Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo at TF International Securities, a financial services group in the Asia-Pacific region, has predicted in a new note to clients seen by MacRumors that Apple will most likely be sticking with the Lightning port on iPhones for the “foreseeable future.”


STORY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • A portless iPhone rather than USB-C adoption.
  • A portless design would rely on MagSafe.
  • USB-C is less waterproof than Lightning.
  • Adopting USB-C would hurt Apple’s MFi business.

A close up of an iPhone X with a cable being plugged into the Lightning port

No USB-C for iPhones?

“We believe that USB-C is detrimental to the MFi business’s profitability, and its waterproof specification is lower than Lightning and MagSafe,” the analyst writes. The Lightning port was introduced in 2012 as the definitive replacement for the old 30-pin iPod connector. Mac notebooks, as well as the iPad Pro and the new iPad Air tablets, have adopted USB-C.

So, what will Apple do? The revered analyst speculates that the company could nix the Lightning port in the future in favor of a portless iPhone design that would use MagSafe, not USB-C, for power and data. “If the ‌iPhone‌ abandons Lightning in the future, it may directly adopt a portless design with ‌MagSafe‌ support instead of using a USB-C port,“ he said.

But MagSafe is only for power, no?

The reason why Apple isn’t moving sooner in that direction is the relative immaturity of the current MagSafe protocol, which rolled out less than six months ago with the iPhone 12 family. “At present, the ‌MagSafe‌ ecosystem is not mature enough, so the ‌iPhone‌ will continue to use the Lightning port in the foreseeable future,” the note continues.

A photograph showing a MAgSafe charger attached to the back of an iPhone 12

It’s worth repeating that MagSafe is currently limited to power. The same goes for previous MagSafe versions implemented on older Mac notebooks. At present, MagSafe‌ cannot transfer data, take diagnostics or perform a device recovery. These drawbacks make the current implementation of MagSafe unsuitable as a Lightning port replacement for the time being.

Internet Recovery for iOS

But Apple may be working on ways a portless iPhone could restore iOS without needing a cable. According to Appleosophy, Apple is testing an iOS version of the helpful Internet Recovery feature from macOS that would let you restore the operating system on an unresponsive iPhone over the internet without needing to connect the device to a Mac or PC.

The user could also put their iPhone into a manual recovery mode, which would automatically trigger the Internet Restore broadcast. That would prompt a nearby computer to connect to the device. A malfunctioning iPhone could also enter Internet Restore automatically.

A portless iPhone 13?

These upcoming rumored wireless recovery options, coupled with a more capable MagSafe protocol, could theoretically permit Apple to create what Kuo calls a completely wireless iPhone experience. In fact, his recent note to clients obtained by MacRumors calls for an iPhone without a Lightning connector (and no USB-C) in the second half of 2021.

iPhone not charging? Try these fixes!

Here’s an excerpt from Kuo’s note:

Apple will create more differentiation between the highest-end and high-end models. It will benefit the shipment of the highest-end model and iPhone ASP. Among new 2H21 iPhone models, we expect that the highest-end model would cancel the [Lightning] port and provide a completely wireless experience.

The wording suggests that the iPhone 13, Apple’s upcoming smartphone refresh this year, could drop the Lightning port in favor of a portless design. We’ll find out about that in a couple of months. We’re not convinced Apple will make such a major move this year but your guess is as good as ours so tell us what you think down in the comments.