iPad Pro could use much faster 29W charging, if Apple allows USB 3 Lightning cables

article thumbnail

AppleInsider is supported by its audience and may earn commission as an Amazon Associate and affiliate partner on qualifying purchases. These affiliate partnerships do not influence our editorial content.

The USB 3 capable Lightning port on Apple's iPad Pro could use an incoming charge of up to 29 watts, matching the abilities of Apple's 12-inch MacBook. But without any USB 3 Lightning cables yet available on the market, this power remains untapped for now.

Buried within the hardware regulatory information for the iPad Pro, it's revealed that the 12.9-inch tablet can use 14.5 volts at 2 amps, which is equivalent to 29 watts. However, the iPad Pro only ships with a 12-watt power adapter.

Apple already ships a 29-watt power adapter with its 12-inch MacBook with Retina display, but the thin-and-light notebook charges over a more capable USB 3 cable with a USB-C port.

A representative from a major Apple-authorized accessory maker confirmed to AppleInsider this week that Lightning-to-USB-C cables do not meet the iPad maker's current requirements.

The Lightning cable that ships with the iPad Pro, however, is limited to a load of 12 watts, and it features a full-size USB Type-A 2.0 port on the opposite end, not a USB-C connector.

Currently, there is no way to directly charge an iPad Pro with Apple's 29-watt MacBook power adapter. That's because there aren't yet any sanctioned USB 3 Lightning cables available on the market.

Apple isn't even allowing third-party manufacturers to make Lightning to USB-C cables that would allow charging and syncing an iPhone or iPad directly to the 12-inch MacBook. A representative from a major Apple-authorized accessory maker confirmed to AppleInsider this week that Lightning-to-USB-C cables do not meet the iPad maker's current requirements.

The untapped faster charging capabilities hidden within the iPad Pro are thanks to the inclusion of a Fresco Logic FL1100 USB host controller, which can deliver USB 3.0 "SuperSpeed" bandwidth to four separate ports.

To date, Apple has only released one USB 3 Lightning accessory: an SD card reader that offers faster transfer speeds on iPad Pro. There is not yet an authorized Lightning to USB 3 cable that can offer faster syncing or charging, however.

Faster charging is of particular interest with the iPad Pro considering its massive 38.8 watt-hour battery, which is split into two cells. Tests conducted by ArsTechnica found that it takes four and a half hours to fully recharge an iPad Pro with the default 12-watt power adapter and USB 2.0 Lightning cable.

iPad Pro's logic board includes Fresco Logic's USB 3.0 controller (highlighted in orange). | Source: iFixit

In fact, the battery in the iPad Pro is nearly the same size as the 39.7 watt-hour battery in the 12-inch MacBook. In contrast, the iPad Air 2 battery is 27.6 watt-hours.

Even if a manufacturer were to make an unauthorized USB 3 Lightning cable, it's possible the iPad Pro would still restrict the charging to 12 watts, as power input is defined by the device itself. It's possible that a firmware update could be required to take advantage of the USB 3 capabilities. And using unsanctioned USB cables for charging is highly inadvisable.

Still, one thrill seeking user on the MacRumors forums connected their iPad Pro with USB 2 Lightning cable to a USB-C to USB adapter, and found the charging time wasn't any faster.

"I assume this is because of the limitations of a USB 2 cable," user 'Brookzy' wrote. "But with the Pro having a USB 3-compliant Lightning port, I would bet it would charge faster with a USB 3 Lightning cable."