Hold on to your cables, kids, because Apple is ditching the Lightning port on the iPhone 8. A new report claims Apple is replacing the Lightning connector with USB-C on the new model, but I’m not convinced.
Apple’s plan comes from insider sources speaking with the Wall Street Journal. They said Apple is going with a flexible curved OLED display for the new iPhone as well, and mentioned the Lightning port’s demise almost as an after thought.
Apple switched from its larger 30-pin Dock Connector to the Lightning port with the iPhone 5 in 2012 and has since transitioned the iPad lineup to the much smaller plug, too. Lightning passes power and data, is durable, and reversible so you can’t accidentally connect it upside down.
Lightning is compact, supports USB 3.0, and now that the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus don’t have traditional 3.5 mm headphone jacks, is the only way to connect wired headphones. Now sources are saying it’s days are numbered, and I’m not buying it.
Hey USB-C, Lighting Isn’t Dead Yet
Apple’s Lightning connector will be five years old this fall, and the company’s track record for ruthlessly leaving technologies behind for something new means it could drop the port in favor of something else at any time. In fact, it’s a sure thing Apple will eventually retire the Lightning port, but I think it’s a little premature to start writing the obituary.
Dropping the Dock Connector in 2012 was painful because we all had years of accessories stacked up, but it made sense. Only about half of the pins were being used, so it was wasting space that could house other components. It was already a legacy technology when Apple replaced it.
Lightning, in contrast, is still serving Apple well. It supports USB 3.0 speeds, handles charging, works with Lightning-compatible headphones and adapters, and its compact size is on par with USB-C connectors.
Apple has also been touting Lightning as an audio-out solution for iPhone owners who aren’t into using Bluetooth headphones. It just doesn’t seem like audio over Lightning is a stopgap measure.
USB-C: Right Info, Wrong Spin
It’s possible the WSJ sources had the right information, but the wrong interpretation. Instead of replacing the Lighting port on the iPhone, Apple may be planning to include a Lighting to USB-C cable instead of the familiar Lightning to USB A cable.
That would address the frustration MacBook and Touch Bar MacBook Pro users feel when connecting their iPhones to their computer—assuming they aren’t already syncning wirelessly. Currently, they need to purchase a USB A to USB-C adapter or a Lightning to USB-C cable.
Switching out the Lighting port for USB-C won’t improve compatibility any more than including the right cable with the phone will, and other than using the same port as everyone else, the incentive to abandon what’s already proven and reliable isn’t there.
Apple has always favored proprietary ports when it suits its needs, and there isn’t any indication that’s really changed. Of course, Apple could drop Lighting in favor of the industry standard USB-C, but I think there’s still a little life left in the company’s own port.