Apple and Ports, A Shaky Relationship

Remember the announcement of the iPhone 7? Replacing the flagship iPhone 6 series, it boasted a better performance, a nicer screen, and more resistance to water, among other features. The thing it is most famously remembered for, however, was the controversial removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack, forcing users to choose between headphones with a Lightning cable connection and fully wireless ones.

At the time, this understandably caused iPhone 6 users to question why Apple needed to inconvenience its customers. I, too, was quite upset with the change. Apple was accused by many of being money-hungry and was even ridiculed by other smartphone companies in their ads, explicitly mentioning that they kept their headphone jack. It also didn’t help that Apple announced their first iteration of Airpods on the same day, which intensified the greedy feelings customers associated with the company.

But what’s the situation nowadays? I can’t even remember the last time I saw any smartphone with a headphone jack. Even the companies who were so proud of retaining their headphone jacks like Google, with its Google Pixel 1, quickly shifted gears and quietly removed them within years of Apple doing so.

This isn’t even the first time that Apple took a big leap which was criticized at first, but became the status quo fast. In 2008, the MacBook Air was released without a disc drive, which was considered a risky move back then. Now, of course, the benefits clearly outweigh the costs. No disc drive means more room for faster components and an overall slimmer device. Who even uses CDs on a regular basis anymore?

The reason I’m bringing all of this up is that Apple might be on the verge of removing another aspect of their phones that most people regard as essential.

A Portless iPhone?

Great video by MKBHD expanding on the topic further.
The old 30 pin connector

The EU finally passed a law they have been working on for a while now, the standardization of charging cables. By the end of 2024 various devices, such as mobile phones, cameras, portable speakers, etc, will be required to have a USB-C charging port. In 2026 this will extend to laptops. Apple, who has been using and selling its own proprietary Lightning cable to charge all of its devices, is obviously not too happy with the development. To give some context, Apple has been using the 8-pin Lightning connector since the release of the iPhone 5 in 2012, replacing the previous, bigger 30-pin dock connector which charged every handheld Apple device before that. While other companies have gradually switched over to USB-C, Apple has yet to do so on their biggest products like the iPhone and iPad, as the steady income generated by people buying their Lightning cables isn’t something their willing to give up.

But the EU is the EU. When this law comes into effect, Apple will have to change its approach. Greg Joswiak, Apple’s worldwide marketing chief, even told an interviewer that they’ll have to comply. But before we USB-C lovers count our eggs; we should be wary of exactly how Apple will be complying.

To be a bit more specific about the law, it only requires a company to install a USB-C charging port if the device can be charged with a physical, wired cable. And this specification is where Apple can flex its status-quo-changing muscles once again. There exists a real possibility that, after 2024, iPhones will have no ports at all, fully relying on wireless charging. The pieces are already in place. Apple has been pushing its new MagSafe technology ever since its co-debut with the iPhone 12 series. This technology surpasses normal wireless charging, by ensuring the phone is always properly aligned through magnets which only attract the MagSafe line of products.

Apple’s MagSafe technology

Now, while this MagSafe technology is great, a USB-C connection still allows for faster charging. So, you would assume a portless iPhone would be dead in the water compared to its faster-charging competitors, right? Well, that’s where the EU seemingly had to make a concession. Because the law goes into effect near the end of 2024, Apple still has over 2 years to really polish the MagSafe technology and make it more appealing and usable to its users. That means that the first iPhone that doesn’t have a Lightning connection port will most likely be the iPhone 17.

The question remains, however, how will the public and market react to a portless iPhone? The backlash will be faced no matter what, that’s for sure. But Apple has experience in dealing with that, so what else? Will a phone that can only be charged wirelessly be crippled with inconvenience, or will removing the charging port be the norm?

I personally think that MagSafe technology, and wireless charging overall, still has a way to go before it becomes the status quo. Not even mentioning charging speeds, in which wired connection still holds supreme, the prospect of finding a wireless charger when you’re out of the house doesn’t seem great to me at the moment. What do you think?