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Apple Hardware Technology

Apple Is Letting Companies Make 3.5mm To Lightning Cables Now (9to5mac.com) 110

Apple has updated the specs for its Made-For-iPhone accessories program, letting accessory makers put USB-C ports on licensed devices, as well as create 3.5mm to Lightning cables for the first time. 9to5Mac reports: With the new specs, companies in the MFi program can now include USB-C receptacles on their officially certified iOS and Mac accessories for charging. That allows users to charge MFi accessories with a USB-C cable and or power adapter they might already have, for example, and also draw power from the USB port on a Mac using the same cable. It also has other advantages for manufacturers. Apple's documentation for the new specs lists battery packs and speakers as products that could benefit from using a USB-C receptacle. Products are also allowed to bundle USB-C cables with the MFi accessories, but manufacturers can opt to not include a cable or adapter and reduce their costs and or price in the process. Unlike with Lightning receptacles, Apple does not allow the port to be used for passthrough charging or sync of an iOS device. Also, new for accessory makers is the ability to create a Lightning to 3.5mm stereo analog audio output plug, which would allow users to go direct from the Lightning port to a 3.5mm input on another device.
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Apple Is Letting Companies Make 3.5mm To Lightning Cables Now

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  • "Unlike with Lightning receptacles, Apple does not allow the port to be used for passthrough charging or sync of an iOS device". -What does that mean? Does it mean I can't do a Lightning to USB C cable (which yes, I'm aware already exist) under this programme?
    • Re:Clarification? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2018 @06:39AM (#56251317) Journal

      It sounds as if Apple is worried that malicious devices will attempt to MITM the connections from iTunes to the device. Even if none of the certified devices do this, making iOS users expect other bits of hardware to be on the line in the nominally secure path makes it easier for uncertified devices to find their way into common use. In theory, everything is encrypted, but there may well be timing attacks that work if you can interpose some hardware.

      It also sounds as if they're also worried that things won't correctly forward the power control signals or manipulate them to account for the drain of the device on the line and so the iOS device will get more or (more likely) less power than it expects. This is important with regards to the throttling that they do: peak power consumption for an unthrottled iPhone is more than the peak power output of an old battery. This isn't normally a problem on mains power, but it is if the mains power is lower than advertised.

      • by Hylandr ( 813770 )

        If you're referring to software that intercepts audio for recording it's a trivial effort to cut the wires at the earpieces and patch to another device recording. Just make sure the grounding braid is disconnected at the jack to prevent the 60hz hum and you're golden.

        We used to do this back in the 8 track and cassette days. Looks like I need to grab that reel to reel I saw in Good will the other day...

        • If you're referring to software that intercepts audio for recording

          No, I'm talking about hardware that intercepts the digital signals during sync. Not sure how you'd read what I wrote to talk about intercepting audio.

          • by Hylandr ( 813770 )

            Ultimately the end result is to record music to *listen* to it at some point.

            Humans have ears, not hardware paths. We don't process digital signals, we need analog. In the end, there will be speaker coils causing air to move to create sound we can hear.

            The hardware path is irrelevant. The end use is analog. Which is what really boggles the mind as why they would use USB C for audio if they don't also allow charging or other activities to bring value to the change at the same time.

            • No, the goal (for a malicious device) is to intercept the sync between iTunes and the iOS device, compromise the key exchange, and exfiltrate credentials (and possibly other sensitive information. The goal for a less malicious device is to do the same interception during a firmware update and allow jailbreaking. Nothing I have written has anything to do with audio.
              • by Hylandr ( 813770 )

                I see what you're saying. You didn't mention anything about audio, but for me that's all those devices are really any good for. Actually using them is a completely separate matter.

                There's absolutely zero Apple products or software allowed in my house or on my network so it's a moot point anyways.

    • I believe it means you cannot use data (including wired headphones) and charge through the lightning port at the same time. The dock is still the only device that can. On 8,X you can use wireless charging and wired headphones, or on flavors of 7,8,X you can use Bluetooth headphones and charge over wire. Not to mention many of the adapter cables, like the Belkin cable, have terrible reviews.
      • by Bombcar ( 16057 )

        These exist, but the amount of text around it makes me think they're unauthorized (it talks about maybe having to reboot the phone, etc).

        https://smile.amazon.com/gp/pr... [amazon.com]

        • Yeah, those have been a thing since about two weeks after Slashdot wanted to break out the bitch-forks about Apple doing away with the stereo plug. Then the gripe became "I don't want to have to carry around another 0.3 ounces of wire with my huge 3 pound stereo cans that already take up half of my bag!" Or, "it's something else to lose, because I can't figure out that I can just keep it in the case with my headphones, or just plugged into the end of the headphone cable!"

