Lightning and the Fight Against Change


By now, pretty much everyone knows about the new Lightning connector being used in the iPhone 5. As with any Apple announcement, reactions from most people (I wanted to use "customers" here, but apparently people who have no interest in the iPhone 5 feel the need to speak up about this too) have fallen into two extremes:

"Ah, this makes total sense. Of course Apple would do this, because it helps them create a much thinner phone, and they can do away with that lousy old thing."



The latter reaction is both amusing and fascinating. This kind of thing seems to be a repeating cycle, although the average consumer seems to forget it. They forget that, years ago, Apple gave up the Firewire connector for the iPod (more specifically, the 3rd generation) and switched over to the 30pin connector we've been using for nearly a decade now. It was only a matter of time before Apple would move on to something else.

Meanwhile, many of Apple's competitors have been using their own proprietary cables and switching them up even more often. Just look at Samsung, for example:


These cables were all released in the time frame that Apple kept the 30pin connector in use. And this image doesn't even show all of them. Making Apple out to be the bad guy here is just ridiculous.

The other thing people are forgetting is that gadget cables are slowly becoming a thing of the past. Apple's AirPlay feature bypasses the need to connect your iOS device to anything else; you just tap a button on the screen and it works wirelessly. Even without AirPlay, everyday technologies like WiFi and Bluetooth are being implemented in interesting ways:

  • Sonos wireless music system
  • Pay With Square
  • Bluetooth connectivity in cars
  • WiFi syncing with iTunes
  • Over-the-air iOS updates
  • iCloud backups
  • Apps/books/podcasts can be downloaded directly to the device, no sync even necessary.

While not universal yet, wireless charging is also becoming more and more popular. Put all of this stuff together, and you have a device that rarely needs to be plugged into anything. Never before has an iOS device been so capable of being entirely independent.

As for the old accessories that everyone keeps howling about, I think there are still few reasons to complain. For one thing, at least Apple even created a Lightning > 30pin adapter for people to use, even if it's essentially an expensive piece of plastic. They could have done nothing of the sort and left customers to dry.

Which brings me to my next point. Nobody is being forced to upgrade to the iPhone 5, or any other Lightning-compatible device Apple is sure to release in the near future. You don't HAVE to buy this thing. Keep your iPhone 4S or whatever it is you have, and be happy that it works the way you need it to. It's certainly not Apple's problem that you bought all of these accessories that require the 30pin connector anyway.

My guess is that this whole thing will blow over relatively quickly. Even the most ardent complainers will likely be on a Lightning-compatible device in the next year or two, and even then they probably won't use the cable all that much.