The next iPad Pro could drop the Lightning charging connector in favor of something more universal. The device’s next software update, iOS 12.1, has entered the beta stage with an early version released to third-party developers ahead of launch. The release contains hints that suggest the company may move its next devices to USB-C, enabling greater use of peripherals and support for 4K resolutions.
Developer Steve Troughton-Smith found on Wednesday that the release’s bundled iOS Simulator, used for testing out new apps on the Mac, references virtual 4K displays so developers can see how their app reacts to a high-resolution display plugging into a user’s iPad. Apple’s $49 Lightning to HDMI adapter currently supports resolutions up to 1080p. While it’s possible the company could update both adapter and iPad to support 4K, the discovery comes after Troughton-Smith found a lot more references in 12.1 to whether an external display is connected — something that could be explained by dropping Lightning as a go-between.
Apple first included Lightning with the iPhone 5 in 2012 as a smaller, reversible successor to the 30-pin dock connector first introduced with the third-generation iPod in 2003. The company received criticism for switching connector, as users had accumulated reams of older cables over the years. The design for USB-C was unveiled in 2014, aimed as a universal replacement for both small and large USB. While Android smartphones have adopted USB-C in droves, Apple has stuck with Lightning on the iPhone.
With the Mac, however, Apple has adopted USB-C at speed. In April 2015, just eight months after the final USB-C design was unveiled, Apple released the MacBook with just a single USB-C port and one headphone jack. The port doubled as both charger and peripheral connector. Apple followed suit with the MacBook Pro and iMac Pro, enabling third parties to create chargers and accessories without following a proprietary standard. While the iPad Pro carries the “Pro” suffix, professionals cannot easily use the same USB devices or chargers on their tablet as their Mac. A switch to USB-C would solve this.
It’s unclear when Apple may announce an update to the iPad, but the company has unveiled new iPads in the late months of the year before.
The iPhone XS and XS Max may have just received a high-profile unveiling, but Apple could be gearing up to announce even more products.