Apple tipped to go full wireless by 2021, and you're all still grumbling about a headphone jack
They can live in my new world or they can die in their old one
Ming-Chi Kuo, the analyst widely regarded as the most accurate soothsayer when it comes to Apple's product intentions, reckons it's lights out for the Lightning cable.
According to his report published late last week, Cupertino will ditch it on some models in 2021 for a totally wireless experience.
Such a move would allow Apple to more easily differentiate the products in its lineup. It'd also be the most radical change to the iPhone since the introduction of the notch.
This isn't the first time Apple has toyed with the idea. In 2018, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman revealed that the company considered releasing the iPhone X as a purely cable-free phone, but backed away. This was presumably due to fledgling wireless charging technology, as well as issues in the development process of the AirPower charging mat.
If Apple goes down this path, it won't be the first. Both Meizu and Vivo – giants in the Asian phone markets – have experimented with their own holeless-devices.
They were unsuccessful. Meizu attempted to crowdfund its attempt on Indiegogo, but the campaign failed after raising just 44 per cent of its modest $100,000 goal. Meanwhile, Vivo's Apex 2019 never quite made it into production, remaining only as an interesting concept for the tech press to ruminate about.
And it's not like Apple is inexperienced in making difficult changes. The removal of the floppy drive from the iMac, the excision of the DVD-ROM drive on the MacBook Air, and the iPhone 7's absence of a 3.5mm jack all spring to mind. These changes were initially controversial – if not unpopular – but punters eventually adjusted.
That said, any decision to ditch the familiar Lightning connection for a purely wireless experience will raise more questions than it answers.
For example, will punters have to buy their own wireless chargers, or will Apple supply them for free with new devices? And if so, will it bundle an adapter from a third party – like Belkin or Anker – or provide an Apple-branded one? Canny readers will remember that earlier this year Apple discontinued its own long-awaited AirPower wireless charging mat before it even shipped a unit, citing quality issues.
The AirPower was an ambitious product that would allow users to wirelessly charge multiple devices simultaneously. Any replacement would likely be a more conventional device that charges one phone at a time.
There are other logistical concerns, too. How will users of these new cordless phones charge their devices while out and about? Topping up your phone should be fine when you're at a desk, but what if you're stood on a packed bus, or are Jeremy Corbyn-ing on a packed Pendelino train? Wireless chargers require your phone remain connected to a single flat contact point, which isn't helpful if you're in motion, or are trying to use your phone to make a call or watch Netflix.
Ming-Chi says that only the premium models in Apple's 2021 lineup will go wireless, effectively creating a two-tier system where those who've "cheaped out" are inconvenienced less – or have to make the least amount of adjustment.
So what incentive will punters have to splash out on the most expensive models? Apple may give the answer to this in a future keynote. Could Tim Cook pull a rabbit out of his hat and effectively reimagine how inductive charging works? At this point, there's no clear answer – just speculation.
And finally, what does this mean for the hundreds of peripheral makers – like Anker, Belkin, RavPower, among others – who have bet big on the Lightning ecosystem? There may be trouble ahead. ®