As October draws nearer and the inevitable (but potentially delayed) release of the next iPhone approaches, rumors have been heating up. Not only about that upcoming iPhone 12, but what Apple has planned for even further down the pipeline in 2021 and beyond. And one thread that keeps cropping up can seem equal parts unbelievable and inevitable: that after the next big redesign in 2021, the iPhone won’t have a charging port.
Rumors that 2021 will be the year the iPhone loses its Lightning port date back to 2019, but have resurfaced with additional leaks, and there’s plenty of reason to believe its true. Apple stayed the course on its controversial decision to nuke the beloved headphone jack in the name of thinness, simplicity, and upselling iPhone users to AirPods, and has already started abandoning the now eight-year-old connection method on its iPads which instead utilize USB-C. Its MacBooks have never bothered with the port, even though that meant that, for years, they were completely incompatible with the iPhone’s pack-in wired headphones. To top it all off, the European Union is throwing its considerable weight around in an attempt to pressure tech companies into adopting a single charging standard, which Apple has so far resisted.
It all leads to a juncture where Apple has essentially two choices to move forward if it wants to go beyond Lightning: adopt USB-C charging and appear to be following Android’s lead, or be the first to go full wireless and forge its own path. It’s easy to imagine which is more appealing.
But how would a fully wireless iPhone work? Only time will tell exactly, but there are a few assumptions that make a fair amount of sense. First, is that Apple would include a wireless charger with its new phones. It’s already standard practice to include a charger with a phone, of course, and Apple also provided a free 3.5mm-to-Lightning dongle when it killed off the headphone jack. Temporarily anyway.
Of course the Lightning port does more than just deliver a charge; it’s also used for data transfer, either by wire or directly with iPhone accessories like speakers, or your car. A pack-in wireless charger could help here as well. Phones and chargers, even wireless ones, pass information back and forth through the charging process, which companies like Google have already leveraged to send other information with devices like the Pixel Stand.
Alternatively, or in addition, Apple could produce dongles that, instead of plugging into your phone, plug into your old, wired accessories and make them wireless. In fact, there are already devices that do this. You can purchase a “CarPlay Adaptor” that allows you to wirelessly connect your phone to a car that otherwise only supports CarPlay through a wired connection. Such a device, which might run you a pretty penny going by existing adaptor prices, could bridge the gap for users who are extremely attached to their old accessories while Apple quickly pivots to pushing wireless connections on everything else.
Ultimately while the changeover to fully wireless would be painful, Apple can make it happen. With the full control of all hardware and software that Apple’s business model affords, it has the fairly unique capacity to make sweeping, transformative decisions about how its products work in ways that competitors like Google and Microsoft could never dream of. By the same token, you won’t have a choice when the wireless future invariably arrives. So might as well start bracing yourself now.