• The iPhone 5 includes a new connector.
  • The phone requires an adapter for most cars.
  • Users might lose some functionality.

Car owners eager to get the latest iPhone could lose some functions they enjoy with today's technology. Since the new iPhone 5 is ditching its familiar 30-pin port in favor of the so-called Lightning connector, most cars will need an adapter for compatibility. But even with the adapter, some drivers will find that their latest gadget still won't give them the ability to play music over their car's speakers.

Although nearly all of today's new car models offer some form of auxiliary audio connectivity, there's no uniform standard on just how those devices connect. In some cars--specifically several models from BMW, Hyundai and Kia--a cable connects the traditional 30-pin connector to a 1/8-inch audio connector and a USB port, transmitting sound through an analog signal. Since the Lightning connector can't send an analog signal, even iPhone 5 devices equipped with the Lightning adapter won't work in those vehicles.

In other cars, sound transmits digitally through a USB port, which then uses the stereo's own analog converter to play music over the car's speakers. In those cars, the Lightning adapter will work, and it should offer the same functionality as today's devices. Cars that use an auxiliary input can still play music through the iPhone 5's headphone jack, but users choosing that option can't control their iPhones through the stereo, except for adjusting volume.

Despite the hubbub over Lightning compatibility, it's likely that cars will soon be updated to make use of the latest technology. Drivers of current vehicles that don't include an iPhone 5-compatible port can continue using their old iPhones and iPods, or take the drastic step of upgrading to a new vehicle that's Lightning compatible.

Announced to great fanfare earlier this month, the new iPhone 5 is technically the sixth generation of the popular iPhone. Compared to its predecessor, it features a larger screen, a smaller size and a faster processor, which Apple dubs the A6. The iPhone 5 officially goes on sale in nine countries, including the US and Canada, on September 21.

What it means to you: If you're upgrading to an iPhone 5, you'll probably need an adapter for your car, and you might lose some functionality.

author photo

Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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