Ben Lovejoy, writing for 9to5Mac:
I wrote an opinion piece last year speculating on whether Apple would switch from Lightning to USB-C, and when it might do so. A new report today suggests that the company is planning to do so this year, in the iPhone 8.
I argued then that there were compelling reasons for Apple to make the switch. While the Lightning port is a clever standard, USB-C is even smarter and more capable. Adopting a single port across both Mac and iOS devices would massively simplify the cable and connector ecosystem. And the high-speed data transfer capabilities provided by USB-C would allow Apple devices to work together better than ever.
I’m not a technical expert about why USB-C may or may not be “even smarter and more capable” than Apple’s Lightning port. If the USB-C port truly is more capable than Apple’s Lightning port, that would actually be a mark in favor of switching to USB-C.
I have had Lightning devices for nearly four years. I have had a USB-C MacBook for nearly two years. The USB-C works fine. I have often thought, however, that I wish they’d simply used Lightning connectors instead of USB-C. The Lightning connectors are smaller and (only slightly) easier to insert into their respective ports. The Lightning connectors are also sexier.
But none of that really matters. If the USB-C connectors are actually better in capability (and in actual performance), then the USB-C should win, right? If it’s better, it should be what Apple is using, but only if you take the short-term view. If you take the long-term view, though, I think that Apple is better served keeping its current Lightning connectors for iOS devices and even switching over the MacBook devices to Lightning.
As I said, I don’t know if the Lightning protocol is capable of doing all of this, but even if it isn’t at present, I think Apple should still keep the Lightning connectors because Apple can improve the Lightning protocol capabilities whenever they want to. Consider the history of USB. The USB standard was initially developed in the 1990s, twenty years ago. At the time it was introduced, it was effective and cool. But twenty years later we are still using the same connector. The connector has new capabilities, but it is still the same size and shape and awkwardness. And when USB went Mini and then Micro, the same stupid awkwardness applied. The ease of using Lightning compared to all the USB mini- and micro-connectors of Samsung and other Android phones is phenomenal. If you haven’t used the lightning connector, you’re missing out. Most of you have used it, I’m sure, and at first you might not realize how much easier it makes your life, but if you ever have to go back, you quickly realize how good you had it.
Thankfully, USB-C fixes those frustrations—but how long did it take them to change the connector? Yes, perhaps Ben Lovejoy is correct and the USB-C is more capable, but how long will it be more capable and how long will it take USB-C to make needed technological and design changes to continually improve and “keep up” with the needs of technology at large. If Apple switches their iOS devices to USB-C, it might be a win in the short-term, but in the long-term, I think Apple and its users will suffer. I really hope Apple doesn’t switch.