Apple has never shied away from changing its cords, plugs, and ports according to what it sees as the evolution of technology. But now some are worried that they're going to take away the one thing that keeps your phone running. The power plug and accompanying lightning-to-USB charger could go the way of the headphone jack some day — but that day is not today. Although wireless charging will be a new feature for the iPhone 8, you won't be needing a new charger regardless.
Your old charger will continue to work just fine. There will be (just) a lightning port for you to make use of. That means you can use the dongle if you want for your headphones or plug it into the wall for a charge. It will be one or the other unless you fully invest in the new wireless charging system, AirPower.
That technological advancement, technically called induction charging, only works if the iPhone is placed on a special charging pad — the brand-new AirPower. That would be the optional accessory to buy if you wanted to take advantage of this new feature. Meanwhile the lightning to USB and wall charger that ships with the phone will work just fine. And if you have one from your iPhone 5, 5s, 6, 6s, or 7, it will work too.
To be honest, you might want to consider the feature. The induction charging is really neat, and in theory you'll be able to use it for more electronics in the future. Imagine your AirPods or Beats headphones charging on your desktop next to your iPhone and MacBook with no cables whatsoever. There's no reason not to get this reality started with your mobile phone. There's a group called the Wireless Power Consortium that Apple belongs to that's in charge of standardizing this technology among different devices.
The way it works is that you plug the charger into the wall and then the phone needs to be within range, usually on some sort of pad. When it's close enough, the phone gets the "near-field" charging signal that is spread through an electromagnetic field. When the phone is on the pad, a coil in the pad and a coil in the phone begin to transfer the energy through a current.
Evidently this is not new technology. The theory has been around for more than a century and the basics are credited to the inventor Nikola Tesla. That name of course sounds familiar because of the big battery user of the current century, auto maker Tesla. Nikola is in fact the company's namesake. He also invented an induction motor, which is a necessary component of an all-electric vehicle.
It's not a completely foreign concept today either. Some other cell phones have it and the Apple Watch actually uses the same technology to charge. If you're familiar with that product, Apple started selling a separate "dock," a big pad that's connected to a charging cord. You just set the Watch on it and away it charges. Just to give you an idea of cost, that retailed for $79, according to 9to5Mac.
That sounds like a very expensive accessory, but considering the price of the iPhone X this year, there will definitely be some Apple aficionados who pony up. With no extra options the fanciest iPhone released this year sells for nearly $1,000. For those consumers, there's really no problem shelling out the extra money.
But if you've decided to stick with the iPhone 8, the cheaper option announced Tuesday, know that the charging comes at a price point you can afford: a free lightning charger with the power to upgrade later.