We’re still reeling from Apple’s decision to remove the 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in favour of using the Lightning port for connecting headphones instead. But just two weeks after the new iPhones were released, Apple has filed a patent describing a new system that would see data transferred through an optical interface.
The patent, which has been picked up by Forbes, says the device - it doesn’t refer specifically to the iPhone - would send and receive “optical signals through openings or perforations formed at an external surface.”
“These openings can be sized such that they are not visible or not easily visible to with the naked human eye”.
If Apple were to remove the Lightning port in favour of this new connection system, it would make the iPhone completely port free and possibly even thinner. It would also mean future iPhones would have to come with wireless charging as its only means of drawing power, unless Apple produced a mains-powered accessory.
Just how wireless charging in this new way would work in something like a car remains to be seen. Although, Apple has also previously filed patents for a magnetic charger that would connect to the Apple logo on the back of the iPhone.
And what about data transfer? With no means of physically connecting to a computer and an iTunes account, Apple may force customers to sign up to iCloud storage, although we doubt this will happen.
Having said that, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus could be launched next year, 10 years since the original iPhone launched and skipping the traditional 'S' incremental model. They're expected to introduce curved OLED screens for the first time on the iPhone and could theoretically represent a complete redesign of the phone. Would that include losing the Lightning port? We shall see.
We’re very dubious here at Pocket-lint that Apple would actually remove the Lightning port, after all, it’s only a patent, it doesn’t mean it will actually happen.
We wouldn’t be surprised if Apple eventually switched the Lightning port out for USB-C to standardise connections with the MacBook, but as for actually removing the port altogether? We’re not convinced.