The world is rightly celebrating the iPhone’s switch from Lightning to USB-C this week. People love to hate Lightning – and they have good reasons to do so. Many of the world’s most popular devices now use USB-C ports, including Apple iPads, meaning iPhone owners have been forced to carry an extra cable just for their phone and its accessories.
But if you’ve been living in the Lightning world for the last decade like me, things have been great anyway. I’m not ashamed to say it: I’m sad that Lightning is finally gone.
The Lightning Life, at least if you have an iPhone, has been convenient. Using a Lightning cable hardly requires any thought: its biggest revelation, at first, was that it could charge your phone. no matter which way you connect it, a big improvement over Apple’s old 30-pin connector. Connecting it to my iPhone when I’m sleepy before bed never seems like a hassle.
The beam was small and reliable.
The small size of the connector has kept everything Lightning related small and portable too. In 2012, when Apple introduced the Lightning port on the iPhone 5, this compact size was a big part of what made the announcement so exciting. Lightning was 80 percent smaller than the comparatively huge 30-pin connector the iPhone had used before. That meant Apple products (and the cables themselves) could look much better. I can’t prove this, but I have to imagine that the iPhone 5’s sleek appearance was partly due to the switch to the smaller Lightning connector, and those small changes add up to saving space in a bag or pocket.
Not only are the cables themselves easy to travel with, but also the Lightning standard. I create a generation of reliable and portable travel accessories. It powers one of my favorite Apple devices: the MagSafe Duo. Despite Dieter Bohn’s mediocre impressions, I bought one on sale and, frankly, I love it. It’s a discreet way to charge my iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods whenever I’m at my desk. When I travel, I can simply fold the MagSafe Duo and store it in a small pocket in my backpack so I can easily charge my devices at my final destination.
And even at home, Lightning Life has been reliable. I never worry about Apple’s Lightning cables randomly stopping charging my devices (although I’ve been lucky enough to avoid some of the durability issues Lightning cables are sometimes known for). Apple’s solid magnets and MagSafe Duo mean that my iPhone and Apple Watch almost always start charging as soon as I leave them on their charging points; There is no need to worry to make sure they are aligned correctly.
With Lightning, I’ve created an extremely reliable system for charging many of my Apple devices that I’m very happy with. Yes, Apple designed it that way thanks to its MFi program that gives Apple a cut of every MFi-certified charger or cable sold. And yes, because device makers have to go through Apple to get MFi certification, that probably meant that some interesting charging accessories weren’t made. But the MFi system meant the accessories worked and lacked the confusion of USB-C. Saying goodbye to Lightning doesn’t just mean losing a port and connector; It means saying goodbye to a large collection of cables and products that I have come to rely on as part of my daily life and travel routines.
All that being said: I understand where the Lightning haters are coming from. Nowadays, basically every other device I own charges via USB-C. The iPhone has been the only obstacle, which means I have to put a USB-C power brick and my iPhone charging kit (including the MagSafe Duo!) in my bag before I head out the door.
USB-C offers the tantalizing promise of an extremely reliable charging system all of my devices. And it will be a worthwhile change once I have to make it (I’m in no rush to upgrade from my beloved iPhone 12 Mini), although there will be some friction. I’m already complaining about the fact that Apple unceremoniously abandoned the MagSafe Duo instead of releasing one with a USB-C port (although there are USB-C-based alternatives I can consider).
But those are minor quibbles. The USB-C ports on the iPhone 15 line are obviously the best option in 2023. USB-C does everything Lightning can do, and often does it better. Whatever my complaints about purchasing new charging equipment, the transition won’t be as painful as switching from the 30-pin connector to Lightning; I already have a bunch of USB-C cables and charging bricks that I can use with a USB-C equipped iPhone.
Still, I will fondly remember my 11 years (and counting) of Lightning Life. That’s years of easy carrying and lighter backpacks.
When Apple executive Phil Schiller introduced Lightning in 2012, he called it a “modern connector for the next decade.” He was more right.