Apple to drop Lightning port next? iPhone’s next massive gamble

“First they came for the bulky 30-pin docking connector. Then the 3.5mm headphone jack was removed from the iPhone,” Ewan Spence writes for Forbes. “What will Apple remove next? A newly granted patent published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office offers another clue. In a bid to reduce the physical imperfections on the iPhone’s external design, Apple could drop the lightning port.”

“Patent #9,453,976 was granted today, and details a system where data could flow between two devices through an optical interface,” Spence writes. “This would use a series of tiny holes that in concert would allow enough optical information to pass through… Presumably some form of magnetic connector would be used to position a ‘data cable’ to pick up the visual signal. I’d also expect this connector to charge the iPhone through induction.”

“Removing the lightning port would not be seen as a hugely disruptive step – not least because those protesting it would be reheating the arguments used in the loss of the 3.5mm headphone jack. Apple has already set out that it wants a world without wires. Cabled audio devices are now historical artefacts to be pitied and there’s no mass uprising in the genteel press to suggest that Cook misjudged the consumer mood,” Spence writes. “Next year’s presumptively titled iPhone 8 is the tenth-anniversary smartphone from Apple and is already expected to bring huge changes (including curved screens, OLED displays, and fewer hardware buttons). The tech world is primed for something ambitious.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Physical ports must die. And only Apple has the courage to do the killing.

Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. — Steve Jobs

Apple VP calls 3.5mm headphone jack ‘a dinosaur,’ says ‘it’s time to move on’ – September 8, 2016


  1. Well if anybody could make it work I would say it would be Apple whenever they first had rumors of removing the dock port I laughed and said no way Apple would go to something different because it would screw with the ecosystem but they were able to.

    I remember people throwing a fit back in the 90s when the iMac Bondi blue came out and people had fits about that I had no disk drive and they didn’t have serial ports so who knows I kind of was worried back then that maybe Apple had made a mistake but they didn’t so we will see my only issue is that it’s not Steve Jobs running things now it’s Tim Cook and I don’t have this much believe in him as I did Steve

  2. If Apple precedent for wireless syncing is anything to go by, then HELL NO, I don’t want it.

    Anytime I try to wi-fi sync my iPad Pro to my iMac it locks up greater than 75% of the time. My Apple Watch only successfully unlocks my Mac Pro or iMac about 50% of the time. Do we need another poorly executed “wireless” scheme from Apple? Its one thing to be brave about taking away wires. Its entirely another to do so correctly.

    1. This is a change I’d be in favor of because I am sick of buying different cables, and my friends and I find the lightning cable connection goes bad time and again. Lightning, authorized Apple connectors not 3rd party, cables are one of the worst pieces of shit Apple ever produced. Got two bad ones here now. Any takers? Maybe finally we can stop all the expensive cable nonsense.

    1. I don’t know why for some this is being interpreted as a requirement to shift to wifi for data connection. The article talks about an optical connection. Optical is potentially far more efficient than copper for data. They may want to get ride of a physical “port” – as in “a hole in the casing” – but the article clearly describes “an optical interface”, which could be created with water- and pressure-proof fused glass.

  3. Apple’s been pursuing a wireless environment goal for over 20 years. No data cables or no power cables. It would be interesting to see how they would pull it off. I suspect the gotchas would be wireless charging time, line-of-sight availability for syncing, heat disbursement, and portable recharging challenges (a new breed of portable rechargers to carry around with you).

    1. Spot on.

      At some point, Apple is going to have to admit that wires really are more efficient and convenient for many things. Users deserve a choice.

      If Apple was smart about this stuff, it would add a feature a year before taking away the legacy connectivity. They would learn whether the users embraced the new tech or not.

      For the record, iPhones have had Bluetooth for many years and still the majority of users do not like it for a long list of reasons. Wireless compromises are many, and the advantages few.

      1. Ahh but Apple just took a huge leap forward in Bluetooth with their new W1 silicon. Have you tried using the new AirPods? I bet many complaints about Bluetooth will be quelled with its instant pairing, longer range, higher throughput/thus higher audio fidelity, and the sharing of the pairing with your other devices. And this is only W1. Where will Apple be when the W2,3,4,5… roll out? And what about the use of the Wx chip in other home connected devices? Will Apple make a new business out of supplying Wx chips for OEMs of HomeKit connected devices? I think, yes.

        So Apple may indeed smooth out the wireless bumps like no one else.

        1. We shall see how airpod sales go. You are very optimistic. Value just isn’t there. $40-100 for *very* good wired analog phones, $100+ for wired lightning phones, $160+ for W1 wireless. Who do you think buys this stuff? The same people who buy the hump battery packs?

      2. You may be right, Mike, but it looks like Apple is attempting to drop all analog circuits from within the iPhone. I’m no fan of inductive charging — it’s relatively slow and inefficient, but it is already implemented in the Apple Watch.

        We do know that Intel has been working for a long time on fiber optic data transmission. Toslink has been used in audio for a long time, and HP calculators have had IR data ports since the 1980s. It’s all doable. The question is whether Apple can package it into a thin phone and if the customer is willing to pay that much for it. Tough sell.

        But yeah, I too would rather have the choice of old-school wires including a dedicated analog headphone hack. They just work.

  4. “Next year’s presumptively titled iPhone 8 is the tenth-anniversary smartphone from Apple”

    The way I add it up, this year (2016) was the tenth iteration of the iPhone with 2007 being the first. Let’s see….. ’07, ’08, ’09, ….., ’16. Yup iPhone 7 is the tenth one!

