Why is Apple obsessed with a portless iPhone?

Lightning Cable
Lightning Cable (Image credit: iMore)

Apple is once more rumored to be ditching the Lightning port when it launches a future iPhone, possibly iPhone 13. But why?

Based on claims by leaker McGuire Wood (a.k.a Jioriku), Apple is now having its engineers work on potential solutions to the problems we all know will come from losing the Lightning port – particularly the lack of a recovery option. Ignoring the fact that this should presumably have been worked out long before now if iPhone 13 is to be the first portless iPhone, I still don't quite understand what the end game is.

Removing the Lightning port will give iPhone the same recovery issue that has befallen Apple Watch for years. Namely, it can't be restored or recovered without being given back to Apple. That's why engineers are apparently looking at ways to solve that right now.

Enter what I have been told is dubbed Internet Recovery. Apple tasked both their software and hardware teams on this in different ways. Allow me to explain the two sides of the story Apple has going on here, starting with the software team. They tasked certain developers to create a reliable and Apple-level safe way for users to recover their devices at home. I am being told that developers are looking at using one of a few methods.

That doesn't sound like a trivial thing to get up and running so Apple must really want to kill the Lightning port for good. It must have its reasons for that, but I'm not seeing them as I sit here today.

Iphone 11 Pro Sim Card Hero

Iphone 11 Pro Sim Card Hero (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

The increased water resistance afforded by removing the Lightning port is cool and all, but iPhones survive long enough underwater as it is. And you'd still need a slot for your SIM card and holes for speakers and whatnot. These things won't be 100% sealed, Lightning port or not.

Could Apple make thinner iPhones because of the removal of a port? Possibly. But Apple has a history of iPhones bending and we would all rather more battery than a thinner device. Maybe this is all about adding bigger batteries after all?

Next, there's the potential return of Touch ID that's built into the screen. Could Apple need more space for whatever black magic phone makers do to make that happen? Maybe, but probably not. The likes of Samsung manage it just fine with their USB-C port in tow.

So, again. Why does Apple want to get rid of the Lightning port? Normally I'd suggest that perhaps it doesn't and the rumor-mill is just doing that thing it does. But we've been hearing about this move for too long now, and from too many different sources. Apple is going to go portless eventually, whether it's this year or not.

I just can't wait to see the reason for it. I bet the likes of Anker, RAVPower, and others are thinking just the same!

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.