Apple will use a Lightning port instead of USB-C in the upcoming "iPhone 12," but it will be the last major series of Apple's flagship phones to do so, with models set to combine wireless charging and a port-less Smart Connector system for data transfer and syncing in the iPhone "13 series" next year.
The above claim comes from occasional Apple leaker and Twitter user "Fudge" (@choco_bit), who last month shared alleged leaked iPhone 12 images showing a revised rear camera array with LiDAR scanner, a smaller front notch, and Home screen widgets.
Fudge claims that Apple has tested iPhone prototypes with USB-C ports, but that these models "won't be making it to production." Instead, Apple will stick with Lightning for one more year before replacing the port with a Smart Connector.
Claims of port-less future iPhones aren't new. Apple designers are said to ultimately be aiming to remove most of the external ports and buttons on the iPhone for a clean, streamlined device with fewer points of potential hardware failure.
Indeed, if wireless charging technology improves in the interim, Apple could potentially get rid of wired charging all together – and rumors do indicate Apple will release an iPhone without a Lightning port in 2021.
According to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the highest-end iPhone model coming in 2021 will offer a "completely wireless experience." Charging would, presumably, be done all wirelessly through charging accessories, Qi-based or otherwise. (Whether the 2021 iPhone would be Apple's so-called "iPhone 13" series or an "S"-style revision of this year's upcoming "iPhone 12" is unknown.)
The addition of a Smart Connector, however, is a separate rumor. The use of a Smart Connector could conceivably complete the transition to a totally wireless system for iPhone, with everyday charging and data transfer occurring over induction and wireless, and the Smart Connector providing a way to attach accessories and cover restore and recovery needs via special adapters.
Apple introduced the Smart Connector with the 2015iPad Pro and updated it for the 2018 redesign. It lies flush with the bezel and has three pins providing power, data, and grounding. It's not impermeable though, which is something that Apple would need to work on to maintain its iPhone water resistance rating.
All of this could of course be irrelevant in the event that Apple surprises everyone and launches an iPhone with USB-C this year, suggesting that's where its future lies for now. Given the course and aim of Apple's iPhone development, that seems unlikely, but we won't know for sure until September or October, when Apple is expected to launch its latest flagship lineup.
Rumors have suggested Apple will complete its transition to an all-OLED iPhone lineup in 2020 with one new 5.4-inch device, two 6.1-inch models, and one 6.7-inch handset. The 6.7-inch iPhone and one 6.1-inch model are thought to be higher-end OLED devices with triple-lens cameras, while the 5.4 and 6.1-inch models will be lower-end iPhones with dual-lens cameras and a more affordable price tag.