After Apple killed the headphone jack, iPhone 7 owners were forced to deal with lightning audio, for better or worse, but they shouldn't get too comfortable yet. Apple could have plans to nix the controversial lightning port in favor of wireless connectivity.
A newly granted patent published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, as reported by Forbes, revealed a proposal for a radical new Apple device that relies on an optical connector. From the patent:
An electronic device having an optical connector that provides and/or receives optical signals through openings or perforations formed at an external surface of the electronic device. These openings can serve as the interface of the optical connector through which the electronic device can engage in one-way or two-way communication with corresponding optical connectors of other electronic devices. These openings can be sized such that they are not visible or not easily visible with the naked human eye.
Forbes suggests this device would utilize a magnetic connector as a conduit to transmit a visual signal. Because the patent details perforations so small that they can't be seen without magnification, the assumption is that wires as we know them could be completely eliminated.
A wireless future: The introduction of AirPod headphones is an indication that Apple is banking on a world without wires. The lightning port, while a step up from the headphone jack in terms of high-resolution audio quality, still requires a cable. It'll do for now, but Apple apparently has the "courage" to continue pushing the technology forward.
Apple will almost certainly reveal a new smartphone in 2017 — the 10th anniversary of the iPhone — presumptively called the iPhone 8. Experts forecast Apple to commemorate the special occasion with a radically innovative device. Curved screens, all-glass casings and OLED displays are a few of the features rumored to arrive. This could be Apple's moment to shake things up even further with the optical connector.
Of course, we can't get too far ahead ourselves. Lightning-exclusive audio is still new at this point, and a filed patent does not cement a company's plans to create new technology — at least right away. Still, with the tech community increasingly shifting towards a wireless world, it only seems like a matter of time at this point.