I loved his framing by Marques Brownlee, MKBHD: Solve + Justify.
That’s what Apple did back in 2016 when they deleted the 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone 7.
Sure, HTC had a bunch of phones without headphone jacks a decade before Apple did it, including the very first Android phone, but when Apple does it, because they drive so much product, it also drags the whole market.
Apple’s pitch was that the 3.5mm jack was an old, outdated, uni-tasker, and that we were heading into a better, brighter, more truly wireless world… with AirPods.
Same with the Home button. Apple first made it virtual, then made it disappear. Gave us a Taptic Engine and then gave us an edge-to-edge display and gesture navigation. Something else that’s become… just wide spread in the market.
Apple even deleted the AC adapter in the latest iPhone box and gave us MagSafe instead… now sold separately. And expensively. And after mocking them for a hot second, Samsung and Xiaomi, and probably others, are utterly, shamelessly, just following that along as well.
Lightning is going to be… well… no different. No different at all.
CLIP: What could be Apple’s rational?
You know, I think it’s a few things.
First is… the same as it was for the headphone jack and home button and that’s just to reduce the potential for hardware failure. Which sounds silly if you’ve never had the problem, but people still get their phones wet and still plug them in, and still cause corrosion and shorts, and it’s something they can solve for. So it’ll reduce support incidents and, oh yeah, get standardization bodies and regulators just all the way off their back about not using USB-C. Because they won’t be using anything.
Second is, Lightning is starting to age out. We had a decade of the 30-pin Dock connector before Apple switched to Lightning in 2012 and now we’re almost at a decade of Lightning so it’s time to switch again. I mean, Lighting was great for its time, it beat USB-C to market by several years, and literally let Apple make the iPhone 5 as thin as it was. But now, it doesn’t have any real advantages any more. Apple hasn’t even bothered to up the base data transfer speeds from ye old USB 2.0 of yore, except on older iPads Pro and only for the camera kit, which… weird.
Third, it continues Apple’s push into the true wireless future, which they ostensibly began with the 12-inch MacBook in 2015 and continued with the AirPods in 2016 and inductive charging in 2017. It absolutely trades speed and efficiency for convenience, but Apple absolutely seems to think that’s a fair trade and, based on AirPods and inductive charger sales, many of us seem to agree.
Same with data transfer, which Apple has been pushing towards wireless even longer, since iCloud made the iPhone PC-free in 2011, and everything from AirDrop to AirPlay have made us just positively giddy over accepting the same speed and efficiency for convenience trade off as inductive charging.
But, going portless still raises just a ton of questions. Which I know because of all of the questions all of you all have been asking in the comments and on Twitter every time I bring it up. So, let’s just handle those:
How will Apple handle existing accessories, including CarPlay?
When Apple switched from the 30-pin Dock to the Lightning connector in 2012 they… didn’t have adapters or extras ready to go at launch. And that was a huge problem because if you lost or damaged the one and only cable that came in the box, that was it for you. Done. Useless iPhone until those adapters and extras finally filtered in a week or so later. But, at least you could get those adapters and extras afterwards. And not just for the Dock, but for all sorts of connectors like HDMI and accessories like mics and SD card readers.
Going through another transition like that has been one of the major arguments against going USB-C, after all — hundreds of millions of mainstream iPhone owners, that, if you change their ports again, they’ll cut you.
So, just imagine what they’ll do if you don’t just change them, but delete them. Especially CarPlay. People may tolerate having to buy a new charger. But having to buy a new car?
Because, even with the wireless version of CarPlay slowly becoming more available, the OG wired version isn’t going anywhere for a decade.
Apple could offer a Lightning to Bluetooth adapter, like some companies do already for the AirPods. Or, maybe even a MagSafe to Lightning adapter that can handle more data than just… what color your case is for the charge animation.
No matter what, though, Apple needs to have a good answer for this before they delete a single atom more, and if you agree, drop a like below.
Will deleting the Lightning Port improve iPhone security?
I think… Yes and no.
We’ve seen physical access be translated into digital access numerous times over the years. Compromised accessories, evil house-workers, and people trying to trick users into plugging into malicious charging terminals is why Apple added “Do you Trust” popups to iOS a few years ago.
Likewise, the companies that collect and sell iOS exploits also lease or sell boxes that try to break in over a hard wire.
Removing that access won’t suddenly make the iPhone intrusion-proof. We’ve recently seen significant hacks delivered wirelessly as well. But, depending on the existence and effectiveness of adapters, it may reduce, slow down, or even eliminate the wired ones.
And, if and when Apple gets an illegitimate search and seizure request demanding they help break into a device, they can answer in their most very favorite way — it’s not that they won’t do it, it’s that they can’t do it.
What about special new features?
There are some interesting things Apple could do with portless iPhone. For example, swim proofing, just like the Apple Watch.
Apple has been increasing water resistance over the last few years, but they’ve also gotten into hot water for how they’ve been marketing and not warrantying it. But if they delete the Lightning port, and add one of those fancy water ejecting systems to the speaker, maybe they could go full on swim-proof?
Then… then.. and I know this is bordering on fanfic, but stay with me — because this is an iPhone, they could add a computational photography mode that tries to give you the best underwater pictures and video possible, and, well, that just markets itself.
What about restore and DFU?
Okay, this is where things get tricky… maybe?
Currently, when a software update or something else goes wrong, you have to plug into iTunes or the Finder and factory reset and reload your iPhone.
What would you plug in without a plug to… in… to?
The Apple Watch and Apple TV both have hidden ports but they’re only meant for an AppleCare technician to use. And as frustrating as it is to have to take or send your Watch or TV in for servicing, it’ll be even more frustrating to have to do that with your phone.
But, Apple just introduced something pretty cool with the M1 Macs a couple of months ago.
Basically, a minimal, separate, macOS environment in a hidden container that lets you reinstall macOS, even macOS Recovery if and when you need to.
Could that work for an iPhone with iOS and a form of iOS Recovery utility and internet restore on board?