iPhone Sticking With Lightning Port Over USB-C for 'Foreseeable Future'
In spite of much of the industry moving toward USB-C, Apple will not be using it to replace the Lightning connector on the iPhone 13, or indeed on any iPhone model for the time being. In a note seen by MacRumors yesterday, Kuo explained that Apple is reluctant to move to USB-C since it is a free, open standard, as well as less waterproof than Lightning.
We believe that USB-C is detrimental to the MFi business's profitability, and its waterproof specification is lower than Lightning and MagSafe.
Currently, Apple is able to strictly regulate the quality of Lightning cables and accessories through its Made for iPhone (MFi) program. MFi also generates a significant amount of income for the company since third-party manufacturers have to pay Apple a considerable commission to make Lightning cables or accessories.
Apple has used the Lightning connector on every iPhone since the iPhone 5 in 2012, but it has transitioned several of its devices to USB-C, including the iPad Pro, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and most recently, the iPad Air. With the need to connect to external drives being less pressing and some USB-C features such as external display connectivity outright impossible on an iPhone, Apple is understandably less motivated to switch to USB-C on its most profitable product for MFi.
Transitioning the iPhone to USB-C this year would also leave a significant number of devices such as the entry-level iPad, iPad mini, AirPods, and a plethora of accessories such as the Magic Trackpad and MagSafe Duo charger, stuck with a connector that would no longer be widely used on any flagship products. Switching the iPhone to USB-C may, therefore, tip the scales against Lightning across Apple's product lineup, potentially forcing the company to phase out the connector entirely across a large number of products sooner than it wants to.
Amid rumors of a portless iPhone, Kuo clarified that Apple is more likely to switch directly to a portless model rather than first change to USB-C:
If the iPhone abandons Lightning in the future, it may directly adopt the portless design with MagSafe support instead of using a USB-C port.
In spite of this, Kuo stated that MagSafe wireless charging technology is not yet ready to displace a wired port, having only debuted as recently as October 2020 on the iPhone 12 lineup. MagSafe is currently unable to transfer data, complete a device recovery, or take diagnostics, which would seemingly be essential features on a future iPhone with no ports.
At present, the MagSafe ecosystem is not mature enough, so the iPhone will continue to use the Lightning port in the foreseeable future.
Kuo's recent spate of reports about the future of the iPhone included the speculation that in 2022, at least some iPhone models will abandon the notch and switch to a "punch-hole display design" instead, and in 2023, Apple may unveil a 7.5–8 inch foldable iPhone.