    1. iPhone 7 is the 10th iphone, but they are talking about the 10th Anniversary.

      Just like your 1st birthday is the 1st Anniversary of your birth, your 9th birthday is actually the 10th time you saw that specific day. Just go with it, you have for every year you’ve been alive!

  5. This is the first year that I didn’t hook my new iphone up to my mac to load information from a backup. i used my icould backup for all the data and Apple music for all my songs. It worked very well. all my keychain passwords (including all the various wifi routers i connect to), photos, apps (loaded to the correct folders) came thru. I was very impressed. DEATH TO WIRES!!!!

  6. One of the most important reasons for eliminating ports is visual esthetics. The fewer openings on the device that disrupt the clean lines and curves, the better. And the criteria for removal is rather simple: if the function of that port can be performed by an other already existing one, the port goes. This is why we now have only one USB3 port on MacBooks, and everything else is gone. And why we only have Lightning on the iPhone.

    Eliminating Lightning in favour of wireless may present some unintended consequences for the small percentage of users who rely on Lightning for third-party devices (some of them health-related, and we know Apple is big supporter there). The best possible way to bridge the two conflicting requirements (eliminating ports and allowing physical connection) would be an optical interface. It could be some sort of a dock, or a similar snap-on connection that would allow zero- (or low-)latency fast data communication, without compromising the design appearance.

    Obviously, charging would be wireless.

    1. Aesthetics at the expense of everything else is a fool’s errand.

      Nobody ever complained about any Mac or iPhone having too many ports. If you don’t like to have exposed ports that you don’t use, nobody is stopping you from plugging them yourself.

      Speaking of removing ports, how’s that MacBook selling? Jony’s extreme minimalism is achieving diminishing returns. That’s what’s so sad about Apple hardware today. Instead of maintaining the lead, Apple lets other companies produce better hardware. Honestly, ignore the OS for a minute and look at how far behind Macs are these days. MacBook versus HP Spectre. Sorry, MacBook loses big time. You have to offer buyers utility, not just aesthetics.

      1. I think you are completely wrong. Aesthetics are, for the most part, the overriding factor in deciding about a consumer device. People who comment on this forum take no time to jump in with comments about how ugly a Droid, Lenovo, Motorola phone is. An endless line of connectors, ports, slots and openings that disrupts the design lines simply looks ugly. One of the primary selling points of ANY Apple device isn’t its features, or integrated ecosystem, or some abstract quality, such as ease of use; it is its perfect appearance, from its immaculate packaging (hence hundreds of unboxing videos of Apple gear) to the perfection in industrial design, fit and finish. Apple invests comparably large percentage of its effort into the visual component of the device, because that is what ultimately sells. It is the design perfection of the iPhone that much more often sells ordinary users on the iPhone, than the fact that it uses A10 processor, or that it has a secure enclave for the fingerprint data.

        As for the new MacBook, I’m not sure where you’re getting your data, but it has been selling extremely well, compared to other MacBooks (Air or Pro), the overall Mac sales numbers drop notwithstanding. My anecdotal evidence confirms this; on my office floor (around 100 people), I would guess that some 70 of them have portable Macs, and close to a third are new MacBooks. Not a scientific sample, obviously, but somewhat indicative nonetheless.

  7. A port is not a physical i perfection any more than your ears are. Does Jony want to sell us a brick of Aluminum because a glass face disrupts his obsession for less and less?

    I wonder if Jony’s house has windows and doors.

    1. Yes, it is. The design philosophy of Jony Ive (hence, Apple) embraces the extreme minimalism, where any disruption damages the concept. There is a powerful emotional force that attracts people to Apple’s devices, and it is precisely because they have perfect, smooth, uninterrupted lines, terminated by soft curves in perfect proportion with the dimensions of the product. When Jony Ive waxes poetical in those white videos explaining the process behind the design, he is truly passionate about it for a good reason. The result of his passion directly translates into sales. We have been seeing this for almost 20 years (since the first Bondi blue iMac).

      Apple has been removing redundant functionality since that first iMac (floppy drive, serial port). Over the years, we saw appearance and disappearance of: SCSI, firewire 400, firewire 800, analogue modem, PC Card slot, ExpressCard slot, Ethernet, optical drive, VGA, DVI, MiniDVI, Thunderbolt, and likely more. Ultimately, we now only have one single port (USB3), and that might go as well, as soon as reliable and elegant wireless charging problem is solved.

      There are quite few of us whose blood pressure rises at the thought of a port-less Mac (and iPhone), as we have various devices that need to be connected to our Apple hardware. But for vast majority of regular masses, the disappearance of all ports will be mostly a non-event, a minor disruption (having to buy a new pair of headphones, or a wifi-enabled external hard drive), which they will forget, as they did all similar previous disruptions caused by disappearing ports.

        1. You are not their target demographic (nor am I, for that matter, neither are most who comment here). We will continue to buy Apple products, despite the attrition of ports, because the alternative is simply so much worse that we’re willing to put up with work-arounds.

          My point remains; visual appeal (not just for Apple products, but in genera) is usually one of the most powerful qualities that attracts consumers towards a product. Steve knew this quite well; we see it form numerous stories about him agonizing over the correct shade of beige on the inside of the Macintosh, or the force of the tactile feedback (the ‘click’ that a button makes) on the iPod scroll wheel. These things matter, disproportionately much.

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