When Apple removed key hardware components on its devices – and turned out to be right

As time went on, the iPhone maker was somewhat proven right, as it set a new direction for other companies and the industry as a whole

A USB-C charger, right, and a traditional Apple Lightning charger are seen on an Apple iPhone with a Lightning port above an Android phone with a USB-C port. Apple is expected to announce a new line-up of iPhones with USB-C compatibility. AFP
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Apple is not afraid to go against the grain. Its status as the world's most valuable and, arguably, the most influential company affords them to do that.

That being said, it has made its fair share of sometimes surprising hardware moves that have shaken up the industry. And, as time went on, the iPhone maker was somewhat proven right, as it set a new direction for other companies and the industry as a whole.

With all signs pointing to what is expected to be the iPhone 15 series having USB-C as its new port, we look at other moves Apple has made that have, to this day, built a lasting impression.

Floppy disk drive and serial ports, 1998

Remember the original iMac, or iMac G3, the candy-coloured PCs that were Apple's first major release after Steve Jobs' return to the company? The all-in-one machine looked so stylish and cool, and you thought they were the complete package – until you started using them.

That's when you'd find out that Apple decided not to include serial ports and, more importantly, floppy disk drives on this iMac, swapping them out for USB ports and CD-ROMs, respectively.

To be fair, floppy disks by this time were becoming obsolete, being usurped in popularity by Zip drives (which didn't exactly pan out), CDs and the emerging USB drives, which were speedier, more convenient and had capacities way beyond the 1.44MB floppy disks had to offer.

PC manufacturers still offered floppy disk drives well into the early 2000s as a standard component and as a back-up in case you needed to boot up your PC using the old-fashioned method.

Serial ports, meanwhile, were becoming more inconvenient – most of the time you had to screw and unscrew them – compared to the emerging USBs at the time, which you could use to just plug-and-play your peripherals.

CD/DVD drive, 2008

From one original to another, and one removal to another. A decade after touting CDs as the next big thing in peripherals, Apple decided to remove it from the original MacBook Air in 2008.

This was an obvious choice to make, considering that Apple was positioning the MacBook Air as the thinnest laptop in the market; a CD-ROM drive made portable PCs thicker.

3.5mm audio port, 2016

The previous moves caused some varying degrees of reactions from users, but none would compare to what followed next.

Probably the most controversial of them all, Apple decided to kill off the 3.5mm headphone jack port in 2016’s iPhone 7. That rendered headsets and headphones using the beloved and long-standing audio port obsolete, at least to Apple.

Noteworthy, however, was the fact that Apple made this move at the same time it launched the original AirPods, as the company began to push its wireless audio technology.

But as with Apple's status as the one that takes the lead, the competition soon followed suit, most notably Samsung, which initially mocked the move before also removing the headphone jack – quietly – from the Galaxy Note 10 in 2019.

Fun fact: Apple wasn’t the first modern smartphone brand to kill the headphone jack; that honour belongs to the Oppo Finder, released a full four years ahead in 2012.

Lightning port, 2023

At the time of this writing, it isn't official yet, but all signs point to Apple swapping out its own Lightning port for the more versatile and commonly-used USB-C.

Apple began using USB-C ports on its MacBooks in 2015 and has gradually integrated the technology, not only within its MacBook line-up but also to the rest of its portfolio.

Rumblings of another major hardware change at Apple began in 2018 when the company decided to, for the first time, use a USB-C port in that year's iteration of the iPad Pro.

Since then, talk of iPhones switching to USB-C gained steam – and only gathered further momentum when the EU started pushing for a common charger for technology devices in September 2021, which was eventually approved by the EU Parliament in October 2022.

Apple is known to be overly protective of its proprietary technology, but it would not want to risk legal complications, particularly with the EU, as well as disruption in its supply chains and customer base.

What can we expect next – a port-less iPhone? That's not a far-fetched possibility.

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