Apple’s Lightning Connector may finally be dead. Thanks to European Union regulators, all phones, tablets, and cameras will be required to use the USB-C charging standard, meaning the iPhone will be dragged kicking and screaming into USB-C port adoption.
Greg Joswiak, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, begrudgingly admitted that “we have no choice” but to move away from a proprietary charger to take up the more universal USB-C plug. While we are still a long way off from a fully USB-C-compatible iPhone, it’s never too early to prepare for the switch and learn how you’ll be charging your phone when it happens.
The European Parliament confirms(Opens in a new window) that USB Type-C will become the new standard for portable devices, for both charging and data transfers, in order to reduce e-waste, provide faster charging speeds, and give users the choice of purchasing a new device with or without a charger.
Regulators also want to eliminate the “lock-in effect” that keeps users dependent on a single company. For example, iPhone owners are currently dependent on Apple to provide them with Lightning Connector charging.
By mandating USB-C, customers have more choice when it comes to the power accessories they buy for their devices. You could buy a fast charger or a power bank from any company and it would be compatible with your device. The USB-C chargers already out there would also work without the need of an adapter.
Why Hasn’t Apple Already Switched to USB-C?
When you buy a new iPhone, you only get a single charging cable. (Credit: Apple)
Android devices, and even Apple’s own iPad, have embraced USB-C. Why not the iPhone? First of all, Apple still has some time before the mandate goes into effect. Despite setting the new standard in October 2022, the mandate will only become enforceable towards the end of 2024. But Apple has reason to resist the conversion before that time.
While Apple has never directly stated that profit is a main driver for fighting USB-C standardization, Apple has created its own MFi (Made for iPhone) certification program(Opens in a new window), which regulates the quality of third-party manufacturer’s cables and accessories, and gives a commission of sales to Apple. One can surmise that USB-C adoption would shut down this program and turn off a valuable revenue stream.
Apple has also stated(Opens in a new window) that sticking with the Lightning port in the iPhone has more to do with the amount of waste that potentially would be created as a result of millions of iPhone users being forced to discard those cables. The company has already ditched the pack-in power adapter and EarPods with new phones, starting with the iPhone 12, in the name of environmentalism.
These days, all that’s included in a new iPhone box is a Lightning-to-USB-C cable, which means customers must either use their old Lightning-to-USB-A adapters or purchase new chargers from Apple. The company argues that many people already own power adapters and don’t need another one creating clutter, but removing that power adapter, yet still charging the same price for the phone, may strike some as more of a money grab than a sustainability move.
When Will Apple Release the First USB-C iPhone?
EU Rapporteur Agius Saliba Alex declares a USB-C charger the future of technology in Europe. (Credit: European Union)
Since the EU mandate comes into effect at the end of 2024, Apple’s release schedule could mean that the iPhone 16 will be the first USB-C iPhone. The iPhone 17 in September 2025 is also a possibility if Apple can get one more model in before the law takes effect.
Then again, just because there is a due date doesn’t mean Apple can’t release a USB-C iPhone before then. It should be noted that there is already a rumor that the iPhone 15 will be Apple’s first USB-C phone in 2023.
Before you get too excited, it’s important to note that this mandate only pertains to European Union countries. There is no regulation forcing Apple to make such a device in the US. The same goes for global customers outside the EU. However, it may ultimately make more financial and logistical sense for Apple to create a single iPhone model with one port instead of creating a USB-C model for Europe and a Lightning port model for the rest of the world.
How to prepare for a USB-C iPhone
Apple’s 12.9-inch iPad Pro from 2021 has a USB-C port. (Credit: Molly Flores)
Now that it’s a solid assumption that a USB-C iPhone is at least one to two years away, you have time to prepare. However, since many Android phones, headphones, portable speakers, and other devices support the standard, you may already have everything you need at home.
If you own certain iPad or MacBook models, the USB-C charger that came with your device will also work with your iPhone. These are the models that have USB-C charging:
iPad Pro 11-inch (1st generation or later)
iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation or later)
iPad Air (4th generation or later)
iPad mini (6th generation)
MacBook Pro introduced in 2016 or later
MacBook Air introduced in 2018 or later
MacBook introduced in 2015 or later
Since current iPhone models ship with a Lightning-to-USB-C cable in the box, it’s safe to assume the USB-C iPhone will include a USB-C cable, which should allow you to plug your phone into a computer in order to charge.
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Apple’s USB-C chargers for its line of iPads should also charge a phone. (Credit: Apple)
If you do not have any USB-C devices in your house (or no extra cables lying around), you will need to purchase a USB-C power adapter and/or cable to charge your iPhone through a wall outlet. Apple already sells a number of USB-C power adapters and cables:
Since Apple’s current charging cables are Lightning to USB-C, it should be USB-C to USB-C when the changeover happens. This could mean you will need a dongle in order for it to fit into your laptop that may only have USB-A ports.
What About MagSafe and Wireless Charging?
Apple’s MagSafe Battery Pack stick onto the back of the phone. (Credit: Steven Winkelman)
If you don’t want to mess around with wire compatibility, many people have opted to charge their smartphones wirelessly. This allows you to lay your phone down on a wireless charging surface to initiate device charging. Since the iPhone 12, MagSafe wireless chargers—such as Apple’s Battery Pack and Duo Charger—can magnetically connect to the back of your iPhone.
Wireless charging makes figuring out which cables connect to which adapters even less of a concern, but there are still reasons to have a functioning USB-C cable and adapter around.
While there are some wireless fast chargers on the market, a wired connection is typically faster across the board. You can also take advantage of Apple’s higher wattage power adapters that are specifically designed to charge your device at a faster rate.
Additionally, wireless charging accessories can’t transfer data from one device to another, so you would still want a cable to create an encrypted backup of your iPhone to your computer. Also, if you have an older home theater receiver or car stereo, you will have to physically connect the two by a cable.
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