by Brandon Butler
Nope, Apple’s not getting rid of the iPhone Lightning port 12/8/2020

I can see where this rumor about Apple getting rid of the Lightning port on the next iPhone started: MagSafe. But MagSafe is not a replacement for a data connection to the iPhone. Lightning ports have two functions, only one of which is to recharge the phone. MagSafe provides a (very slow) wireless charge but it can’t transfer data. There are several instances in which removing the Lightning port from the iPhone does not make sense:

CarPlay: Many cars in use today — and still being sold today — require a hardwire connection to the car for Apple’s CarPlay system to function. You can’t connect wirelessly to CarPlay unless the audio deck supports it, and this means the audio deck nees to have wifi. (CarPlay doesn’t connect over Bluetooth.) If the Lightning port is removed, this means a person could buy a new iPhone without a Lightning port and the next day buy a new car that doesn’t support wireless CarPlay. There’s no aftermarket option to add wifi to the audio deck of a car; instead that person would just be stuck with a car for the next 5, 10, 20 years and never be able to connect their iPhone to it. This seems unlikely given the importance of CarPlay in the iPhone ecosystem.

AirPods (and other accessories): Apple today announced the new AirPods Max, which charge via Lightning. As do all current “regular” and Pro model AirPods. Lightning ports are on many Apple products, including the Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad. It’s also the only way to connect a pair of wired headphones to the iPhone (many people use those wired Lightning EarPods that used to come included with the iPhone). The Lightning cable is used all over the Apple ecosystem, and it’s the star of the show on the iPhone stage.

iTunes encrypted backups: Apple is a big supporter of user privacy and encryption. iCloud backups are encrypted on Apple’s servers but can be decrypted by Apple with a valid government warrant. Local iTunes/Finder backups, however, are encrypted on the Mac and only the user making the backup has the password to unlock it. These backups cannot occur over wifi and require a Lightning cable. Additionally, in order to restore a backup, the iPhone must be connected to the Mac with the Lightning cable.

Recovery mode: Recovery mode is a special mode for restoring a bricked iPhone that can’t function over-the-air. When the iPhone boots into recovery mode, you are literally prompted by the picture on the screen to plug in a Lightning cable. There’s no option B, short of replacing the phone — a bad option if you don’t live near an Apple Store.

3rd party accessory and cable market: Those Lightning cables that Amazon and Anker and Monoprice sell? Yeah, Apple makes money from those MFi-certified cables. Also, any MFi-certified accessory makers pay a licence fee to Apple. Yes, Apple can and probably is licensing the MagSafe accessory market, but it’s silly to simply give up a revenue source when instead you can have two!

Finally, MagSafe isn’t ready to replace Lightning: Someday? Absolutely. But in a year? MagSafe has no data transfer, recharges too slowly, is ridiculously expensive, and, frankly, hasn’t been well received by the Apple community. The Lightning port on my iPhone 12 Pro appears to take up about one-third of the thickness of the phone, so it’s not “in the way” of making the phone thinner, as was part of the reason that Lightning replaced the 30-pin iPod connector. Also, let’s be honest with ourselves: the rumor mill is really bad at predicting Apple’s iPhone port changes. They’ve been predicting for years that the iPhone would switch to USB-C, which is also not happening.

No, Apple is not removing the Lightning port from the next iPhone, because it’s too valuable and too much replies on it. The Lightning port is here to stay.