There are several news reports that state that Apple might be getting rid of the lightning port on its next-gen iPhone and many potential buyers have voiced their concerns about whether the notion of releasing a portless smartphone would make any sense at all.
In Apple’s defense, I would say that isn’t far-fetched considering the fact that the iPhone is becoming less reliant on a charging port thanks to the introduction of the MagSafe on the iPhone 12 and the removal of a power brick in the box.
Although it’s worth noting that the Lightning connector has been the bread and butter of the iPhone for about 10 years now, we all know full well that when Apple is moving away from something, it often doesn’t look back – remember the demise of the 3.5mm headphone jack?
One of the enforcers of the new changes would be the European Union which made it mandatory that starting from the year 2024, all smartphones must come with USB-C charging ports in order to create a common charging mechanism and reduce e-waste.
That report has made a lot of headlines, especially considering the fact that iPhones are still the only smartphones still using a Lightning connector but we all know Apple and how adamant the company might be sometimes.
I think Apple might just get rid of the charging port altogether considering the fact that it also markets its MagSafe as a better and more efficient alternative to wired charging and many users are already buying into that idea.
If you notice the pattern of Apple’s approach to replacing technology with a newer one, it often happens when the company has created a good accessory that can take the place of the accessory being replaced.
A good example of that would be the 3.5mm headphone jack which was removed from the iPhone conveniently around the same time Apple started making the AirPods TWS earbuds.
When Apple also stopped shipping its iPhones with power bricks, it introduced wireless charging support and the MagSafe accessory for users to buy.
Currently, there are a plethora of accessories that make use of the magnetic wireless charging coil at the back of the iPhone 12 series and 13 series.
So saying the iPhone 15 or 16 might be portless isn’t a blank statement.
How quickly Apple will make the changes is yet unknown but the reality is that this is a likely thing that the American tech giant will do in the near future.
A True Wireless iPhone?
Although Apple doesn’t tell us what they’re planning to release each year, we are often left to find the easter eggs by ourselves based on current events and past events. Considering the current situation of things, Apple might just be planning or might have even concluded on yanking the ports off its next-gen smartphones.
Speaking of easter eggs, one such would be a patent that Apple filed back in 2019 that describes an iPhone with an enclosure that is made entirely of glass and can be charged wirelessly through its display.
However, the company also filed other patents related to wireless charging that would further the case for a portless iPhone – should Apple decide to proceed through that route.
Also, popular Apple predictor Ming-Chi Kuo once made a prediction back in 2019 that Apple would bring a portless iPhone to the market by the year 2021 but a recent report also states such technology could come in the future.
iPhone’s reliance on charging the port has reduced
Nowadays, iPhones are becoming less reliant on wired cables thanks to the inclusion of the magnetic wireless charging coil at the back of the device since the iPhone 12 series.
That alone has made a lot of people think about the possibility that future iPhones might just get rid of wired connectors altogether.
“The number of systems that actually 100% must have a cable is diminishing,” Nick Maynard, head of research for Juniper Research, said in a previous interview.
As mentioned earlier, Apple’s switch from the 3.5mm wired headphone jack to its TWS wireless AirPods back in 2016 quickly became the norm in the smartphone industry at large and that approach might just be the same with the charging port too whenever Apple decides to take the route.
Even Samsung mocked Apple for removing its device’s headphone jack and followed that same route later on and ever since then, the sales of truly wireless earbuds have seen a tremendous increase with so many smartphone manufacturers entering the market even though Apple remained the dominant force in it.
But AirPods’ popularity isn’t the only sign of the iPhone’s independence from wires. Apple also launched a new type of cable-free connection mechanism for the iPhone called MagSafe in 2020 with the iPhone 12.
While technically, there is still a wire involved with the MagSafe technology – since it’s just a circular ring that can be attached to the back of the iPhone in order to wirelessly charge it (the same applies to the iPad’s Smart Connector which uses the same technique), one can say the iPhone is less reliant on charging ports since the MagSafe can be efficient and faster to use although it isn’t necessarily a faster way of charging your iPhone as of today.
Another Elephant in the room is file transfer over cable, the implementation of technologies such as Ultra-wideband had made it much easier for an iPhone to communicate seamlessly with other devices wirelessly.
The technology in a nutshell makes use of radio signals to pinpoint a device’s location. It’s primarily used for helping iPhones find lost AirTags and also locate other iPhones while using AirDrop.
