In 2021, more than ten years after the start of the smartphone revolution, it’s easy to forget how many design trends there have been and gone. Since 2007, with the launch of the first iPhone, we have lost keyboards, buttons, ports, bezels and more in the search for “less”.
How the “perfect” smartphone should be is a question that has yet to be answered, but it is a question that designers are constantly working to solve. At the moment it appears that the solution may be a glass sandwich with a screen and nothing else, and 2021 seems increasingly likely to be the year this “ final ” project could appear.
Basically, it is Apple who should lead the charge. Apple occupies an odd position in the smartphone market, having a reputation for incremental conservatism in design, but regularly leading the charge in new trends. Apple has experimented with much-loved tweaks such as screen notch, face unlock, more rear cameras, headphone jack removal, and fingerprint sensors.
Such is the cultural weight and influence of the company that the choices it makes tend to be accepted by the general public. Wireless charging came much closer to the mainstream when Apple adopted the technology in its phones, and the true wireless earphone market exploded when the headphone jack was ditched and AirPods were first sold as an alternative to wired options.
If the natural evolution of the phone’s design is towards something “portless”, it is likely that only Apple can carry out the execution in such a way as to become mainstream.
And Apple, to date, has been one of the few companies with the “guts” to make such decisions … could it be set to happen with the iPhone 13? Some leaks and rumors suggest that one of those phones will be portless … so how likely is that to happen?
Why go without a door?
What’s the point in going without a port? There are many schools of thought on this issue.
The main driver is simply aesthetic: having fewer obstacles makes it look and feel cleaner in the hand. There is also a benefit to durability, as charging ports have a tendency to peel off after continuous use, their absence would mean this would cease to be a problem.
The benefits would also be in the form of higher waterproof ratings, slightly more durable construction, and more space in the smartphone body for other components, such as larger batteries.
These were all the benefits of removing the headphone jack, chances are they would have been replicated with the removal of the power port.
Of course, there are a number of drawbacks, not least in terms of usability. Wireless charging, while affordable at times, can be tricky and generates a lot of heat. It requires the use of specific and relatively expensive chargers and takes longer to bring phones to a full charge than wired options.
Power ports also tend to double as data ports for PC / Mac sync and use of dongles and accessories – removing this option would be a significant drawback for many.
MagSafe on the iPhone 12 mini (Image credit: Apple / TechRadar)
However, with its iPhone 12 line, Apple attempted to fix the first problem. MagSafe charging is meant to keep the charger in the correct position on the iPhone it is connected to in order to ensure stable and fast power transfer.
Numerous accessories have been released so far that take advantage of this feature, and Apple’s focus in this area has led to greater awareness of wireless charging as an option, although it still remains relatively niche.
Preparation in this area could indicate that the company intends to release a fully portless smartphone in 2021, although at this point it’s hard to say. Any iPhone release will typically happen in the fourth quarter of the year in question, and before mass production begins it’s hard to come across any leaks or insights that aren’t purely speculation.
Information supply chain
That said, there have been a number of “ informed hypotheses ” from influential whistleblowers indicating that a portless iPhone could make its appearance in the second half of 2021.
Jon Prosser, well known for his accurate predictions in this area, he is confident this will happen. Ming-Chi Kuo of TF International Securities (making predictions from supply chain analysis) has published research showing 2021 as the year a doorless iPhone will appear.
This report, released in 2019, correctly predicted the release of the iPhone for 2020, giving it some credit. An iPhone in 2021 is expected to be portless, arguably the highest-end model. This would then set the trend for the year ahead, with that design feature extending to the less expensive models.
Such techniques are tried and tested, especially with Apple. Its iPhone X was one of the first traditional smartphones to sport a notch on the screen, and it was the first to break the $ 1000 price barrier. It was an absolute hit for Apple, demonstrating the company’s ability to make people feel. the “new” is not only desirable, but essential.
The iPhone X (Image credit: Future)
There may be limits to this capacity of course, perhaps even the Cupertino company may not have enough capital with the public to force this last and definitive change.
After all, other companies have tried and failed to do the same. The effort of the Chinese manufacturer Meizu in 2019 is famous crashed and burned. The company tried to finance the production of a doorless smartphone, mostly as a publicity stunt, but failed to get anything close to its funding goal.
While many different factors have gone into this, a key point may be the public’s hesitation to let go of the convenience of wired charging. We’ve seen concept devices try to do the same from manufacturers like Oppo too.
Regardless, if the reports are true, all eyes will be on Apple and the success of its portless phone. The company has grown more and more over the past decade and it looks like very little will get in its way.
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