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Lightning strikes: Apple TV, Apple Pencil double down on proprietary port

The announcement of the new reversible USB-C port, and its subsequent embrace by Apple in the 12-inch MacBook, led to speculation that the Lightning connector could be on the way out. But the company signaled otherwise this week, when it made Lightning a key component of the new Apple Pencil, as well as the Apple TV's Siri Remote.




When the iPad Pro was simply a rumored product, leaks from the supply chain suggested that the device would feature a USB-C connector, allowing it greater connectivity options. That speculation proved to be unfounded— instead, the space thought to house a USB-C port instead has a new proprietary, magnetic Smart Connector.

That Smart Connector is joined by a Lightning port, just like is found on Apple's other modern iOS devices, like the iPad Air 2 and new iPad mini 4. But in addition to charging and syncing, the iPad Pro's Lightning port serves an entirely new purpose: It's how users will charge their Apple Pencil accessory.

Perhaps most impressively, Apple boasts that plugging in the Apple Pencil for just 15 seconds is enough to provide 30 minutes' worth of power to the connected stylus.

Apple's use of the Lightning connector to pair and recharge the iPad Pro and Apple Stylus is a new approach, but it's not surprising. The Lightning connector has been an integral part of Apple's iDevices for years, and a massive ecosystem has grown around the proprietary port since it debuted on the iPhone 5 in 2012.

Potentially more of a surprise, however, is the fact that the Apple TV's new Siri Remote will also be recharged via Lightning. That makes the fourth-generation Apple TV remote the first non-iOS (and non-7th-gen-iPod-nano) device to charge via Apple's Lightning port —though it's based heavily on iOS, the set-top box runs its own unique operating system dubbed tvOS.




The new Apple TV will ship with a Lightning to USB cable in the box, though no wall adapter. Apple has said the Siri Remote will last for up to three months on a single charge.

Interestingly, the Lightning port on the Siri Remote also serves another purpose unrelated to charging. Apple will be selling an optional wrist strap accessory that connects to the port and allows users to securely tether it to their wrist, intended for use when playing games that utilize the motion sensing capabilities of the remote.

USB-C does, however, play a small part in the Apple TV for developers. The service port on the back of the unit has changed from micro USB to USB-C, allowing developers to restore the Apple TV or load beta firmware. But thats where USB-C integration ends for the Apple TV, unlike with the 12-inch MacBook, where a single reversible port is used for charging and connecting to accessories.

Apple's embrace of Lightning over USB-C for both the Apple Pencil and the Siri Remote may help to temper concerns that the company plans to adopt USB-C for charging iPhones and iPads in the near future. If this week's announcements are any indication, Lightning likely isn't going anywhere anytime soon.