Image of iPhone 5s with Lightning cable

Apple’s Lightning cable is 10 years old, but its days are over

In September 2012, Apple introduced the iPhone 5 — it was bigger, faster, and more powerful than its predecessor, but perhaps the most revolutionary change was the way it was charged. On stage to introduce the new phone, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller announced that the company is switching from the 30-pin connector on every iPhone so far to a small new port called Lightning. The Lightning seems to be everything its predecessor and rivals don’t: reversible, compact and sturdy. Schiller calls it “the modern connector of the next decade.”

Fast forward to 2022, and the connector has lasted the decade that Schiller promised. Every iPhone still comes with a Lightning cable, and that cable is still a reliable way to charge your device and connect your accessories and car. But as Lightning approaches its 10th birthday, I and many others are getting ready for Apple to close the book on this connector and bring about a huge change in the way we charge our phones. It’s not because Lightning is technically obsolete; it’s because another port surpasses it in one key area — everywhere.

To be clear, Lightning was—and still is—a very good connector. Compared to everything else on the market at the time, the port was revolutionary. The 30-pin connector is huge, and the Micro USB port is finicky and hard to plug in. The Lightning port, by contrast, is small and impossible to screw up, a formula so obvious it’s no wonder it took someone so long to get there. Apple’s rivals are suddenly at a disadvantage when it comes to charging, data syncing and overall phone convenience.

Lightning connectors are also technically proficient. Even today, the port is perfectly adequate for how most of us use our phones—it can charge a modern iPhone from dead to 50 percent in about half an hour; with the right cable, you can connect a set of Headphones plug into it; it can even stream 1080p video. It’s also capable of USB 3.0 speeds, even though it’s not yet widely supported. I can’t actually think of anything I need to do with my phone that Lightning can’t do.That’s not usually the case with connector standards that have been around for a decade – of course, standards like XLR and the 3.5mm headphone jack (which are dead probably never will) already exist method Longer, but they’re also nowhere near as functional as Lightning.

Apple’s Lightning connector powers iPhones old and new — but the cable uses USB-C on the other end, so it can actually connect to other Apple products.
Photo: Mitchell Clark/The Verge

But while Apple’s connector has all the advantages, it doesn’t: versatility. By 2022, most of our devices will use reversible multi-function ports for charging and connecting — not lightning. USB-C is on basically every Android phone, and it’s increasingly becoming the default port for everything from GoPros to game consoles. Even Apple uses it as the connector of choice on all MacBooks and almost all iPads.

There are very few devices that actually use Lightning these days. You can find it on iPhones, one model of iPad (currently), and some accessories like Apple’s Magic Mouse, Magic Keyboard, and AirPods. This means that if you own an iPad Air and an iPhone, or a MacBook and a Magic Mouse, or a Windows laptop and a pair of AirPods, you’ll need at least two separate chargers to power them all.

Is this the biggest trouble in the world? of course not. But it’s a lot of inconvenience when you’re traveling or using a USB-C-equipped phone with a friend, or even just sitting on the couch where only a laptop charger can go. (Well, the last one might just be my problem.)

Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t appear to be planning to bring USB-C to the iPhone lineup with the upcoming iPhone 14. But regulators could eventually force Apple to get rid of the Lightning Network on phones sooner rather than later. The European Union is making USB-C the legal mobile phone charging standard. Apple could always sell a USB-C phone in Europe and a Lightning elsewhere, but it’s hard to imagine that Apple’s continued cuts to third-party Lightning accessories will make up for the extra cost and complexity of selling iPhones with two different sex port.

There have been recent rumors that Apple’s 2023 iPhones will include USB-C as a response to EU legislation. That would put Apple about a year ahead of its proposed fall 2024 deadline, which would make sense — if the company wanted to continue its standard operating procedure of continuing to sell phones from the previous year, those phones would also have to come with USB- C. Adding the connector to the iPhone 15 will allow Apple to continue selling the iPhone 16 after it launches (likely around fall 2024) without any issues.

I’m sorry to tell you, though, that Apple might be able to get around EU laws by ditching physical ports entirely and going all-in on MagSafe wireless charging, as the persistent rumors suggest. In my opinion this would be a worse choice than just switching to USB-C – it has many of the same drawbacks like forcing people to upgrade older devices and cables, can lead to a surge in e-waste, and is very terrifying to consumers Saying that there is hardly any benefit. But either way, Lightning’s reign appears to be coming to an end.

If the iPhone really was the only gadget I used, I wouldn’t be in a rush to turn off the Lightning connector — I plug my phone in to charge, listen to music, or sync to my car multiple times a day, and it’s going to be more than a decade away. He will probably do well at these tasks. But I, like many others, use many other devices, all of which rely on USB-C. My iPhone, AirPods, trackpad, and Apple TV remote have become minor inconveniences for charging among a plethora of devices focused on making my life as a consumer easier.

Apple shouldn’t be ashamed of Lighting. It lasted an eternity in the smartphone market and influenced other manufacturers to move to a standard that was both competitive and convenient. Apple can both be proud of the work it’s doing and realize it’s time to move on — when someone is spending over $86,000 just for the novelty of owning an iPhone modded to USB-C, it’s definitely time to move on Go ahead.

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