Earlier today, a report suggested that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is considering eliminating the Lightning port on the iPhone 8, replacing it with USB-C. Now an analyst with Barclays is floating the possibility that the move is tied to a European Commission campaign pushing for smartphones to adopt a universal charger.
He suggests the Lightning port will remain, with Apple offering a Lightning to USB-C adapter for iPhones sold on that continent.
The Wall Street Journal’s iPhone 8 Report
This controversy began early on Tuesday morning, when The Wall Street Journal published an article updating its take on where Apple is going with the new iPhone. The primary focus of the piece was on the expected curved AOMLED display –similar to the one Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) offers with the Galaxy S7 Edge.
But there was also a more controversial claim. Citing sources said to be familiar with AAPL’s iPhone 8 release plans, there was this:
“They said Apple would introduce other updates including a USB-C port for the power cord and other peripheral devices instead of the company’s original Lightning connector.”
If true, the implications of such a move are considerable.
Apple is looking to its 10th anniversary iPhone to be a smash hit. The controversy surrounding the elimination of the port — which has been used on all Apple iOS devices since 2012 — could negatively impact that launch.
Last year’s ’s iPhone 7 launch was clouded by complaints when the company chose to eliminate the standard 3.5mm headphone jack. In 2012, when AAPL ditched the 30-pin connector it had used for nearly a decade, the move meant buyers of the iPhone 5 couldn’t use their new iPhone with existing speaker docks, cables and other accessories.
Moving from Lightning to USB-C wouldn’t be as disruptive since many accessories now use wireless connectivity, but the move would still undoubtedly generate some bad PR.
One Mobile Phone Charge for All
As I pointed out this morning, one benefit for Apple would be synergy among its products. Currently, MacBooks and the new MacBook Pro have only USB-C ports, so iPhone 7 buyers can’t physically connect to them without buying a cable. Switching to USB-C on the iPhone 8 would eliminate that problem.
However, Barclays managing director Blayne Curtis has a theory that AAPL may not actually ditch the Lightning port.
He told MacRumors he believes the USB-C issue is tied to a European campaign to eliminate proprietary smartphone chargers.
The European Commission’s “One Mobile Phone Charge For All” campaign has a goal of having all manufacturers adopt a single charger standard. With more than 30 different phone chargers in use, it was estimated they generated over 51,000 tons of electronic waste per year in the EU. Since USB-C is the new standard that many smartphones, tablets and computers are moving toward, it would make sense to adopt USB-C as the single smartphone charger standard.
According to Curtis, Apple is reacting to that EU goal, but to achieve the objective, it would offer a Lighting-to-USB-C adapter instead of eliminating the Lightning port altogether.
Doing so would mean one more dongle for European iPhone 8 owners, but wouldn’t disrupt everyone else.
Will iPhone 8 Be USB-C or Not?
The Wall Street Journal has an impressive record of predicting Apple’s moves with new iPhones. And USB-C would make Apple’s life simpler when it comes to connectivity with its latest laptops.
But the Barclays theory makes sense. A Lightning-to-USB-C adapter isn’t the most elegant solution, but it would achieve the European Commission’s goal, without causing unwanted drama that could impact the critical 10th anniversary iPhone launch.
Apple may yet ditch its proprietary Lightning port in favor of USB-C, but the iPhone 8 probably isn’t the right time to do so.
Of course, we won’t find out for certain until September, so stay tuned.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.