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It’s time to USB-C the light: I don’t want Apple to make a portless iPhone

Plug-and-play beats ‘no-plugs and pray’ any day - here's why you'll always want a physical port

As the latest Apple rumour parped its way around the internet, you could hear the screams from miles away. Admittedly, there were different types of screams. Some were people shouting “WHY?” at the heavens while waving their fists theatrically; others were of the kind that usually accompany moments of euphoria: your team winning the footie, say, or you discovering a potato that looks exactly like Dwayne Johnson about to fight a CGI leopard.

The rumour? Apple has possibly made a decision to – at some point in the future – go all-in on USB-C to charge and connect its devices. And because that will include the iPhone (most likely next year’s iPhone 15, not this year’s iPhone 14), the internet decided this is the bestworst decision Apple has ever made. Well, it’s half right.

Howls of anguish

Most teeth-gnashers are fuming because such a reality would end (or at least delay) their fantasy of a portless iPhone. I’ve never understood the appeal of that myself. Unless you’re a slavish devotee to minimalism above everything else, there’s no clear benefit.

Sure, a hole in the bottom of a phone isn’t beautiful. And that slot can gum up with grime if you never wash your clothes or empty your pockets. (Although that says more about you than Apple’s tech.) And, yes, removing a port would make the device slightly more waterproof when you get angry at Wordle and throw your iPhone into a lake. Otherwise, it’s just plain bad.

You wouldn’t be able to plug things in. Thanks, Mr Obvious, you might snark, adding that 2010 wants its tech opinion back. But there are good reasons to plug things into an iPhone. Diagnostics and disaster recovery. Offloading data – for example, on an iPhone 15 that shoots 8K video, if you’ve a deadline before the heat death of the universe, which is roughly when wireless upload would be done. And charging is more efficient when wired – handy in a world of spiralling energy prices.

Whoops of joy

The iPad Mini went USB-C in 2021. The world did not end.

The positive side to USB-C is you can do all those things – and in a manner that’s better than Apple’s Lightning. The USB-C ecosystem is rich and growing, from headphones to fancy games controllers that let you pretend your blower is a traditional handheld console. And USB-C is faster than Lightning when it comes to charging and connectivity.

Furthermore, it would be further evidence Apple’s obsession with unnecessary minimalism was at an end – that notion products are better off it they shed every button and port but become marginally thinner. The 14in MacBook Pro indicated Apple had learned its lesson there, but going portless on a flagship phone would suggest otherwise – or at least leave the device sub-optimal for its most demanding users.

That’s not to say USB-C is perfect. The spec is a mess, the EU mandating it seems short-sighted and spells doom for subsequent innovation, and moving away from Lightning would leave some kit redundant and force you to be temporarily armed with a mountain of dongles (sold by an Apple employee contractually obligated to shout CHA-CHING every time you hand over fifteen quid for one). 

But one plug for all seems a reasonable goal, rather than no plugs for anyone, at which point you might reasonably ask whether Apple’s logical end point would be a device with no physical form at all. “It’s so thin, you can’t even see it. And it costs just £1199!”