The lightning port of the iPhone 12 may be the next thing Apple kills

Patrick Holland / CNET

From the beginning ports were an integral part of mobile phones – dating all the way IPhone 12 Return to “dumb phones” from decades ago. But even when it comes to ports, Apple has done things its own way. In 2012, when the company switched from a 30-pin connection to a proprietary lightning port, its own parts became obsolete. USB-C is widely accepted as a global connection. (There are Lightning to USB-C cables, However.)

But if long-standing industry rumors are to be believed, Apple plans to kill the lightning port On the iPhone, creating a completely portable phone. One of the recent signs that we are getting closer to this portless life is the introduction of Apple MagSafe On the iPhone.

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Just forget about USB-C on an iPhone


The wireless charging system relies on an embedded array of magnets that snap the iPhone 12 onto a MagSafe puck. To charge your iPhone 12, rest it on the circular charging pad, then wait for the charging indicator on the screen to confirm it’s working. This eliminates the need for a Lightning connector, and while Apple kept the port on the iPhone 12, it did remove the wall adapter and wired earphones from its box.

After the addition of MagSafe, a wireless future seems inevitable for the iPhone. It offers a glimpse into Apple’s vision where a cord-free iPhone accessory ecosystem is made possible by magnets, not ports.

“Wireless technologies have reached a level of maturity where a portless device is much more viable than it’s ever been,” said Tuong Huy Nguyen, senior principal analyst at Gartner.

Some Chinese phone-makers have also beaten Apple to the punch, launching portless phones of their own. And many examples of emerging tech, like VR headsets and smart glasses, are wireless too. Whether Apple will head down this path remains to be seen, but there are many reasons why the time is right for Apple to finally introduce a portless iPhone. 

An iPhone 7 Plus with Lightning port sits atop a Google Pixel 2 XL with USB-C port.

An iPhone 7 Plus with a Lightning port sits atop a Google Pixel 2 XL with a USB-C port.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Apple is making more things wireless

Ports are a practical conduit for phones to deliver three key functions: charging, data transfer and audio output. Before adding MagSafe to its phones, Apple developed AirDrop and iCloud for data transferring. As for audio, Apple kicked off the mainstream trend of wireless earbuds in earnest when it introduced the first-gen AirPods in 2016. 

Apple also unveiled a MagSafe-compatible leather wallet that clips on to new iPhones and costs $59.


MagSafe is the wireless bridge to wired accessories

MagSafe is Apple’s answer to wireless charging for the iPhone 12. But to convince more people to live without a Lightning port, Apple needs to offer a wireless bridge for other wired accessories. MagSafe seems to serve exactly that purpose, opening up possibilities for a whole new world of iPhone attachments that magnetically snap on.

These accessories could include “game controllers, camera grips, selfie sticks and, yes, wireless charging battery packs that could change the way we hold or interact with an iPhone,” according to CNET executive editor Roger Cheng.

A few official MagSafe accessories we’ve already seen include Belkin’s car dock and a combo iPhone/Apple Watch charger. The move to MagSafe also indicates that iPhones probably won’t get USB-C.

Apple keeps improving wireless charging

After holding out for years, Apple embraced wireless technology in 2018 when it added support for the Qi-based wireless inductive charging standard to its iPhone 8 and iPhone X. Apple initially limited the power to just 5 watts, but later boosted it to 7.5 watts via a software update. This was an indication that Apple was regarding wireless charging not as a specialty feature, but as a necessary one. 

There’s also chatter about a new wireless charging pad in the works to replace AirPower, which was ultimately canceled before it had a chance to hit the market. Rather than charging multiple devices simultaneously like the AirPower promised, this Qi pad would likely charge one device at a time. 

Apple’s MagSafe charging system relies on magnets to autoalign the charging puck with any phone from the iPhone 12 family.


Now Apple says MagSafe works even faster than Qi chargers. Its charger now offers twice the amount of power at 15 watts, which could bring it on par with the Quick Charge technology that Android phones have long enjoyed. Admittedly, Apple has some catching up to do versus Chinese competitors such as Xiaomi and Oppo, but overall the industry is charging forward. 

For many years, wireless chargers have been painfully slow compared with their wired counterparts, taking nearly twice as long in some cases. But that gap is narrowing. Earlier this year, Oppo launched a 65W wireless charger, dubbed AirVOOC, that it says can fully charge a battery in 30 minutes. Meanwhile, Xiaomi is working on an 80W wireless charger that promises to fully refill a 4,000-mAh battery in under 20 minutes.

Apple has killed once-standard features and will likely do it again

Apple isn’t above axing popular product features even if people crave them years after they’ve gone. Apple killed the DVD disc drive in its Macs, for example, and it bid farewell to the headphone jack by removing it from the iPhone 7 in 2016. Longtime Apple executive Phill Schiller said that took “courage,” positioning it as an innovative shift away from outdated technology. “It makes no sense to tether ourselves with cables to our mobile devices,” Schiller said when Apple unveiled the AirPods at the same event. 


Apple unveiled its first-gen AirPods in 2016 alongside the iPhone 7 line, which were the first iPhones to ship without the standard 3.5mm headphone jack

Though many decried the move, other phone-makers followed Apple’s lead. Samsung, OnePlus, Google and others dumped the 3.5mm headphone jack from their flagship phones soon after, leaving a USB-C port in its place.

Apple still sells tens of millions of iPhones and AirPods every year, proving that many people are willing to adapt to its newer tech.

“A smartphone is a device with limited space for all the components, but it will also be important for the smartphone makers to provide better or more functions to stay competitive,” said Research Manager Will Wong at IDC’s Asia Pacific. “Thus, a portless phone is likely to be an unavoidable trend.” 

A portless iPhone will allow Apple to better differentiate between models

Apple analyst Ming-Chi- Kuo predicts that Apple will launch a portless flagship iPhone by 2021. Kuo reported that having a wireless phone will “create more differentiation” between top-tier iPhones and base-model iPhones. Going by iPhone 12 naming standards, this would mean it’s possible that the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max would be portless, while the iPhone 13 Mini and regular iPhone 13 would keep their Lightning port.

“We expect that the highest-end model would cancel the [Lightning] Port and provide a completely wireless experience, ”Guo wrote in the 2019 report.

The difference between the models makes it easier for Apple to order higher prices for its interested iPhones. These will target those with big budgets who care about being on the cutting edge of Apple technology.

Apple will not be the first to test a portless phone

Apple usually does not advance first on mobile phone trends. This is not the first release of phones with 5G or wireless charging, we have not seen it yet Foldable phone From Apple. So, it is not surprising that there are already portless phones. Chinese phone maker Vivo last year introduced a port-free and buttonless apex concept phone that relies on a magnetic clip that attaches to the back of the phone for charging. It also has virtual pressure-sensitive buttons instead of physical buttons, but it is not yet available to the mass market.


Chinese phone maker Vivo last year introduced a port-free concept phone called the Apex 2019 (pictured), which continues this year with the Apex 2020.

Aloisius Low / CNET

That does not mean that any ports are more durable

Whenever Apple closes a port, the chorus of criticism about compulsory obsolescence is followed, among others. Some iPhone users feel that Apple is robbing them of excellent input points.

Putting those charges aside, closing ports could make iPhones even more durable. The logic is this: the absence of ports means fewer seams, so there is less chance of dust and water going into the phone. It also refers to low points that are prone to cracking.

Apple is equipping its iPhones with features designed to improve life. This year the company focused Ceramic shield screen In its new iPhone 12 models. It also introduced water resistance for iPhones in 2016.

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