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Ever since Apple removed the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 in 2016, rumors have swirled that Apple eventually aims to ditch the Lightning port next for a completely portless design. Indeed, analysts originally predicted that the highest-end ‌‌iPhone‌‌ 13 would offer a "completely wireless experience." Of course, that didn't happen, but a portless iPhone 14 in 2022 looks just as unlikely, for the following reasons.

iP14-Lightning-Portless-Feature-Gray-Grey.jpg

Apple's longtime goal has been to design an ‌‌iPhone‌‌ with no external ports or buttons for a clean, streamlined device, but significant hurdles still remain if it intends to provide a completely wireless charging and data transfer solution. As far as data is concerned, Apple would need to look beyond Bluetooth because of its bandwidth limitations and rely on a faster wireless protocol that allows iPhone data transfer at a speed that either matches or exceeds Lightning, otherwise the loss of the port would be seen as a backward step.

In fact, Apple has already developed such a protocol. MacRumors recently discovered that Apple Watch Series 7 models are equipped with a module that enables 60.5GHz wireless data transfer when placed on a proprietary magnetic dock with a corresponding 60.5GHz module. Apple probably doesn't advertise this capability because it's for internal use only. For example, Apple Store staff may use the dock to wirelessly restore an Apple Watch. It's unclear how fast its wireless data transfer is, but our understanding is that USB 2.0 speeds up to 480 Mbps might be possible. In other words, Lightning speed.

However, it's not just data transfer that would need to be achieved wirelessly. With no Lightning port, you wouldn't be able to physically connect your iPhone directly to a computer to reset an unresponsive iPhone through recovery mode. Unless Apple came up with an alternative at-home solution – a second iteration of MagSafe with high-speed data transfer capabilities, perhaps – the iPhone would have to go back to the Apple Store every time an over-air update or full device restore failed and borked the device, meaning more irritation and inconvenience for end users.

iphone-13-magsafe-1.jpg

For argument's sake, let's say Apple introduced "MagSafe 2.0" alongside a portless iPhone 14 and solved these data/recovery issues. The existing MagSafe Charger provides up to 15W of peak power delivery (or 12W on the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 13 mini) and charges a compatible ‌iPhone‌ less than half as fast as a wired 20W USB-C charger, so any new version of MagSafe would have to ramp up the juice considerably in order to come close to existing cable speeds.

Admittedly, Apple could probably pull off this feat (assuming it has shaken off its AirPower woes). You only have to look at its rivals to see what's already possible. Both the Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro support up to 21W and 23W wireless charging speeds, respectively, while the OnePlus 9 Pro boasts 50W wireless charging speeds thanks to its next-generation Warp charger, which is capable of charging a dead phone to full power in 43 minutes. That's faster than an iPhone plugged directly into a 20W charger. Xiaomi is another leader in the field – the 5000mAh battery in its Mi 11 Ultra phone can be charged from 0% to 100% inside 30 minutes, wirelessly.

Yet despite these speed gains in wireless charging, an oft-overlooked problem is its generally poor energy efficiency. In 2020, Eric Ravenscraft of Debugger found that wireless charging uses around 47% more power than wired charging for the same amount of power. Unless Apple surprised us with a new version of MagSafe boasting unprecedented energy efficiency, ditching the Lightning port would surely run counter to its much-touted environmental policy.

And that's not the only eco-problem Apple would be inviting upon itself by going portless. Speaking out in 2020 against EU deliberations on requiring a universal port across all mobile devices, Apple said that removing the Lightning port from the ‌iPhone‌ would "create an unprecedented amount of electronic waste." It's not hard to see how this line of argument could be turned against Apple if it launched a portless ‌iPhone‌ in 2022. It would make millions of existing Lightning cables, charging docks, and other adapters in the wild obsolete overnight and ready for the trash.

Apple-Prefer-Lightning-Over-USB-C-Feature.jpg

Of course, Apple could perhaps satisfy the European Commission by adopting USB-C, but that would just be swapping out one connector for another, committing the company to another cable standard for longer. Apple would effectively be kicking its vision of a portless iPhone further into the long grass. Indeed, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts Apple will retain the Lightning connector on the iPhone for the "foreseeable future," and has no intention of switching to USB-C, which has a lower water specification than Lightning. As Kuo rightly notes, such a move would also be detrimental to Apple's profitable MFi business, which is why he believes Apple is more likely to switch directly to a portless model rather than first change to USB-C.

