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As the mobile world switches to USB-C, Apple’s decision to stick with its proprietary Lightning port has drawn no small amount of criticism from those who feel that it’s being held back by its own technology. However, if a new report this week is true, it looks like Apple may have even bigger plans in store that could once again leapfrog it ahead of the competition.
To be clear, Apple has embraced USB-C in the places where it makes the most sense — its MacBook laptops and the iPad Pro. In fact, the addition of USB-C to the high-end iPad last year led many to assume that the iPhone would soon follow, but this year’s iPhone 11 lineup — even the iPhone 11 Pro — consistently held to the classic Lightning connector that’s been found on every other Apple mobile device since it debuted with the iPhone 5 back in 2012.
In reality, while USB-C on a device like the iPad Pro is understandable due to its place as a laptop replacement for creative professionals, there’s little benefit to a USB-C port on the iPhone where most users simply use it to charge their devices. While USB-C offers higher speed charging, Apple has supported that via a Lightning to USB-C cable since the iPhone 8 and iPhone X were released in 2017, and this year it even bundled the cable and an 18-watt USB-C charger in with the higher-end iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max.
Look! No Wires!
According to the very reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, however, it looks like Apple hasn’t really worried too much about switching the iPhone to a USB-C port because its ultimate goal is to remove the physical port entirely.
In his latest research note shared by MacRumors Kuo says that by 2021 Apple will offer a premium iPhone with a “completely wireless experience.” In other words, while the iPad Pro eliminated the Lightning port in favour of USB-C, the iPhone Pro looks like it will simply remove the port entirely.
Such a move wouldn’t be totally unprecedented, of course. Back in 2016, Apple infamously removed the 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, claiming it showed “courage” in pointing the way to a truly wireless future — an idea that was bolstered by its debut of the original AirPods at the same event. There have even been recent rumours that Apple plans to bundle AirPods with future high-end iPhones.
So it’s clear that Apple is ultimately pushing for a completely wireless future, and certainly the elimination of the last open hole in the iPhone would not only provide for a more elegant design, but would allow the iPhone to reach levels of waterproofing that simply aren’t possible when electrical connections are involved.
In fact, the iPhone wouldn’t even be Apple’s first truly wireless device. It’s sometimes easy to forget that the Apple Watch has never offered a physical connector, supporting only magnetic induction charging and wireless connectivity from the beginning. It’s hard to find anybody who hasn’t been completely fine with that simply because we had no prior expectations for how smartwatches should connect and charge.
On the other hand, while Apple brought wireless charging to its iPhone lineup only a year after it eliminated the headphone jack, the current Qi charging standards are considerably slower than what’s possible over a wired connection. This seems like something Apple would need to solve before eliminating the only ultra-fast charging option — especially if it’s considering doing it in its highest-end iPhone, which is likely to be targeted at users with more demanding requirements.