It seems increasingly likely that Apple is getting ready to phase out the Lightning port. Whether the iPhone 13 will rip off the Band-Aid in one go, or whether we're in for a protracted death (a prominent Apple watcher has recently softened on a previous claim it would happen this year), the writing is on the wall, and all signs point to the charging port's days being numbered.
There are good reasons why Apple might want to do this -- less cost, more space inside the iPhone, one less thing to break or wear out -- but what does this mean for you, an iPhone user?
It means e-waste. A lot of e-waste.
A little over a year ago, Apple claimed that being forced by the European Commission to switch from Lightning to USB-C would create an "unprecedented amount of electronic waste" and disrupt "hundreds of millions of active devices and accessories used by our European customers."
Well, what's changed?
I've spoken to a number of people in the industry -- from people who work on the front line of Apple support, to those who are involved in producing "Made for iPhone" gadgets and gear -- and it seems that while everyone is pretty much expecting the Lightning port to vanish over the next few years, no one could offer me any end-user benefit.
I quizzed my contact within Apple support (who, for obvious, reasons wishing to remain anonymous) about Lightning port failure rate, and while it does seem to be a failure point (kids shoving things into it being the biggest problem, it seems), it is far, far outweighed by issues such as screen breakages, battery issues, and button failures.
And, according to my contact, the Lightning port seems to be far more reliable than the USB-C ports on MacBooks, which seem to be quite a high failure point.
Those in the accessory market see this as a move from Apple to tighten up the ecosystem, with whispers of wireless dongles and docks -- possibly modeled after MagSafe chargers -- that will attach to existing hardware already making the rounds.
All of this would generate revenue for Apple, both for any hardware Apple itself makes and sells, and licensing deals with other manufacturers.
Now, Apple might argue that since iPhones have a long life, these accessories aren't going to end up being obsolete overnight. However, in my experience, while iPhones have a long lifespan, I don't see the same being true for accessories.
And there are a lot of accessories out there. With an iPhone ecosystem now hovering around the billion devices, that means a lot of chargers, cables, and other random gadgets.
And you have to remember that for some, as has been pointed out to me by worried readers, the car has become an iPhone accessory on wheels.
I've also heard concerns from people about not being able to put iPhones into recovery mode without a Lightning port, and that would mean taking a trip to the Apple Store. That's indeed another concern. On the flip side, however, it would make the iPhone much more resistant to jailbreaking or having the data accessed without the user's consent.
Others have raised the very legitimate concerns about the inefficiencies of wireless charging compared to using a cable, and the negative effect it would have to have millions upon millions of iPhones having to rely solely on this method of charging.
Bottom line, no one can give me a reason for consumers to celebrate the end of the road for Lightning. If anything, even if the rollout is smooth, it will mean having to junk existing accessories, and then go out and buy more things.
What are your thoughts on the end of the Lightning port? Has its time come, or do you still find it valuable? Let me know in the comments below.