Why is Apple removing the Lightning port and what could it mean for Android phones?

Why is Apple removing the Lightning port and what could it mean for Android phones?
Whether you love or hate Apple, there’s no denying that the company has a tremendous influence over the smartphone market. Prime examples include the removal of the beloved headphone jack and the rise of the notched display, while the hugely popular AirPods have been shamelessly copied by established brands more than once.

A few days ago, a piece of information about Apple’s 2021 iPhones came out describing another trend that Apple might be about to kickstart. The report, coming from a reliable source, said that Apple is planning to remove the Lighting port from its most expensive iPhone model for that year. The cheaper 2021 iPhones will still have one.

But the Lightning port on the top 2021 iPhone will not be replaced by USB Type-C, as many are probably hoping. The plan is to introduce an iPhone delivering a "completely wireless experience," according to the source. Allegedly, that iPhone will have no charging/data port at all.

This isn’t the first time we hear of a portless phone. Chinese manufacturers Meizu and Oppo have toyed with the idea, even showing prototypes of the devices, but none has made it to the market just yet. Apple considering this move, however, is a whole other ball game.

Why would Apple kill the port?


We’re all familiar with Apple’s pursuit of sleek design, but that wouldn’t be the prime reason for the removal of the Lightning port. In its own words, Apple is a company that believes in a wireless future. Dropping the connector could be a part of that transition, meant to bring both the company’s products – and the industry as a whole – into the next decade.

On top of being in line with Apple’s long-term philosophy, a completely wireless iPhone with no connector would be more durable. It should be easier to secure against water damage, while damaged ports and frayed charging cables could become a thing of the past. No less importantly, removing the port would free up valuable space inside the phone for things like a bigger battery, additional cameras, or 5G antennas.

But if users are at the center of everything the company does, then changes must always bring a better user experience. That would mean providing better alternatives to all the functionality that comes with the Lightning port: charging, data transfer, and connectivity with headphones and accessories.

Of course, there are Apple’s AirPods for anyone wanting to listen to their music on the go. Some users will always miss their wired headphones, but if Apple bundles a pair of AirPods with its smartphones (as some rumors suggest) the number of these users will be significantly lower.
Data transfer is mostly taken care of as well. Apple’s synchronization between its devices and the cloud is very convenient and works seamlessly. People that use an iPhone but not a MacBook or an iMac, however, might require some special attention from Apple if the cable is to disappear. A custom solution might already be in the works at Cupertino.

Wireless charging has been around for years but there’s one major problem with its current implementation. While your device is on a wireless charger, it’s pretty much unusable. Sure, you can check notifications or even scroll through feeds but it’s not a good user experience. Now, by 2021, battery life would surely see improvements, and maybe Apple is betting that no matter what you do during the day with your iPhone, an overnight charge would be enough. Or maybe it’s been developing a technology that would allow not only wireless but also contactless charging. However, given the inefficiency of the process, it seems highly unlikely to see a phone that charges from a distance in the next decade.

An invisible port instead of a no-port?


While there might be no port to plug a cable into, that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be something else to serve the functions of the Lightning port. Perhaps instead there will be several pins cleverly hidden in the frame of the iPhone and a connector that magnetically attaches to them, much like how the keyboard attaches to the iPad Pro or how the Apple Pencil sticks to the side of the tablet and charges. Wireless USB is also a thing, even though you might have never heard of its existence.

An “invisible” port solution would combine the best of both worlds: the benefits of a portless design and the functionality of a wired connection for those that really need it. For some applications you just can’t go wireless, at least not right now and not as soon as 2021 either.

Apple wouldn’t want to mess with all the professionals that use its products and give the brand its hip and creative vibe. So it has come up with a viable alternative to the Lightning port.

Musicians need that zero-latency input that you can’t get with a wireless connection. Photographers need a place to plug in their SD card readers. External hard drives are ubiquitous due to how large video files have gotten. Power banks are another thing heavy users have in their bags. 


No matter what the specific solution is, one thing is certain, Apple will cause a stir in the smartphone industry.

Another domino effect might be coming...


As soon as the new iPhone with no ports goes on sale, Research and Development teams all over the world will start a thorough examination of it. Inside and out, hardware and software, everything about this new portless experience will be dissected. Soon after, concepts for in-house alternatives will be created.

