Why Apple should stick with the Lightning port (but probably won't)

USB-C is nice, but Apple should stick with the Lightning port and not jerk hardware makers and consumers around.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

There are mixed reports relating to the connector that Apple will use for the upcoming iPhone 8. Some suggest that Apple will shift to the USB-C standard -- as it did with the new MacBook Pro -- while others are suggesting that Apple will stick with Lightning.

Must read: Better, faster, more reliable Wi-Fi in six easy steps

Apple introduced the Lightning connector back in September 2012 when it unveiled the iPhone 5, and since then it has become the standard port for all iOS devices. However, on the Mac front, it seems that Apple is shifting away from the MagSafe and Thunderbolt (as well as regular USB 2/3) to the USB-C port.

iOS devices have all thus far made use of proprietary connectors, so the shift would certainly be an odd one for Apple, especially considering that Apple pulls in money from licensing the Lightning port through its "Made for iPhone" program.

There would be advantages in Apple shifting to USB-C. The port is pretty much universal on high-end smartphones, and it has speed advantages over Lightning. And now with the MacBook Pro being a USB-C-only device, it's clear that Apple now endorses the port over all the others.

And the switch would mean that as soon as your charging cable breaks -- and it will (I hope that whoever it is at Apple whose job it was to design that Lightning charge cable is suitably embarrassed by how poor it is) -- you'll be able to replace it with a cheap (and far longer-lasting) alternative.

But despite the advantages that USB-C has to offer, I think Apple should stick with the Lightning port.

iPhone 8: Here's what we think we know about Apple's 10th-anniversary iPhone

First off, the Lightning port is only a few years old, and the switch from the 30-pin iPod connector to Lightning caused a lot of upset to iPhone owners, and meant a lot of unnecessary expenditure to replace devices that couldn't be made to work with a dongle (it also means a lot of hardware being sent to the dump).

Another reason why I think Apple should stick with the Lightning port is that it's a super-reliable port, and far more robust than USB-C seems to be. USB-C seems to suffer from the problems that plague micro USB, such as the connector on the end of the cable being crushed, the port being damaged by improper handing, and random bits of junk and schmoo getting into the connector and port.

Lightning isn't perfect, but of all the ports out there, it's one of the best, and I'd be sad to see it go (unlike the 30-pin iPod connector, which was a terrible thing).

But tech is all about forward motion, and given that Apple has already begun switching ports, ditching USB, Thunderbolt, and the awesome MagSafe for USB-C, it seems inevitable that the Lightning port will go.

It's not a matter of if, but when.

But when will it happen? Will Apple risk sales to push a replacement for the Lightning port sooner rather than later? With iPhone sales having gone a little soggy, it might seem foolish to give users a change of connector worry. It's certainly a contributing factor in why I've not upgraded to the new MacBook Pro.

That said, there does seem to be pent-up demand for the next iPhone, so there could be no better time to push the change.

And if Apple actually ever does introduce wireless charging, then people are going to need that port a lot less.

However, currently the supply chain chatter seems to be suggesting that Apple will stick with Lightning for now, and keep a change of port up its sleeve for a later date.

iOS 10.3: 'Power User' tips and tricks

See also:

Editorial standards