While Apple’s Lightning connector has become ubiquitous across the company’s iOS device lineup over the past several years, third-party accessory manufacturers have so far been unable to include ports for the connector on their products. That appears set to change in the relatively near future, however, as Apple has informed members of the company’s MFi program that it will begin shipping a version of the Lightning port for third-party use early next year, reports 9to5Mac.

Allowing accessory makers to build-in a Lightning port provides a number of benefits, according to manufacturers briefed during Apple’s MFi Summit. One of the biggest benefits is to reduce costs for manufacturers and simplify the product experience for users by using Lightning to provide power to both an accessory and the iOS device. Dock or battery case manufacturers, for example, would previously have to provide a separate USB cable and power supply to charge an accessory.

The report indicates Apple is also developing a new „slimmed down, low profile version“ of the Lightning connector itself currently used in third-party accessories. The new package will offer a simpler and smaller method for building connectors into accessories such as docks and charging cases.

Some two years after introducing the Lightning connector with the iPhone 5, Apple is clearly working to broaden the ecosystem of accessories taking advantage of the versatile space-saving connector. Earlier this year, the company announced new MFi specifications that would allow headphones to connect to devices over Lightning. While the announcement led to speculation that Apple is looking to remove the traditional headphone jack from its devices, at least for now the feature appears intended to provide additional features such as power to headphones.

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Apple to Begin Allowing Accessory Manufacturers to Include Lightning Ports Early Next Year