Apple's Scary Fast event could spell the end of its Lightning port – and I'm ready for it

 AirPods Pro 2 lightning cable next to USB-C.
AirPods Pro 2 lightning cable next to USB-C.

It's happening with astonishing speed: the end of the line for Lightning ports on virtually all Apple devices. Now, with Apple's Scary Fast event just days away, rumors say Apple will transform its key Mac peripherals and pound the final nail in the decade-plus-old interface's coffin.

Yes, I read through Bloomberg Mark Gurman's extensive "preview": of everything Apple might launch on October 30th at 8pm ET. It's mostly what's accepted as general wisdom on the topic: M3 chips (possible multiple Apple silicon reveals), 24-inch iMac (maybe a 27-incher, too), M3 MacBooks (possibly of the Pro variant), and maybe even an M3 iPad Pro or two. I know, a lot for a late October event no one saw coming.

But nestled in there was this bit:

"As part of a broader shift to USB-C connectors, the company will likely roll out updated versions of accessories – including its trackpad, mouse and keyboard – that ditch the old Lightning ports"

That's a bigger deal than you might think.

The shift from lightning to USB-C started slowly but, in recent years and months has accelerated. Most believe that the uptick in pace is due to the newly stringent European Union requirements for compatibility over proprietary port and charge formats. Apple pushed back initially, but soon accelerated plans that were likely already in place to walk away from its, in the Apple ecosystems at least, ubiquitous port and cable system. It hasn't been that hard. Apple has considerable experience migrating a pair of product categories (iPods and iPhones) from 30-pin to lightning in 2012.

This is the end

iMac (24-inch, 2021)
iMac (24-inch, 2021)

I've watched as Macs walked away from USB-3 ports years ago in favor of USB-C; iPads soon followed suit, giving up both USB-3 and then swapping all their Lightning ports for USB-C connections too. Just a month ago, Apple introduced USB-C on all iPhone 15 phones.

In the mop-up of remaining port outliers, Apple has even scrubbed Lightning plugs from the Apple Pencil, introducing a new low-cost model that has its own USB-C port: Apple Pencil (USB-C).

What's left? As far as I can tell, just those accessories. Apple's three elegant Mac peripherals are exemplars of the Apple aesthetic, from the glass, and aluminum materials and sleek lines right down to the enduring and bizarre decision to place the Magic Mouse lightning charge port on the bottom of the mouse instead of the back. At least on the keyboard and trackpad, Apple had the good sense to put the port on the back.

With that in mind, I doubt that if Apple does make this the last Lightning port execution, it will do much to change the look and feel of its thin and light keyboard or glass-surfaced Trackpad 2.

Also an opportunity

Magic Mouse
Magic Mouse

The Magic Mouse is another matter, of course. I hope that Apple does take this opportunity to rethink that design. A USB-C port on the back of the touch-surface mouse should be no big deal. Apple has already shown its willingness to put a port almost anywhere with the new Apple Pencil (USB-C).

If Apple does that and says goodbye to these remaining Lightning ports, it may finally be the end of this venerable port technology.

As I wrote in May 2022, "It’s time for Apple’s Lightning port to die. You know it, I know it, and Apple knows it." I counseled that you should not weep for the Lightning port. Sure, you are about to have a lot of useless USB-3 or USB-C-to-Lightning cables, but many of them are probably on their last legs anyway.

Not everyone agrees entirely with my prediction. Market analyst group Creative Strategies Chairman and long-time Apple watcher Tim Bajarin agrees there's a "distinct possibility" this could happen. However, he added in an email to me, that it might not happen "necessarily all at once. I do believe they are committed to a phased transition to USB-C but when they make the switch will be based on strategic objectives not because they feel pressure to do it."

Even if Apple chooses to update just the Magic Mouse, it will get to the trackpad and keyboard in due course. This transition is the way of the technology world. We innovate and introduce new ways of connecting. They come with new software and hardware, new cables, and finally, new ports and plugs. Then we speed up the components, rewrite the software, and look to remove bottlenecks by updating the port technology. That means new ports, new plugs, and new cables.

It's a tale written by dead serial, SCSI, parallel, and micro-USB ports and cables long before the first Lightning cable arrived. It's also one that will also be recounted, someday, by USB-C, as well. In our digital world, nothing lasts forever.

I'm oddly okay with that.

By the way, if you were thinking about buying one of these Mac accessories, now might be the time to wait for either the new stuff or steep Black Friday deals on remaining inventories of the old Lightning port versions.

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