          It was probably stupid for Apple t

          • break out the bitch-forks

            LOL! Great phrase!!!

  • AppleKiller (Score:5, Funny)

    by LordHighExecutioner ( 4245243 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2018 @06:21AM (#56251281)
    Some years ago a clever inventor developed and marketed the EtherKiller [etherkiller.org]. The development of new connectors and better batteries brought researchers to the development of the USB kill [usbkill.com], a device that - among other advantages - can be operated without mains connection. This makes devices of the USB kill series ideal for testing modern equipment in an off-the-grid environment.
    Now that Apple updated the specs for the Lighting connector, we can reasonably expect the prompt delivery to the market of the Applekiller, for properly testing iPhones and similar equipments released by the well known firm in Cupertino. It is worth to note that probably the developers of the iPhone had exactly this in mind, when they nicknamed the new connector as "Lightning".
  • Uhm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GeekWithAKnife ( 2717871 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2018 @06:29AM (#56251301)

    Visionary? Magical? Great innovation?

    Reinventing the wheel might be great, unless of course all you need is a wheel.

    3.5mm jack just works. It's cheap it does what it needs to do. No real need to change it yet.

    If they really want to do something new with sound they should make their stupid music app play FLAC. Isnt that the whole point of getting sound over W1 headphones? (AKA"special blutetooth")

    Seriously, for such an innovator this is rubbish.
    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      You misunderstand. It's not visionary, innovative products. It's visionary, innovative consumer lock-in.
    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Visionary? Magical? Great innovation?

      Reinventing the wheel might be great, unless of course all you need is a wheel.

      3.5mm jack just works. It's cheap it does what it needs to do. No real need to change it yet.

      If they really want to do something new with sound they should make their stupid music app play FLAC. Isnt that the whole point of getting sound over W1 headphones? (AKA"special blutetooth")

      Seriously, for such an innovator this is rubbish.

      Spotted your problem. You seem to think that Apple is an innovator, not a marketer.

    • Or they could stop the pissing match with Qualcomm and support AptX (which they already do on macOS) so that the wireless music doesn't sound like garbage unless you have their special headphones, or one of a handful of other headphone sets that supports AAC over bluetooth...

      SBC encoding is god damn garbage.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        Or they could stop the pissing match with Qualcomm and support AptX (which they already do on macOS) so that the wireless music doesn't sound like garbage unless you have their special headphones, or one of a handful of other headphone sets that supports AAC over bluetooth...

        Problem. Qualcomm refuses to license AptX unless Apple uses Qualcomm's modems. And Qualcomm refuses to budge on their license fees.

        And because of the various Qualcomm lawsuits, Qualcomm refuses to license, period.

        I'd rather guess that A

    • 3.5mm jack just works. It's cheap it does what it needs to do. No real need to change it yet.

      There is a real need, which is some people (not you, of course) would like a phone that's thinner than the 3.5mm jack + casing will allow.

      Please stop conflating my need with a real need or even anyone else's need. There are many phones on the market, you can pick one that suits you best without thinking ill of anyone else's choice.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by BronsCon ( 927697 )
        The surface-mount implementation of the lightning jack measures more than 3.5mm thick (the cable-end version is 3.4mm thick) and requires that the case be soldered flat to the board for stability, so it can't be installed in a cut-out in the board.

        Meanwhile, there exist 3.5mm headphone jacks which exploit the fact that the plug is cylindrical and only have material on two sides, making them exactly 3.5mm thick. The recommended installation for these is in a cut-out in the board, to keep them from spreadin
        • I'm not sure how this is redundant but... I might as well also add that the current iPad models, which have a headphone jack, are a full 1.2mm thinner than the current iPhone models which do not. 1.6mm if you prefer the iPhone X.

          I don't buy that ditching the 3.5mm connector makes devices thinner when the ones without it are 18% (or more) thicker. Of course, you're welcome to buy whatever you want; I just want you to know that if you buy that excuse, you're getting a load of bullshit.
    • Visionary? Magical? Great innovation?

      Reinventing the wheel might be great, unless of course all you need is a wheel.

