Apple Might Ditch Lightning for USB-C on New iPhones, But Do We Really Want That?
A report this week from the Wall Street Journal stated that Apple could take a bold step in a much-welcomed direction with its new iPhone. Aside from adopting an OLED display for one of their forthcoming flagship smartphones, Apple may also swap out its proprietary Lightning charging port for the universal USB-C port.
Of course, as with any next-iPhone rumor, this is mostly just speculation at this point—and The Verge actually published a pretty solid write up explaining why this likely won’t happen. But anything is possible and could happen between now and mid-September. But if Apple does decide to ditch the Lightning port, my feelings will be rather mixed.
The general reaction from analysts and consumers will probably be something along the lines of, “About damn time.” For as long as I can remember personally using Apple products, which dates back to the original iPod, the company has basically sworn off using any type of universal charging or data-transfer technology. They had the 30-pin adapter that only worked on the iPod. Then they shortened it to the eight-pin Lightning connector.
Even as someone who enjoys using their products, Apple’s proprietary tech always had this air of snobbishness for the rest of the market. Like, why make things difficult for accessory manufacturers and consumers? I get that the tech is optimized for their iPhones and iPads. But I can’t tell you how many micro USB cables I have lying around, and how often I’ve found myself in a situation where I just wanted to jam one of those things in the charging port (without an adapter) so I could get a little bump charge. Instead, I’m stuck with the cord Apple supplies me with, and that’s it. If you wanted another cord to charge with you had to a) drop $30 for a spare, b) carry that one around with you, or c) pray that a friend forgot theirs at your house and then lie about it.
Bottom line: Life would be a lot more enjoyable if Apple decided to join the USB party with their personal devices. No one wants to store Lightning cables at the office, and at home, and in the car just to ensure they can always charge their phone (even though I do and it makes me want to vomit thinking about how that’s $90 in cables). They also don’t want to carry that one cord around with them, resulting in the thing fraying five-times as fast as it would’ve if they just left it in one spot.
But this might be the worst thing ever for accessory manufacturers.
Even the threat of Apple switching the USB-C charging cables could throw a major kink in the production plans of companies currently manufacturing cases, cables, and more, designed specifically for the new iPhone. While there will continue to be plenty of Lightning-enabled devices for years to come, they will quickly become outdated technology. Any Lightning cables still sitting in warehouses waiting to be sold to retailers or stocked on shelves will become obsolete. (Sounds like first-world manufacturing problems, but they’re problems nonetheless.)
Then there’s Apple effect in all of this. The major draw of the proprietary connectors is that it gives Apple the ability to essentially control the aftermarket accessory ecosystem with its MFi (Made For iPhone/iPad/iPod) program. That market has proven incredibly lucrative to Apple. To get access to Apple’s MFi chip (which allows their accessory to actually charge the device) accessory manufacturers pay a royalty to Apple.
So, while there would certainly be a number of positives to come out of the switch from Lightning to USB-C, the move wouldn’t be without some growing pains. At this point, with how nonreceptive they been to universal technology, it’s hard to imagine Apple ever really jumping ship here.