Given these interlacing obstacles, in spite of some iPhone 14 rumors, we expect Apple's next smartphone‌ to continue to use Lightning ports with the option of ‌MagSafe,‌ until a more viable wireless charging solution comes along that allows for a portless ‌iPhone‌ design without the attendant disadvantages. So when could that be? Frankly, it's hard to say.

Back in 2016, Apple was rumored to be partnering with Energous to deliver a "true wireless charging" solution, but nothing has come from it so far. Apple is still believed to be researching new wireless charging technologies, and with the advent of ‌MagSafe‌, the company is clearly still interested in innovating new ways to power devices without the mess of cables. How long we'll have to wait for one that powers a portless iPhone remains unknown.

Article Link: The iPhone 14 Is Unlikely to Be Portless, Here's Why
 

MayaUser

macrumors 65832
Nov 22, 2021
1,503
2,815
Too late for usbC now...lightning was ahead of its time, far better than micro-usb
Lightning for another generation, and 90% in 2023 we will have that port-less iphone that people is talking about for quite some time
 
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CyberGene

macrumors member
Feb 3, 2011
79
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I record my piano videos by connecting my Yamaha digital piano through a USB cable and the Apple adapter to the iPhone for perfectly synced video and clean digital sound from the piano coming through USB audio. It’s been something many Yamaha users love. There are also great portable stereo microphones (e.g. Shure) that connect through a lightning connector to turn your iPhone into a perfect and high quality portable stereo recorder.

It would be a huge mistake to eliminate physical data connector. I hope Apple don’t fall for the BS.
 

SirAnthonyHopkins

macrumors 6502a
Sep 29, 2020
840
1,549
It's not hard to see how this line of argument could be turned against Apple if it launched a portless ‌iPhone‌ in 2022. It would make millions of existing Lightning cables, charging docks, and other adapters in the wild obsolete overnight and ready for the trash.

This operates on the very generous assumption that Apple’s claims about waste are credible and not just a useful screen for its desire to hold on to the proprietary port.

I seriously doubt Apple would be worried about what arguments could or couldn’t be turned against it if it was genuinely otherwise ready to launch a portless phone.
 

Chester Stone

macrumors member
May 28, 2016
51
161
You're also forgetting about development.

When you're developing your app and iterating on device, you might build several times per minute when tweaking or debugging just to get things right. Change a variable, rerun a test, shift a button. The slower this connection, the more painful it becomes to create apps.

Anyone who has tried to develop wirelessly with an Apple Watch knows how even a bit of build lag results in major friction & pain. Add more friction to this build speed or having an iPhone sit some part of your Mac, and you're going to see even buggier apps -- or, as has been the case with Apple Watch, fewer apps -- as a byproduct.

The wired connection with Lightning is the fastest way to build, and I don't see that changing.
 

dave070

macrumors regular
Oct 17, 2019
130
105
Nevada
This would be a mistake at this point. Not everyone has wireless charging and if you're out and about without your charger or it's lost/broken, you'll no longer be able to even borrow one from someone. Sure, that doesn't happen often but no reason to force this change to wireless at this point. Having both for the next few years is still the way to go unless the benefits of this design are so massive the outweigh the negatives.
 

Kuckuckstein

macrumors regular
Mar 10, 2020
171
323
If Apple is serious about the environment then the main reason not to go 100% wireless is the loss of energy while charging wirelessly. Unless somebody invents a way to come close to the efficiency of wired energy transfer, pure wireless should be a big no.
 

darngooddesign

macrumors G5
Jul 4, 2007
14,588
5,359
Atlanta, GA
The phone won’t be portless until Apple includes a MagSafe puck in the box.

A phone without buttons and ports *might* have been a goal under Ive, and that’s a mighty big assumption, the MBP changes are an indication that is not necessarily true. Heck the watch has a big physical control button that could have been touch/software instead.
 

Quu

macrumors 68040
Apr 2, 2007
3,317
6,401
My chief concern with the iPhone port situation is they've given us 1TB iPhones with the ability to shoot 4K ProRes.

These produce very large files that take a long time to transfer at USB 2.0 speed which in my testing seems to top out around 33MB/s. It can actually take several hours to transfer footage this way, even WiFi is faster though does make the phone get very hot and it throttles after a while.

I would have really liked to see them introduce USB-C at 10Gb/s so we could have 1.25GB/s file transfers. I feel at-least for the Pro iPhone with its capability to author such large video files that it makes sense to have.

