It is a nice neat small connector that handles power and wired data to iPhone 5s.
Although why the micro-USB connector, that is good enough for the rest of industry, did not suit Apple is anybody’s guess – Lightning carries the same (or similar) power and USB.
Apple has gone for a single sided 8way+shroud socket in the phone, and a plug with eight connections on both sides that can be plugged in either way around.
The odd thing, so I read, is that the connections are not simply wired the same on both sides of the plug: 1-8 from left to right, for example.
This would be a nice easy way to do things, at the small expense of physically having to cross-wire the pins inside the housing – which easy because the middle bit of such connectors is essentially a gold-plated PCB.
Instead, the connections are wired left to right on one side, but connected straight through the thickness of the connector so that they read from right to left on the other side.
Physically simple this might be, but to pull it off the firm has had to build a chip into the plug which detects orientation and re-routes the signals appropriately.
Folk say this is only worth doing because it makes the cable difficult to copy – so peripheral makers have to buy their connectors from Apple.
I would have thought it would still be possible to make single sided peripheral connectors that had to be plugged in the correct way around – although imagine the shame amongst fashionistas when they are caught having to look to see which way to insert the connector.
However, some say the chip in the cable has authentication built in, and that non-compliant cables could be blocked by a simple software update to the phones.
Whilst I wouldn’t want any old piece of rubbish plugged into anything I designed, control freakery can go a little too far.