Comment: What iPhone needs before wireless can replace Lightning or USBC

Ming-Chi Kuo reported today that Apple plans to release an iPhone that is completely wireless in 2021. That is, an iPhone without Lightning or USB-C connectivity of any sort. I see several major hurdles with this strategy right now, but those could be solved by 2021.

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According to Kuo, Apple will release an iPhone in 2021 without Lightning connectivity. While many had assumed Apple would one day switch from Lightning to USB-C, Kuo seems to think that won’t be the case. Instead of going through another change in connectivity, Apple’s strategy will seemingly be to ditch outwardly facing ports altogether.

According to Kuo, Apple’s goal with the 2021 iPhone is to “provide the completely wireless experience.” The change would first come to the “highest-end model,” then spread downmarket to the rest of the iPhone lineup.

The hurdles

2021 seems optimistic for an iPhone without Lightning or USB-C. In my mind, there are a few major hurdles: fast charging, CarPlay, on-the-go charging, and diagnostics.

Wireless charging is incredibly convenient around the house and even in the car, but that’s not always the case. When out and about, using a portable battery is one of the easiest ways to recharge your iPhone. With a wireless charger, this isn’t really possible.

You also still can’t easily use your phone while charging it wirelessly. For example, if you’re sitting at an airport charging your iPhone, chances are you’re going to want to be using it while it charges. Again, this isn’t yet possible with wireless charging.

Then, there’s fast charging. The iPhone 11 can charge at up to 18W when using a USB-C to Lightning cable. Most wireless chargers only charge at 7.5W or 10W. Wireless charging is great for overnight power, but when you need a quick boost, wired charging is still the way to go.

Apple touts that using an 18W charger with your iPhone 11 can get you a 50% charger in just 30 minutes. That type of speed just isn’t yet possible with wireless charging.

There’s also the issue of support and diagnostics. If something goes wrong with your iPhone today, you can plug it into your Mac and easily restore it to factory settings. Without a Lightning port or USB-C port, there would seemingly be no easy way to do this without going to an Apple Store.

Lastly, CarPlay. While some newer cars and head units support wireless CarPlay, the vast majority don’t. And it’s highly unlikely that the majority of iPhone users will buy a car with wireless CarPlay by 2021.

It’s not impossible

Of course, technology can progress a lot between now and 2021. It’s entirely possible that wireless charging will be just as fast, if not faster, than wired charging by then. iPhone battery life could also continue to improve. The less we have to worry about charging, the more feasible it is to ditch the Lightning port. Apple made dramatic improvements to iPhone battery in 2019, and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue.

It’s clear we’re closer now than ever to an iPhone without Lightning or USB-C, and while we’re not there yet, I can absolutely see it happening by 2021. Kuo’s explanation that Apple will first make the change on the highest-end iPhone is logical. The people buying that iPhone are the people most receptive to that sort of change.

With that being said, I’m struggling to find a solution to the CarPlay problem. While wireless CarPlay is growing, it’s growing at an incredibly slow rate. Apple will need to really push on automakers to implement wireless CarPlay if it intends on ditching Lightning in less than two years.

Ultimately, I’m not ready for an iPhone without any ports right now, but I definitely could be by 2021 with improvements to fast wireless charging and iPhone battery life. It also only seems fitting that Jony Ive’s dream of a “slab of glass” iPhone is achieved after he departs Apple.

What do you think? Are you ready for a completely wireless iPhone today? Let us know in the poll below and down in the comments.

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