      3.5mm jack just works. It's cheap it does what it needs to do. No real need to change it yet.

      If they really want to do something new with sound they should make their stupid music app play FLAC. Isnt that the whole point of getting sound over W1 headphones? (AKA"special blutetooth")

      Seriously, for such an innovator this is rubbish.

      Even though W1-equipped Apple earbuds stream over 256k AAC (which I defy any human to distinguish from lossless), it appears your ridiculous, storage-wasting wish has been granted:

      https://www.theverge.com/2017/... [theverge.com]

      But seriously? FLAC (or ALAC) on a fucking PHONE used in a Mobile environment is ASININE.

  • by mentil ( 1748130 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2018 @06:55AM (#56251357)

    Alternate headline: Apple creeping towards a USB-C future. This move sounds suspiciously like the lead-up to a surprise announcement that they're courageously killing Lightning and replacing it with USB-C. Long overdue, IMO. Lightning is still limited to USB 2.0 speeds, and the latest revision of Thunderbolt uses the USB-C connector. Macbooks use USB-C as well, so iDevices are the only Apple things not yet using that connector... and would have much to gain by doing so. One of the last pieces of the puzzle was digital audio over USB... which had an official protocol finalized in the past year or so. Now that 3rd party manufacturers can produce licensed iDevice compatible gadgets with USB-C ports, everything is in place. Sure they'd have to include a USB-C to 3.5mm dongle instead of the Lightning one, but switching over sooner would be pulling the band-aid off quickly. People who bought those Lightning headphones would have to get a USB-C to Lightning adapter, as well.

    • by mccalli ( 323026 )
      See, I had previously hoped that as well but the release of their keyboards and mice and stylus, which charge over Lightning not USB C, now makes me think otherwise. I really would prefer all-USB C though.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      The USB audio spec was first published in 1995, around 23 years ago: http://www.usb.org/developers/... [usb.org]

      Android users have been enjoying USB digital audio since the very early days. Standard audiophile set-up is a USB DAC attached to the phone with a rubber band, and the "strapped to the back of a phone" form factor is fairly common these days.

      • by mentil ( 1748130 )

        I was referring to the publishing of Audio Device Class 3.0, which made it energy-efficient enough to be a feasible 3.5mm jack replacement. This was published in September 2016.

  • Two years too late (Score:5, Interesting)

    by monkeyxpress ( 4016725 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2018 @07:29AM (#56251409)

    As an embedded developer I think USB-C is a pretty good standard (cobbled together for sure, but not overly expensive and lots of good backwards compatibility). The connector is also a nice size/shape and should serve us well for many years to come. Apple was definitely on the right track when it pushed USB-C over other connectors on its 2016 Macbook pros. But why on earth has it taken them nearly two years to allow accessory makers to use this through MFi?

    Having worked for some big companies, it feels like they pushed USB-C into the MBP on ideology (and to be fair, they have pulled these shifts off before), but then lost interest in following through with developing the eco-system. Some junior engineer probably got given the job of trawling the not-inconsiderable USB-3.1 spec to come up with a policy document for MFi, and they've only just managed to get it sorted out.

    They seem to be dropping the ball on a lot of stuff like this recently. Homepod was delayed. The air charging mat is not here yet. The delays on the Airpods. I know that no big company lasts forever, but surely all that work they did to infuse the organisation with 'steve jobs think' could keep the magic going a bit longer. Personally I feel that Cook has and always will act as a caretaker, wanting to make the smallest changes possible in the belief that the spirit of Jobs lives on. But the technology market moves at an immense pace. They still make great products, but without strong ideas and assertive changes of direction, the company is increasingly getting left behind.

    • But why on earth has it taken them nearly two years to allow accessory makers to use this through MFi?

      Oh, that's easy:

      1. (Skip)
      2. (Skip)
      3. Profit!

      Personally I feel that Cook has and always will act as a caretaker, wanting to make the smallest changes possible in the belief that the spirit of Jobs lives on.

      Oh, the spirit of Jobs really does live on:

      "We can do whatever we want and annoy our users, but they will still buy our products anyway . . . because we're Apple!"

    • by sootman ( 158191 )

      > The connector is also a nice size/shape and should serve us well for many years
      > to come. Apple was definitely on the right track when it pushed USB-C over other
      > connectors on its 2016 Macbook pros. But why on earth has it taken them nearly
      > two years to allow accessory makers to use this through MFi?

