Lightning replaced the 30-pin connection that has been used on most Apple devices since the introduction of the original iPod. With such a legacy behind it the change is something of a shock to many long-term Apple fans, who now find themselves having to deal with a device that doesn’t physically fit many of the accessories we own. See also: iPhone 5 review.
Fortunately Apple has (admittedly, a good three weeks after the launch of the iPhone 5) released this Lightning to 30-pin Adaptor that enables you to attach older 30-pin dock devices and cables to the newer iPhone 5. See Apple Advisor.
Using the adaptor is easy enough. Plug it into the iPhone and you have an older 30-pin connection as on the iPhone 4S, and earlier devices. Take a look at Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Apple iPhone 5 comparison review.
Physically the device is somewhat larger than we’re sure many people would like, adding an extra 2cm to the length of the iPhone. Although we’re sure it’s not something you’d keep attached on a permanent basis.
It’s primary purpose is so you can attach the iPhone 5 to docks and, more importantly, audio systems with built in dock connections. In this sense it works pretty well, you plug it in and play as before. On the one hand the device is fairly sturdy, but balancing the iPhone on such a small piece of plastic isn’t the same sturdy affair as before. The lightning connection itself feels horrifically thin and small to be holding up the iPhone 5.
The other option is that invest in a slightly more expensive (£30) adaptor that also includes a length of cable so you can plug the iPhone 5 in without having to do a balancing act. Which might be a little more stable.
We’re also disappointed that it only works for audio, and not video. We tried the adaptor with a 30-pin to HDMI Adaptor and got the “This accessory is not designed for this iPhone” message. Sometimes this is displayed while the video plays, but in this case there is no video (it just continues to play on the iPhone screen as normal). We also tested it with a monitor with a 30-pin dock built-in, so it’s not a compatibilty issue the the HDMI adaptor – there’s simply no way to get video from it.
We’re not quite sure why the adaptor isn’t capable of translating video (both Lightning and 30-pin are video capable). It may be that there is no way to protect HDMI video with the Macrovision DRM that is part of the HDMI spec (and prevents video copying).
Because Apple is not selling a Lightning to HDMI adaptor this means there is currently no way (other than AirPlay) to output video from an iPhone 5. This will be something of a disappointment to road warriors looking to hook up iPhones to hotel televisions and office projectors.
There is some argument towards Apple including one of these with every iPhone 5 sold, especially in the early days. Although we’re not 100 per cent convinced by this. with many users increasingly moving towards AirPlay for audio streaming, and without video support this device isn’t the must-have that you’d imagine. And it’d only be a case of forcing all users to pay for an adaptor (in the box price of the iPhone) that they might not need. Speaking of which, the price, at £25 is high for an adaptor (even if it does include custom component management chips, as teardowns of the Lightning cable suggest).
If you want to connect the iPhone 5 to an speaker system with a 30-pin dock, or other 30-pin audio or syncing dock device, then this is the way to do it (although we’d suggest the version with a cable to avoid the precarious balancing act). We’re disappointed that it only works with video and not audio.