The other day I came across a stash of old 30-pin cables that Apple once used for the iPod and early iPhone. Seeing these made me realize how far we've come in a few short years, and yet how far we have to go to make the iPhone truly wireless.
I won't like to you, the old 30-pin connector that Apple used on iPods and iPhones "back in the day" was pretty awful. It was fiddly and pretty prone to damage from debris and rough handling. The new Lightning connector is a far superior connector both in terms of durability and usability, but I still question whether Apple actually needs to have a physical port on the iPhone (or for that matter, iPad, or iPod touch).
It's clear that Apple has a vision for a wireless future. But it's also clear that it has a problem turning that vision into reality.
Back in September of last year Apple revealed that it was working on an AirPower wireless charger that could simultaneously charge an iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods. But it's now almost a year on and the AirPower charger still only exists in some secret lab deep in the bowels of Apple HQ.
According to Bloomberg, the reasons why the AirPower charger has yet to make an appearance are many and varied:
Company engineers have been toiling away to address problems. One challenge is making sure the charger doesn't overheat. Another is the complexity of the circuitry, according to people familiar with the device's development.
On the other hand I have to admit that I'm no fan of wireless charging as the technology currently stands. The process is slower than using a cord -- especially if compared to using a USB-C charger (oh, but the price of that USB-C to Lightning cable!) -- and I also have concerns that wireless charging is wearing the iPhone's battery much quicker because of how much longer the device is being charged for.
Should Apple switch from the Lightning to USB-C in the interim while it makes the transition to wireless? While I like USB-C, and it would be nice to be able to dump the proprietary cable for something universal (and cheaper), the consumer disruption that the switch would cause (especially for those who are deep in the Apple ecosystem, and already have the cables and accessories) isn't worth the potential upside in my opinion.
Yes, I'd love to be able to fast-charge my iPhone with a cheap USB-C cable, but having to toss out everything that connects to my iPhone's Lightning port would be annoying (and expensive).
The path to a truly wireless iPhone for Apple is one also fraught with potential consumer backlash. The elimination of the archaic 3.5mm headphone jack caused uproar despite the fact that Apple ships a free Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter with every new iPhone.
Consumers don't like change. They also don't like having to carry dongles, even if they are free.
I've no doubt that the iPhone will eventually drop the Lightning port and go completely wireless, but a lot of things need to happen before that day. First, Apple needs to get the AirPower charger out the door. The company also needs to develop a wireless bridge accessory to connect to accessories to allow them to work wirelessly. Not only would this ease the transition for consumers, but it would also mean fewer working accessories being dumped in the trash.
This feels like a change that Apple will look to make over the next five to 10 years, and not something that's going to happen in the next year or so.
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