Go Wireless and Never Connect a Cable to Your iPhone Again

By Chris Hoffman on January 26th, 2015

iPhones come with a cable that can connect your phone to your PC or Mac, but you don’t actually have to use it for that. You don’t even have to use the cable for charging if you buy into wireless charging (or just get a dock).

The wireless, cable-free future isn’t quite here yet, but we’re not too far off. With a few quick adjustments, you can set all those wires aside today.

iTunes Sync Over Wi-Fi

iTunes is often regarded as a clunky and old program, but many people still use it and even like it for transferring data back and forth. If you still prefer using iTunes to synchronize content, that’s fine — iTunes can actually synchronize with your iPhone entirely wirelessly.

To do this, you’ll first have to connect your iPhone to your computer with its USB cable — yes, you have to use a cable, but just once to set things up. You can then go into iTunes, look at the device’s information in iTunes, and check the properties tab. You’ll see an option named “Sync with this iPhone over Wi-Fi,” which you’ll need to click to enable. After you do, your iPhone and the iTunes software on your computer will automatically synchronize over your Wi-Fi network.

This will automatically happen when your iPhone is charging, when iTunes is open on your computer, and when both devices are on the same Wi-Fi network. When the connection is established wirelessly, you can click the device’s name in iTunes use the options there to choose what syncs.

iCloud Drive, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and More

Apple’s own iCloud Drive is now integrated into iOS and Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite, and even available for download as part of the iCloud software for Windows PCs. Other cloud storage services like Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive are also available on iOS, and they can even integrate more with the system thanks to iOS 8’s new extension system.

These services allow you to quickly move files between your iPhone and computer, or between the other devices you own. Dump some files in the folder on your computer and they’ll be available on the relevant app on your iPhone. Upload some files to the service from your iPhone and they’ll be automatically synchronized to your computer. Rather than shuttling documents back and forth via a USB cable or with iTunes, this is often the most convenient way to move files between devices.

iCloud Photo Library

Apple’s iOS 8 also added a feature named “iCloud Photo Library” which uploads all the photos and even screenshots you take on your iPhone to your iCloud account on Apple’s servers. You can then access the photos on your computer using the iPhoto app on a Mac or the iCloud Photo Library feature built into the iCloud software for Windows. This allows you to move photos and screenshots to your computer — or just view them from there — without performing an old-school camera-import or photo-transfer from your iPhone to your computer.

iPhone Software Updates

Many people still perform iPhone software updates with iTunes, which can often be a good idea — and was previously mandatory. Downloading and performing an iOS operating system update with iTunes requires significantly less space on your phone, so it’s useful if your phone’s storage is crammed with content and you don’t want to delete anything. This is especially useful if you have one of the baseline 16 GB iPhones, which just doesn’t have enough storage space for modern apps, media, and — yes — iOS updates.

But you really don’t have to use iTunes if you don’t want to. For several releases, you’ve been able to update the software directly on your iPhone without connecting it to a computer. Just go to Settings > General > Software Update on your iPhone.

Wireless Charging (or a Dock)

iPhones don’t have built-in wireless charging hardware, but that can be remedied if you really want wireless charging. You can purchase a special iPhone case with wireless charging hardware built-in and place it on your iPhone. When you then place the iPhone on a compatible wireless charger, it’ll charge wirelessly — simple! If you’re interested in wireless charging but also want to use an iPhone, this is your only option for using both.

Or, better yet, consider just getting a dock. Current wireless-charing technologies require you set your phone down in a fairly specific place anyway, so you might as well just set it down in a dock. You won’t have to mess with a cable and you’ll get faster charging — there’s also no special case required!

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Wireless Headphones

You can also get wireless headphones to avoid having their cables become tangled in your pocket or bag. Pick up a pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones and pair them with your iPhone for wire-free audio. You’ll have to charge them, so that’s the inconvenience. But, thanks to Bluetooth low energy and other new technologies, battery life is improving. At CES 2015, we saw a variety of new Bluetooth earbuds — completely wireless earbuds that will hopefully be available for purchase in 2015.

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Expect more things to become wireless by default as we move into the future. Everyone’s chasing that goal — heck, Intel even showed off laptops that charged wirelessly at CES 2015, and that’s their vision for laptops in the future. A phone that works entirely wirelessly is even easier to pull off.

Image Credit: Karlis Dambrans on Flickr, CalypsoCrystal on Flickr, Karl Baron on Flickr

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 01/26/15
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