Apple is on the verge of revealing the iPhone 15 within a few days, and it is widely anticipated to introduce a notable change.
There are strong rumors suggesting that the iPhone 15 will abandon Apple’s exclusive Lightning charger in favor of USB-C charging. This shift represents a significant milestone for the company as it embraces universal charging, potentially simplifying the charging experience across different devices and brands.
This transition is happening shortly after the European Union passed legislation mandating that smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, portable speakers, and similar small devices must support USB-C charging by 2024. This groundbreaking law aims to reduce the variety of chargers and cables consumers encounter when buying new devices, enabling users to interchange devices and chargers even if they come from different manufacturers.
Ben Wood, an analyst at CCS Insight, remarked, “While this could be seen as the most significant change in iPhone design in years, in practice, it’s not an overly dramatic shift.”
Indeed, Apple (AAPL) has previously transitioned its iPads and MacBooks to USB-C charging. However, the company has been hesitant to implement this change on the iPhone until now.
Last year, Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, publicly emphasized the significance and prevalence of the Lightning charger, which is known for its faster device charging capabilities. However, he acknowledged that Apple would need to adhere to the EU mandate, stating, “Obviously we will have to comply.”
Joswiak said at the time regarding the switch to USB-C in response to EU regulations: “We have no choice, as we do globally, but to comply with local laws, though we believe the approach could have been more environmentally friendly and beneficial for our customers without government intervention.”
The history of the Lightning charger
Apple introduced the Lightning charger alongside the iPhone 5 in 2012, replacing the older 30-pin dock connector. This new connector allowed for faster charging and featured a reversible design. However, it also spurred a related accessories market, necessitating users to purchase a $30 Lightning adapter to connect their devices to older docks, alarm clocks, and speaker systems.
David McQueen, a director at ABI Research, noted, “For Apple, it was all about maintaining control over its own ecosystem. Apple generates significant revenue from the sale of Lightning cables and the wide range of related accessories.”
Apple also receives a portion of the revenue from third-party accessories and cables that participate in its Made For iPhone program. David McQueen explained, “Switching to USB Type C would relinquish this level of control because USB-C is part of a much more open ecosystem.”
Additionally, Apple has the potential to create its own branded USB-C cable specifically tailored to enhance iPhone performance. This could include features like increased wattage to enable faster charging while reducing the potential for battery damage and risk, as suggested by David McQueen.
What does this mean for iPhone users?
It’s presently uncertain whether the transition to USB-C will apply to all new iPhone 15 models or exclusively to the Pro devices. While the shift to USB-C might not be the sole motivating factor for people to upgrade, it could influence consumers who have been hesitant due to iPhone charging limitations, as suggested by Thomas Husson, a vice president at Forrester Research.
Anticipated to include a new cable in the box, the iPhone 15 devices should provide users with convenient access to charging cables. Given the widespread adoption of USB-C in many mobile devices, including Apple’s iPads and MacBooks, obtaining compatible charging wires should be readily available and reasonably priced.
It’s unlikely that users will be completely taken aback by this transition given the ubiquitous use of USB-C in many products, and in the long run, it’s anticipated to be beneficial for them. A universal charging system has obvious advantages, Wood said.
Apple could potentially explore wireless charging as an alternative to wired charging in the future, but this transition might not happen anytime soon. David McQueen pointed out that “wireless charging is currently much slower than wired,” so it remains to be seen when or if Apple will make such a shift.