But the advent of cloud sharing has made wireless data sharing much easier so that shouldn’t necessarily be a hurdle if Apple decides to go portless with its future iPhone models.
Can a future iPhone be charged wirelessly?
As mentioned above, charging an iPhone or any Android device wirelessly currently can still be a bit slower compared to wired charging and that alone might also be a discouraging factor that could make many customers grumble about the idea of the iPhone becoming portless in the near future.
Even the standard Qi wireless chargers will recharge the iPhone’s battery at a rate of about 7.5 watts while the MagSafe is much faster at about 15 watts.
In order to speed up the charging process, you’ll certainly need a compatible 20-watt power adapter in order to reach the exact charging speed that should be able to crank up your battery to 50% in just 30 minutes.
Another thing is the fact that potential customers of the next-gen portless iPhone will have to purchase the device sans MagSafe and would have to buy it separately.
Also, Apple might just improve on the technology in order to make wireless charging via MagSafe much faster and reach the same speed as wired chargers.
With a US$39 price tag for the MagSafe currently, you are still going to spend an extra buck in order to get the supported USB-C 20-watt power adapter in order to reach the described speed that can help make the MagSafe manifest in its entirety.
Even if Apple’s official accessories are a bit pricey, opting for third-party accessories like those made by Anker can be much cheaper thanks to the higher demand and compatibility that has made them more common and cheaper for an average consumer on the market.
But Gene Munster, a managing partner at Loup Ventures, thinks there are bigger improvements to be made when it comes to charging phones without a cable.
He envisions a future in which smartphones can be charged completely wirelessly without having to make contact with a charging pad.
He further noted that his company met with private companies who are working on this kind of technology but also made it known that it is still in its infancy.
Also, note that Apple did file a patent application suggesting it had considered a technology that can charge its iPhone via Wi-Fi technology.
Another Washington-based tech company Ossia has also developed a charging system that can reportedly power up electronic devices from a distance using RF antenna technology.
“Imagine never having to think about charging your phone is the goal,” Munster said in a previous interview.
The point is that tech companies and many start-ups are trying to invent different methods of charging in the near future not only for the next-gen iPhone but also for electronic devices that would support them.
Realizing the fact that other smartphone OEMs such as Samsung, Xiaomi, OnePlus, and so forth are known to often follow whatever trend that Apple sets, a portless iPhone in the near future could mean the death of USB-C ports altogether at least in high-end smartphone just as the death of the 3.5mm headphone jack was imminent upon Apple’s decision to start the trend back in 2016.
Although a true wireless smartphone might not arrive soon even if Apple wants to bring the technology to its next-gen devices.
What could happen is a completely portless iPhone that can be charged via a wireless connector using the MagSafe. These are parts of the predictions made by popular Apple analysts including the aforementioned Ming-Chi Kuo and Bloomberg.
But once again, it’s also worth noting that when Apple released its 2021 MacBook Pro, it sort of reversed its decision to bring back as many ports as possible on the device just like your typical PC.
The MacBook came back with an HDMI port, an SD card slot, and several ports including a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Although computers are tools that require more ports even though smartphones on the other hand can be approached differently even though they are also tools just like computers.
However, a portless iPhone in the near future might not be far-fetched considering the fact that Apple has been moving towards that trajectory since 2016 when it removed the 3.5mm headphone jack from its then-iPhone 7 with the company’s former design chief Jony Ive who said the company’s obsession remains to continuously simplify and improve.
EU-Mandatory USBC-C to reduce e-waste
This wouldn’t necessarily be a reason for Apple to outright switch to a portless design on its net-gen iPhone immediately but this can be part of the reasons in the near future.
Take for example rumors of the next-gen iPhone 15 will reportedly sport haptic-touch volume buttons as well as a new volume toggle. Another thing is that all models of the iPhone 15 series will implement the eSIM technology across the board.
We all know that Apple often take decisions that they do not ever look back on except with the Macbook of course. But regarding the iPhone, it wouldn’t be surprising if we later hear rumors that the next-gen iPhone 16 will be completely portless because Apple sets the trend all the time.
All-in-all, it wouldn’t be a surprising thing at least to me even though the company will have to crank up its charging capacity to about 20W or higher in order to give its future portless iPhone users the advantage of experiencing the true-wireless smartphone.