If they are going to remove the ports entirely then I hope whatever wireless transfer method they come up with is greater than USB 2.0 speed because it's becoming a real bottleneck to using the phones in the way Apple advertises them in a pro workflow.
 

dave070

macrumors regular
Oct 17, 2019
130
105
Nevada
My chief concern with the iPhone port situation is they've given us 1TB iPhones with the ability to shoot 4K ProRes.

These produce very large files that take a long time to transfer at USB 2.0 speed which in my testing seems to top out around 33MB/s. It can actually take several hours to transfer footage this way, even WiFi is faster though does make the phone get very hot and it throttles after a while.

I would have really liked to see them introduce USB-C at 10Gb/s so we could have 1.25GB/s file transfers. I feel at-least for the Pro iPhone with its capability to author such large video files that it makes sense to have.

If they are going to remove the ports entirely then I hope whatever wireless transfer method they come up with is greater than USB 2.0 speed because it's becoming a real bottleneck to using the phones in the way Apple advertises them in a pro workflow.
Or at least a two version strategy for a few transition years. People have the option to buy a portless design if they want or with the dual charging version like they presently have. Apple is unlikely to do that though. A switch to USB-C would mean all the cables over the years are largely useless now but would be a good interim move until the entire industry goes towards a wireless only solution.
 
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Mr. Heckles

macrumors 65816
Mar 20, 2018
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CarPlay wasn’t mentioned, but that’s probably one of the most important features people would lose.

I just purchased a new vehicle that doesn’t have wireless CarPlay so the chance of me buying a portless phone is pretty well zero.
Same here. I want to swap the radio in my wife’s car and I’ll get one with wireless car play for her.
 
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RecoveringPhoenix72

macrumors newbie
Jan 8, 2022
1
10
Kansas City, MO
This is an excellent analysis, and many of the comments make great points, too. As much as some might think a portless iPhone would be a terrific thing, there are simply too many accessories/peripherals that wouldn't be able to interface with it if Apple ditched some kind of physical connection. Like @CyberGene pointed out, the importance of the physical data connection for musicians can't be understated, and there are tons of music creators using their iPhones. Bluetooth has too much latency/lag for most live performance or recording applications.
 

Quu

macrumors 68040
Apr 2, 2007
3,317
6,401
Why would Apple make their iPhones port-less when they make bank from all of the accessories they sell for it like lightning cables?
I think the benefits far outweigh the monetary loss and they can still have the MFi program. Makers of cables, docks and other accessories still want the ability to say made for iPhone on their boxes and Apple will be happy to certify those products and take their royalty.

Keep in mind lightning as a standard has been broken for many years and most of the cables available on the market are not certified by Apple anyway so I don't think much would change.

Also we've seen them do this switch before already. The iPad was once lightning, now USB-C. Did the world end? did Apples profits go down? nope.
 

dmylrea

macrumors 601
Sep 27, 2005
4,140
5,731
CarPlay wasn’t mentioned, but that’s probably one of the most important features people would lose.

I just purchased a new vehicle that doesn’t have wireless CarPlay so the chance of me buying a portless phone is pretty well zero.
Apple could sell a universal Wireless CarPlay adapter that just plugs into the USB port of your car. There are already lots of choices from no-name brands that work pretty well, but if Apple made one I'd rather have the real deal even at a higher cost.
 

reallynotnick

macrumors 65816
Oct 21, 2005
1,192
980
As far as data is concerned, Apple would need to look beyond Bluetooth because of its bandwidth limitations and rely on a faster wireless protocol that allows iPhone data transfer at a speed that either matches or exceeds Lightning
Why are you acting like WiFi 6 doesn't exist?

Edit: People are getting too hung up on the "6" in my comment, all versions of WiFi are faster than BT, so it doesn't matter if you have to use AC or even N, they all blow BT's max of 2-3Mb/s out of the water. The author acted like you either had to use BT or 60Ghz to transfer files.
 
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NightFox

macrumors 68030
May 10, 2005
2,982
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Shropshire, UK
and rely on a faster wireless protocol that allows iPhone data transfer at a speed that either matches or exceeds Lightning, otherwise the loss of the port would be seen as a backward step.
Agree, and I'd go further to say that if Apple were to make any move away from Lightning that didn't at least match USB-C speeds then they'd be pilloried, and rightly so.
 

TechRunner

macrumors 65816
Oct 28, 2016
1,046
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I've read in a few places that wireless charging increases the speed of battery degradation over time. If that's true (I'm no engineer, so rely on smarter heads to correct me) that would be another hurdle to overcome before killing off the port.
 
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