The days of the proprietary Lightning connector might finally be over — in fact, we might just be counting down the months before Apple ditches the old technology. While support for devices and accessories that use it will go on for years, Apple will be moving away from Lightning and over to more standard technology. The writing has been on the wall for years, of course, but recent legal developments might have fast-tracked that migration. It seems that all the pieces will finally fall in place next year with the launch of the iPhone 15, the first of its kind expected to use USB-C. Apparently, it won’t be alone, and Apple might be moving everything to USB-C, including AirPods charging cases.
The Lightning connector was developed to address one of the computing industry’s biggest flaws. Almost all connectors, including Apple’s old 30-pin connector, were not reversible and required precise insertion to work. Worse, they incurred risks of damaging ports and plugs if they were inserted incorrectly, which happens more often than you might think.
The advent of USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 made that particular problem go away. For the first time, it didn’t matter which way you plugged in a USB cord as long as it was the correct cable. There are still some fuzzy areas when it comes to compatibility and features, but most of the time, it just works. Apple itself has been a strong proponent of USB-C and newer Thunderbolts in Macs, but it is too heavily invested in Lightning on mobile devices to make a quick jump. Time’s running out, though, and it seems that 2023 may be the year when everything changes.
The end of Lightning may be only months away
According to a tweet from notable analyst Ming-chi Kuo (via 9to5Mac), next year’s iPhone 15 will be switching to USB-C, likely making it the last Apple mobile device to do so. Most iPads have already migrated to USB-C, though the base model still has to make the switch; it is expected that this will happen this fall.
Kuo, however, also believes that charging cases for all AirPods next year will be sporting USB-C connectors, too. It is unfortunately too soon for the upcoming AirPods Pro 2 to sport the standard connector, so those who want to hop on USB-C will have to wait until next year, assuming the rumor proves true. Once that happens, though, almost all of Apple’s devices will have ditched the Lightning connector for USB-C. Whether or not it will be the exact same USB-C standard or something debatably improved by Apple is left to be seen.
This predicted schedule goes in line with Apple’s compliance to switch iPhones to USB-C by 2024, according to new EU legislation. Of course, ditching the Lightning connector won’t be a simple matter of switching one connector for another. The change will have implications for many accessories, especially third-party ones, that take advantage of Lightning technology to function. Reworking products to use USB-C won’t happen overnight, and this switch from Lightning to USB-C will be quite disruptive. Fortunately, there’s still time to adjust designs and pipelines, but Apple should probably give manufacturers a heads up long before that happens.