Updated for clarity & to note that 30-pin cable is also universal for iPhone and iPad.
Apple’s Lightning cable received a fair amount of criticism when it was introduced along with the iPhone 5. The new port replaces the 30-pin connector found on previous iPhone models and contains proprietary technology that makes it difficult to clone.
As noted by Jason Perlow of ZDnet, customers who use the port may miss their arsenal of 30-pin accessories, but they may come to appreciate the technological advantages this new cable system provides — especially when compared to the mixed bag of charging standards on the Android side.
The biggest advantage of the Lightning cable’s design is that it lets you insert the cable into your iOS device in any orientation. Unlike the standard micro-USB connector and even Apple’s 30-pin port, you don’t have to eye the port and line up the sides to make the cable fit. Coming from someone who recently replaced the dock connector on an iPad and a Kindle Fire, this is a huge advantage over other port technologies.
Apple’s Lightning connector also can carry up to 12W of power, which is plenty to charge either an iPhone or an iPad (when paired with an iPad 2A charger), just as you could do with the 30-pin cable. As Perlow points out, this is quite different from the micro-USB connector world of Android devices; there is no standard for conventional USB that supports more than 9W. This means complications and frustration for tablets that need 10W; either they need proprietary chargers or they charge at the 5W rate.
I don’t need to tell you how convenient it is to have one cable and one power adapter to charge an iPhone, iPad, iPod and iPad mini, especially one that’s built to last and that you can plug in without looking. This transition period from the 30-pin to the world of Lightning may be frustrating, but it will be brief — and the next generation is going to be noticeably better.