Callum BoothManaging Editor
Callum is the Managing Editor of TNW. He covers the full spectrum of technology, looks after editorial newsletters, and makes the occasional Callum is the Managing Editor of TNW. He covers the full spectrum of technology, looks after editorial newsletters, and makes the occasional odd video.
Friends, some excellent news: recent reports suggest Apple will ditch the Lightning port and embrace USB-C on its gadgets from next year.
There’s a problem though. If this news is excellent (which I’m certain it is), then why do I feel so sad?
Before we try and unpack that mess, let’s suckle on a little slice of context.
For the past several years, the writing has been on the wall for Apple’s proprietary Lightning standard. Arguably, the biggest driver behind this has been the EU, which has been pushing for a single smartphone charger standard across the union.
Apple, of course, fought back. It claimed that changing iPhone charging cables would result in a huge amount of e-waste.
This is probably true, but the real reason the company’s reticent about switching to USB-C is that it’s bound to lose a chunk of cash not selling its proprietary cables.
Still, Apple is nothing but pragmatic, and it knows it can only hold out for so long.
In fact, the change is already underway. The company has been slowly introducing USB-C into some of its gadgets, with the MacBook, iPad Pro, iPad mini, and iPad Air all sporting the standard.
This is all well and good, but, symbolically, it’s the iPhone that’s most important. If Apple’s flagship product has a USB-C port, it’ll signal that it has finally cosigned Lightning to the trash heap.
1. Portless iPhone may cause more problems due to current limitations of wireless technologies & the immature MagSafe ecosystem.
2. Other Lightning port products (e.g., AirPods, Magic Keyboard/Trackpad/Mouse, MagSafe Battery) would also switch to USB-C in the foreseeable future. https://t.co/KD14TgBmtr
— 郭明錤 (Ming-Chi Kuo) (@mingchikuo) May 15, 2022
Most of us can agree that Apple devices having USB-C will be a good thing. It means we’ll carry fewer cables and be freer to charge the iPhone when we want — let alone all the technical positives that moving to a more up-to-date format will bring.
But, as I type this, a tear is rolling down my face.
Look, I know the Lightning connector isn’t that good. It’s a decade-old standard that has been left in the dust by USB-C. But you know what? It’s my decade-old standard that has been left in the dust by USB-C.
There’s a fondness I have towards the Lightning cable. I recall the joy of it replacing the dreaded 30-pin dock connector, the miraculousness of never having to flip the cable, of it slotting in every time. It was simple, elegant, and compact.
The approaching end of the Lightning connector feels a little like losing a pet. Not a good pet, mind, or one you particularly liked, but something that was a part of your life all the same. Maybe a sibling’s carnival goldfish, or a snail they found in the garden, or a pet rock.
Time continues its cruel march.
Am I looking forward to iPhones and AirPods and every other Apple product under the sun having USB-C ports? You betcha. It’s easier and will deliver me a better experience. But I’ll also have to pour one out for all the years the Lightning cable has supported me.
When the change comes, it’ll be a good day — and it’ll also be a bad day. Truly, it’s the duality of humanity.
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