      The bigger question is, why has it taken them over two years (because it hasn't happened yet) to ship USB-C cables with iPhones? You can walk into an Apple store today and buy the most expensive

  • I bet the 3.5 mm headphone adapters will sell like hotcakes. Isn't it weird that Apple needs to officially allow 3rd parties to fix the fundamental design flaws of the iPhones? I hope that everyone who buys such an adapter sends the bill to Apple for reimbursement. If Apple is a decent company they pay up for their moronic blunder.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Why would I need to buy an adapter? One comes included with the iPhone in addition to the includes headset which is enough for most people.

      And if you need another one, it's only $9. Before you complain about this being expensive, look up what a USB-C to 3,5mm Adapter for the Pixel 2 phones costs. The ones I found on Amazon just now were around $17.

      • by tsqr ( 808554 )

        From TFA: Accessory makers in Apple’s Made-for-iPhone/iPad/iPod (MFi) licensing program now have the ability to create new types of products as the company adds specs for a Lightning to 3.5mm output cable and USB-C ports. [emphasis added]

        This is not a dongle that lets you plug headphones into your phone's lightning port. This is a dongle that lets you plug your phone's lightning port into another device's input port; e.g., your car's accessory audio input.

        • what's the difference?
          Car stereo or heatphones, both are outputs devices

          • You can't plug a female jack into a female jack; you need another cable for the car stereo. The newly-allowed configuration would be a single cable. It's silly, yes, but that's the difference.
      • Are we allowed to criticise both? There was no need to remove the 3.5mm jack. It doesn't improve the product in any way. "But but the other side..." doesn't excuse Apple's poor choice.

      • I can find the Apple adapters for $17 (or even more) on Amazon, as well. Google sells one [google.com] for $9, just like Apple. Amazon also sells 2-pack for $11, [amazon.com] one with charging capabilities [amazon.com] for $9, and a slew of others [amazon.com] that start out pretty cheap.

        Google also lets other manufacturers make Android phones, some of which have headphone jacks built right in (what a novel idea), so I have the option of foregoing the dongle, if I don't want to deal with it. If I want a current-model phone running iOS, I don't have that op
    • Unless allowing 3rd party manufacturers to make the adapters is a sign that their newest phone will have a 3.5mm jack, making the 3rd party adapters unneeded...
  • I bought an MFi certified Scosche car power adapter with lightning to 3.5mm out back in April of last year. It charges the phone and provides 3.5mm audio out for connecting to the Aux jack on a car radio. Works great!

    • by sl3xd ( 111641 )

      There have been MFi certified adapters for quite some time now... This isn't news, it's clickbait.

  • by ScooterComputer ( 10306 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2018 @11:01AM (#56252289)

    I think this story should serve for non-technical buyers to provide greater awareness of the amount of CONTROL that Apple wields upon their ecosystem. Many users are completely unaware that Apple effectively sets what you can, and often CANNOT, buy to interface with your iDevice. And consumers should know... because when they can't get that accessory they want, or they blame a vendor when a device uses a USB micro-B port/cable instead of Lightning, often their ire is misplaced at the vendors when 90% of the time it is Apple that has denied them the solution they desire. And considering how many vendors "take it on the chin" and never publicly inform the buyers of this, I can only assume there is a non-disparagement clause in the MFi license as well. From the amount of abuse that some vendors take and still remain silent, Apple might be the biggest "abuser" in the relationship. Certainly Apple took advantage with their passthrough Lightning port-to-Lightning plug used in the "bandaid" iPhone battery cases; they even used the fact that their case had it as a competitive finger in the eye to their partners... all without mentioning that they themselves prohibited the vendors from using such a port/plug combination. Mophie has remained silent, still can't use the part. Oddly, tech "journalists" reported the "marketing", knocking MFi partners in reviews for not having the port rather than reporting to buyers about Apple's shenanigans. I've not read a single review yet where this control over ports/options has been exposed.

  • Can they now reimburse me for the additional $100+ I spent on a DVI to USB Type-C adapter for my monitor, which only occasionally works right, and three USB Type-A to USB Type-C adapters for my peripherals? Yes, yes, I went ahead and bought a "magic mouse" to eliminate the need for one adapter, but I hate it and had to move back to my Logitech mouse for my sanity.

    I don't know. You spend nearly $3K on a new MacBook Pro and you just assume the company might include a few adapters that probably cost Apple abou

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