Friends, excellent news: Recent reports suggest that starting next year, Apple will ditch the Lightning port and embrace USB-C on its gadgets.
There is a problem. If this news is excellent (which I’m sure it is), then why do I feel so sad?
Before we try to unpack that crap, let’s soak up a little bit of context.
In recent years there has been writing on the wall for Apple’s own Lightning standard† The biggest driver for this is undoubtedly the EU, which has pushed for a single standard for smartphone chargers across the union.
Apple fought back, of course. 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 is reluctant to switch to USB-C is that it will definitely lose a ton of money if it doesn’t sell its own cables.
Still, Apple is nothing but pragmatic, and it knows it can only last 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 coming as standard.
This is all well and good, but symbolically it is the iPhone that is most important. If Apple’s flagship has a USB-C port, it indicates that it has finally sent Lightning to the trash.
1. A portable iPhone can cause more problems due to the current limitations of wireless technologies and the immature MagSafe ecosystem.
2. Other Lightning port products (e.g. AirPods, Magic Keyboard/Trackpad/Mouse, MagSafe Battery) are also expected to switch to USB-C in the near future. https://t.co/KD14TgBmtr
— 郭明錤 (Ming-Chi Kuo) (@mingchikuo) May 15, 2022
Most of us agree that Apple devices with USB-C will be a good thing. It means we’ll have to carry fewer cables and charge the iPhone more freely whenever we want – let alone all the technical benefits that moving to a more up-to-date format will bring.
But as I type this, a tear rolls down my cheeks.
Look, I know the Lightning connector isn’t that good. It’s a decade-old standard left in the dust by USB-C. But you know what? To be mine ten-year-old standard left in the dust by USB-C.
I have a fondness for the Lightning cable. I remember the joy of replacing the dreaded 30-pin dock connector, the wonderful thing that you never have to turn the cable, that it fits every time. It was simple, elegant and compact.
The approaching end of the Lightning connector feels a bit like losing a pet. Not a good pet, ghost, or animal you particularly liked, but something that was part of your life anyway. Maybe a sibling’s carnival goldfish, or a snail they found in the yard, 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 with USB-C ports? Sure. It’s easier and gives me a better experience. But I will also have to pour one out for all the years the Lightning cable has supported me.
When the change comes, it will be a good day – and it will also be a bad day. Truly, it is the duality of humanity.