Several months later, when Apple’s financial results show no significant dip in sales numbers (because let’s be honest, there probably won’t be one), executives of competing brands will start to seriously consider releasing a phone with no ports as well. After all, companies like Samsung and Huawei release dozens of phones each year. Having one of them without ports is not a huge risk.

Here’s the tricky part: removing the port is easy, replacing it is hard. Unlike Apple, which has a comprehensive ecosystem of devices and software, other smartphone manufacturers often have to partner with various companies for their products. The software they get from Google and most of the chips come from Qualcomm.

Excellent coordination between all those entities must be established if Android users are to receive a viable alternative to the USB Type-C port. The process of creating a well-thought-out alternative to Apple’s solution will likely be slow and riddled with hurdles.

As a result, we’ll likely see three camps forming among Android smartphone makers:

Camp 1: Apple did it, we’re doing it!

Undoubtedly, there will be companies that will rush to mimic Apple without proper planning and R&D. Chances are their users will get something half-baked that creates more problems than it solves. Some of the larger manufacturers might dip their toes by releasing a portless phone as part of a less-important line to test users’ reactions.

Camp 2: We’ll do it when we’re ready.

The intelligent way to go about this. Make sure you’re not sacrificing functionality first and then, when you have a technology that’s mature enough, implement it into your products. Sure, it’s still technically following Apple, but at least it’s done the right way (hopefully).

Camp 3: We’re not doing it!

Some companies will straight up ignore what Apple did and keep doing whatever they had planned. Of course, when no-ports eventually becomes the standard, they’ll go for it as well, but at that point, it doesn’t really count as following Apple.

Hopefully, no matter what happens, we won’t have to go through another set of ads from companies mocking Apple for their decision only for those same companies to follow suit a few years later and discretely remove said ads from YouTube (I’m looking at you, Samsung!).

So, do you think we’ll see portless iPhones as soon as 2021 and are you ready for the wireless future? Tell us below!

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38 Comments

1. PhoneCritic

Posts: 1382; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

I like the idea of pin connectors I think if apple goes that route it will good. They wont be the first as several OEM have done this Notably Motorola and their mods and other Asian OEM have done similar things. its really a Good thing if the whole industry goes this route.

20. bbycrts

Posts: 35; Member since: Nov 05, 2018

Pin connectors or a wireless adapter that allows a wired connection to accessories is a must - I have come to rely on an in-car system - Android Auto or Apple CarPlay - in my day-to-day driving. If Apple introduces a system that's not backwards compatible with my car's wired system, I'm going to have to either never upgrade my iPhone again or go back to Android.

2. Brewski

Posts: 737; Member since: Jun 05, 2012

"The plan is to introduce an iPhone delivering a "completely wireless experience,"" Maybe they should consider releasing a wireless charger first...?

3. ZEUS.the.thunder.god

Posts: 1185; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

I'm not an Apple fan but I think this can be a step in the right direction if they're able to execute it properly. I don't give a damn about Apple copying others and vice versa, as long as end users get a better experience. Bring it on Apple.

4. Nutcase4u2

Posts: 53; Member since: Oct 15, 2015

Funny that Apple will claim to be so innovative with this move, when they're not the first to do it. Same with wireless charging and so many other features that Android has been utilizing for years. Yes, Apple does these things very well, and if they implement the feature properly then other companies will be sure to follow. Hopefully they will have a "pins" or magnet feature where you can connect a wired charger for data transfer or faster charging.

9. toukale

Posts: 672; Member since: Jun 10, 2015

I can't ever understand post like this one. When did Apple ever made such claims? Fanatics are so triggered by anything Apple its not even funny at this point. It's also funny to give Android credit for things that have nothing to do with the OS. I see things like adapting any standards as innovative ( ex...NFC). Last time I check, Android did not create NFC, another one is 5G, again a standard anyone can adapt but for some its such and such manufacture is innovative by adopting the standard first. Folks are so triggered by doing things like this its ridiculous at this point.

11. midan

Posts: 3235; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

Word!

14. cmdacos

Posts: 4392; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Apple never claims to be first. It's just their clueless hardcore fans have no idea that Apple gets their ideas elsewhere.

