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Apple releases faster USB 3.0 Lightning to SD card reader for iPad Pro

The faster USB 3.0 port hidden within the iPad Pro now has its first official accessory: A new Lightning to SD card reader that takes advantage of the next-generation port exclusive to Apple's jumbo-sized iPad.

The new Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader is now available to purchase from Apple, priced at $29. The silent hardware update arrived in Apple's online store on Tuesday.

In the product description, Apple notes that the updated Lightning to SD card reader supports data transfer at up to USB 3 speeds on iPad Pro. The accessory is also backwards compatible, supporting USB 2 speeds on all other iPad and iPhone models.

The card reader is compatible with iPhone 5 and newer, as well as the third-generation iPad and newer.

Teardowns of the iPad Pro revealed last month that Apple had quietly included a USB 3.0 controller in its 12.9-inch iPad Pro. At the time Apple simply said that forthcoming adapters would take advantage of the USB 3-level speeds.

The USB 3.0 spec can reach signaling rates of 5 Gbps, a tenfold increase in bandwidth compared to USB 2.0. A boost in data transfer speeds would be a welcome addition to Apple's iOS device lineup given each successive iPhone and iPad generation comes with an increase in processing power. Running Apple's latest A9 series SoC's, iPhone 6s and iPad Pro are capable of chewing through 4K video files in iOS 9 apps like iMovie, though the resulting file size makes exporting to a Mac or the Web somewhat of a challenge.

Apple introduced Lightning connector in 2012 as a replacement for the aging 30-pin connector. Instead of going with an industry standard, the company opted to build its own bidirectional connector, facilitating orientation agnostic plug insertion for a better user experience.

Apple is not averse to USB 3.0, however, as evidenced by its inclusion across the entire Mac lineup. Interestingly, Apple chose to implement USB-C — with a USB 3.1-capable controller capped at 5 Gbps — in the new 12-inch Retina MacBook, a protocol featuring a bidirectional plug design similar to Lightning.