apart, it found a USB 3.0 controller, and Apple has confirmed to us that the new iPad Pro will in fact support USB 3.0 transfer speeds over its Lightning port. USB 3.0 supports theoretical transfer speeds of up to 5Gbps, a little over 10 times faster than USB 2.0’s 480Mbps.

Via John Gruber, who notes:

I don’t know when we’ll see Apple take advantage of this new Lightning port (the cable that ships with the iPad Pro is still just USB 2), but I think it’s every bit as capable as USB-C. I bet it can handle not just USB 3, but also Thunderbolt and DisplayPort/HDMI 4K.

The upcoming Thunderbolt 3 takes advantage of a USB-C connector, replacing the DisplayPort-style connector of Thunderbolts 1 and 2. And it has another advantage, too:

Previous iterations of the Thunderbolt were costly because they required an “active” cable, which has a chip in it to boost performance. The move to a USB Type-C connector, plus the ability of Thunderbolt 3 to work with both fast, active cables (40 Gb/s) and less-expensive, passive cables (up to 20 Gb/s), means that cost will be less of an issue this time around.

I think there’s a good chance that the Lightning port within the iPad Pro and 2016 model iPads1 could take advantage of the USB 3 and potential Thunderbolt capabilities. I’m less certain about the iPhones; I think they could retain the current-style Lightning port for a while yet.

  1. The iPad Mini 4, also refreshed this year, retains the older-style Lightning port. ↥︎