22. midan

Posts: 3235; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

It's actually triggered Android fanboys just like guy above who always talk about Apple innovate this and this when in fact Apple very rarely use that word just like toukale said

5. RoryBreaker

Posts: 306; Member since: Oct 11, 2015

This would be a horrible idea which isn't ready for prime time which is exactly why I think Apple will do it. The post 2015 MacBook with USB C only ports was another horrible idea which was half baked & not ready as witnessed by needing an adapter or connector hub in order to be functional in all scenarios.

6. Knownhost

Posts: 116; Member since: Nov 13, 2017

Apple will go portless only when they have a wireless charger that they can sell at an exorbitant price to replace the revenue from licensed lightning port accessories. Apple, like most companies, is driven by profit, not design. At least, not anymore.

7. yalokiy

Posts: 1124; Member since: Aug 01, 2016

What an "invention".

8. User123456789

Posts: 1361; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

I do not have issues with lightning port. The problem is the cable is s**tty. It breaks easily. Usb cable of that comes with android phones is 100x tougher.

10. TBomb

Posts: 1714; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

I think it's great that we're moving away from ports... but at the same time, forcing wireless is going to be annoying. Charge in the car? "take away a cup holder for a lowest-bidder-made wireless charger" Need another charger? "$100 for the wireless charger instead of $30 for a wired one" Pair of headphones? "$160 for airpods instead of the $14 airport pair that you needed to buy for a one-time use" I think wireless should be a convenience, not a necessity.

24. libra89

Posts: 2338; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

Well said!

12. Takeharu

Posts: 295; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

I still want to use my phone while charging and it's just not really possible with wireless charging. I'm all for a wireless future but unless they figure out a way that I can still use my phone while charging I'm not interested

13. yalokiy

Posts: 1124; Member since: Aug 01, 2016

A case that connects wirelessly to phone, but provides a wired option for charging would probably appear on sale soon after.

38. Takeharu

Posts: 295; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

Maybe, I never use cases but I guess I could live with it as an extension to my current charging cable

15. cmdacos

Posts: 4392; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

95% of car play stereos rendered useless at launch. Sweet

28. Vokilam

Posts: 1455; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

Every vehicle you buy for the past 5 years comes with BT.... you still live in the past with you flash ports and wires!

16. midan

Posts: 3235; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

Like you guys pointed out, Apple devices have huge amount of 3rd gadgets for musicians which works over the lightning or headphone jack so there have to be replacement for that lightning port to get those work. For example i use my guitar and mini midi keyboard with my iPhone and iPad

17. Whitedot

Posts: 894; Member since: Sep 26, 2017

"The plan is to introduce an iPhone delivering a "completely wireless experience,"" Yet wireless charger still based on the wire technology and connected to mains. I don't see the point of it unless some universal wireless charging fields will be integrated everywhere around us.

34. JMartin22

Posts: 2415; Member since: Apr 30, 2013

Yeah, all this is going to result in is inconvenience. It won’t charge as fast as the wired solution we have now and we can’t handle the phone on the charger.

18. DFranch

Posts: 562; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

How would apple carplay work? Doesn't that have to be hardwired to the car?

19. yalokiy

Posts: 1124; Member since: Aug 01, 2016

Just get a new car and new iphone that will support wireless carplay, what's the problem?

21. toukale

Posts: 672; Member since: Jun 10, 2015

Wireless carplay have been a thing since late 2016 early 2017. If it did not come with the model car you have, there is always adapter available for it.

23. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1486; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

Haven't we already seen and heard of prototypes from other manufactures without ports? So why make it seem like Apple is leading the charge? By the sound of it, they're not even fully committing to it.

25. Gryffin

Posts: 92; Member since: Dec 19, 2018

2019 : you can't use charger and wired headphone together 2020 : you can't use your phone while charging

26. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1486; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

It's called progress...

27. monoke

Posts: 1206; Member since: Mar 14, 2015

I still don't see the benefit of removing the 3.5mm jack. How is buying a clunky 2 way adapter to charge and listen thru your wired set the future? No. I don't want a watered down Bluetooth set (an extra item to charge equals another inconvenience also). How is removing tangible, useful ports the way of the future if that solution is currently half assed at best?!

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