iPhone’s big USB-C switch — What to expect

Apple is set to unveil its first-ever iPhones with USB-C charging ports on 12 September 2023.

The company begrudgingly adopted the more widely-used standard for the upcoming iPhone 15 after the European Union introduced new laws that make it compulsory for a wide range of electronics — including smartphones — to feature USB-C ports.

While that legislation has not taken effect yet, it will be implemented before the next flagship iPhone launch in 2024.

For years, Apple has argued against a universal standard for smartphone charging, despite its once cutting-edge Lightning falling far behind USB-C in terms of charging speeds and data transfer rates.

Nevertheless, Bloomberg’s resident Apple expert Mark Gurman expects the company to try and swing its unwanted change as a win for customers.

Gurman said Apple’s iron-clad rule was operating from a position of strength, so it won’t even acknowledge it was forced to switch.

He argues that Apple will outline several benefits of USB-C on iPhone during its presentation, including:

  • Customers can use a single charging cable for iPhones, Macs and iPads.
  • It will bring breakthrough data transfer speed increases for the new iPhone Pro models. The standard iPhone models will retain the 480Mbps speeds provided by Lightning.
  • Phones will charge faster in some instances. According to one leak, Pro models will reportedly get an optional 150W Thunderbolt charging cable, a substantial upgrade from the current 27W.
  • The phones will be compatible with chargers used by billions of non-Apple devices.

While it won’t admit as much publicly, the switch to USB-C will cost Apple in several ways, Gurman said.

Firstly, it stands to lose some licensing revenue from accessory makers that used its Lightning connector and the Made for iPhone (MFI) certification.

It has also been required to devote engineering resources and money to the switch.

Another potential risk is that the switch will make it easier for iPhone users to migrate to Android smartphones, which will be able to use any charging cables bought for iPhones.

On the flip side, Apple could also benefit from selling Lighting-to-USB-C adapters to help customers with numerous Lightning cables convert their products to be compatible with its new port.

Several reports also suggest that people should not expect their current USB-C charging cables for non-Apple electronics to work as well as those sold or approved by Apple.

The company has reportedly developed MFI certification for USB-C cables and could limit charging speeds or data transfer rates on non-MFI cables.

That way, Apple could continue to make licensing revenue from the new standard.

Charging bricks a potential problem

Apple will include a USB-C charging cable in the box.

However, those customers who own an iPhone older than the iPhone 11 might need additional hardware to use it.

Before that model, Apple included charging bricks with USB-A instead of USB-C connectors in the phone’s box.

The cable Apple is expected to ship with the iPhone 15 will have USB-C on both ends.

That means these customers must buy a new charging brick to use the cable.

As a result, Gurman said Apple could face a PR nightmare similar to when it shifted to Lightning in 2012 and removed the headphone jack in 2016.

It should be noted that Apple has not included any charging bricks in iPhone boxes from the iPhone 12 and later.


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iPhone’s big USB-C switch — What to expect