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Apple’s Lightning cable is 10 years old, but its time is up

In September 2012, Apple introduced the iPhone 5 – bigger, faster and more powerful than its predecessor, but perhaps the most revolutionary change was how you charged it. On stage to introduce the new phone, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller announced that the company is switching from the 30-pin connector found on every iPhone to date to a smaller new port called Lightning. Lightning seemed to be everything that its predecessors and competitors lacked: reversible, compact and solid. Schiller called it “the modern connector for the next decade.”

Fast forward to 2022, and the Connector has lasted a decade as promised by Schiller. Every iPhone still comes with a Lightning cable, and the cable remains a reliable method for charging devices and connecting them to appliances and cars. But as Lightning approaches its 10th birthday, I and many others are ready for Apple to close the book on this connector and introduce a sea change in how we charge our phones. It’s not that lightning is technically old; Because another port surpasses it in one key area – ubiquity.

Frankly, Lightning was — and still is — a very good connector. The port was revolutionary compared to everything else on the market at the time. The 30-pin connector is large, and the micro USB ports are finicky and difficult to plug in. In contrast, the Lightning port is small and impossible to mess with, which took a long time for anyone to get a very clear formula. there. Apple’s competitors suddenly found themselves at a disadvantage when it came to charging, data syncing and overall phone convenience.

Lightning Connector is also technically proficient. Even today, the port is fully capable of figuring out how most of us use our phones — it can charge modern iPhones from dead to 50 percent battery in about half an hour; With the right cable, you can plug a set of headphones into it; And it also supports 1080p video signal. It can achieve USB 3.0 speeds, although it is not widely supported. I can’t really think of anything I can do with my phone that can’t be flashed. This isn’t usually the case with connector standards that have been around for a decade – sure, there are standards like XLR and the 3.5mm headphone jack (which may never die). the way Longer, but they don’t do nearly as well as lightning.

Image of iPhone 5s with Lightning cable

Apple’s Lightning connector powers iPhones old and new — but the other end of this cable uses USB-C so it actually connects to Apple’s other products.
Photo: Michelle Clark / The Verge

But for all its strengths, there’s one thing Apple’s connector lacks: universality. In 2022, most of our devices will use a reversible, versatile port to charge and connect — and it won’t be Lightning. USB-C is on basically every Android phone and is the default port for various gadgets like GoPros and game consoles. Apple also uses it as the premier connector for all its MacBooks and almost all iPads.

These days, very few devices use lightning. You’ll find it on the iPhone, one model of the iPad (for now), and some accessories like Apple’s Magic Mouse, Magic Keyboard, and AirPods. That means if you have an iPad Air and an iPhone, or a MacBook and a Magic Mouse, or a Windows laptop and a pair of AirPods, you’ll need at least two separate chargers to power them.

Is it the biggest hassle in the world? Not at all. But when you’re traveling with USB-C-equipped phones, or when you’re around friends, or sitting on the couch with only your laptop charger within reach, it creates minor inconveniences. (Okay, maybe that last one is my problem.)

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Apple plans to introduce USB-C to the iPhone lineup with the upcoming iPhone 14. But regulators may end up forcing Apple’s hand to get rid of flash in phones sooner rather than later. The EU is in the process of making USB-C a legally mandatory charging standard for phones. Apple could always sell a USB-C phone in Europe and the Lightning everywhere else, but it’s hard to imagine the added cost and complexity of selling the iPhone with two different ones, cutting into Apple’s continued revenue from third-party Lightning accessories. Ports.

Recent rumors suggest that Apple’s 2023 iPhones will include USB-C in response to the EU’s legislation. That puts Apple a year ahead of the proposed fall 2024 deadline, which makes sense — if the company wants to keep its standard operating procedure to continue selling phones from the previous year, they’ll need USB-C as well. Adding the connector to the iPhone 15 would allow Apple to continue selling the iPhone 16 without problems after its launch, around 2024.

However, I’m sorry to tell you that Apple can get around the EU’s laws by removing the physical port entirely and using MagSafe wireless charging. In my opinion, that’s a worse option than simply switching to USB-C – which has many downsides, such as forcing people to upgrade old devices and cables, which could lead to an increase in e-waste, and more. Some upsides for consumers. But either way, the Lightning’s reign is coming to an end.

If the iPhone was literally the only gadget I used, I wouldn’t rush to see the Lightning connector off — I’d plug it in to charge my phone, listen to music, or sync it to my car several times a day, and it’d do a great job at those tasks for another decade. But I, like many other people, use many other devices, all of which rely on USB-C. My iPhone, AirPods, trackpad, and Apple TV remote became a mild inconvenience to charge in a sea of ​​devices focused on making my life easier as a user.

It’s not like Apple Lighting should be shy; It is considered permanent in the smartphone market and has influenced other manufacturers to move to a competitive and favorable standard. Apple can be proud of what it’s done and realize it’s time to move on — and when someone spends more than $86,000 for the novelty of owning an iPhone modified to include USB-C, it’s certainly time to move on.

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