Apple up to this point hasn’t allowed third-party accessory manufacturers to include Lightning connectors on their products. That restriction will soon be lifted, however, according to a new report from 9to5Mac.

During Apple’s recent briefing for accessory manufacturers that take part in its Made-for-iPhone/iPad (MFi) licensing program, the Cupertino-based company said the new Lightning receptacle will begin shipping early next year.

So, what exactly does that mean for manufacturers and more importantly, consumers?

For shoppers, the addition of Lightning ports on accessories will make things much more convenient. Dock and battery case manufacturers, for example, have had to include a separate charging cable and power supply for their accessories. That’ll no longer be the case once the receptacle is built-in.

Manufacturers will also be able to take advantage of a MFi spec that allows headphones to connect using the Lightning connector instead of the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack (bypassing the headphone jack has a number of benefits).

Such headphones would be proprietary (unless they were modular on the headphone side) but given Apple’s market share, I suspect people would still buy audio accessories even if they could only be used with iDevices. It wouldn’t be unheard of to see Apple eliminate the 3.5mm headphone jack completely (think Oppo R5) which would allow for an even thinner profile.

Given the shipping estimates, I suspect we’ll see the first wave of third-party Lightning-equipped accessories arrive by mid-2015.