iPhone 15 may be the first USB-C iPhone thanks to the passage of a European Union law stating that by 2024 all mobile phones (among a variety of other tech products) that are rechargeable via a wired cable must be equipped with a USB-C port.
USB-C has been the dominant charging port on all flagship phones for the last several years with the ill-fated Samsung Galaxy Note 7 as one of the first to move from the largely reviled microUSB in August of 2016. Apple alone has resisted, even as it moved to USB-C only on its laptops and then iPad, it remained steadfast with the now 10-year-old Lightning port (via 9to5Mac).
Can Apple still avoid adding USB-C on iPhone?
If you feel like you've heard this all before and yet here we sit with Lightning ports on our iPhones in the year 2022, you are partially right and it does seem like Apple could have at least a couple of ways out of this.
Exactly 11 years ago today, Apple announced it would offer a microUSB adapter for the iPhone following the passage of a similar law mandating microUSB for devices in the European Union. Could we see Apple just repeat that little trick with a USB-C to Lightning adapter?
In Apple's defense, that was less than a year before it moved to the Lightning port with the iPhone 5. Even as someone that has never been thrilled with the reliability of Lightning cables, I have to admit that Lightning was vastly superior to microUSB in every way. However, this feels less likely this time around as Apple almost certainly doesn't have an alternative port waiting in the wings and has already accepted USB-C on virtually all of the rest of its devices.
The other option would be that Apple goes to a portless iPhone design. Apple was the first to banish the headphone jack and now the SIM card tray, why not finish the job? Many thought that the introduction of MagSafe charging signaled that this change might be coming.
While not impossible, there are some potential issues with this theory. The first is the relative cost of including a MagSafe charger in the box with every iPhone versus a USB-C to USB-C cable. Apple currently charges $39 for its 1m MagSafe to USB-C cable compared to $19 for a Lightning to USB-C cable. There's obviously quite a bit of markup on both, but there's no question that Apple's costs are considerably higher on the MagSafe charger.
Data transfer speeds represent another challenge as Apple has pushed the Pro models' capabilities for professional photo and video work, which would be greatly hindered by having to rely solely on wireless transfers. This may represent an exceedingly small segment of the market, but it is part of the image that Apple wants to sell with the iPhone.
Finally, it would put an end to all wired headphone options for the iPhone. The majority of users have moved on to wireless headphones and wireless earbuds, but from a cost and reliability standpoint, there will be holdouts for years to come.
I've just outlined how Apple might get out of adopting USB-C on iPhone, however, I think ultimately it is more likely that the curmudgeons in Cupertino will finally give up and give us glorious USB-C port harmony across all of our devices.
When will we get a USB-C iPhone?
Next year's iPhone 15 seems like the most likely target for USB-C on iPhone and the oft-reliable Ming-Chi Kuo and Mark Gurman both stated as much back in May of this year.
(1/2)My latest survey indicates that 2H23 new iPhone will abandon Lightning port and switch to USB-C port. USB-C could improve iPhone's transfer and charging speed in hardware designs, but the final spec details still depend on iOS support.May 11, 2022
Whether Apple was anticipating the passage of this law or simply finally conceding that USB-C offers more than Lightning, the fact that both Kuo and Gurman's sources were already projecting this change months ago is a positive sign that it will finally happen. Given Apple's difficulties in keeping things under wraps in recent years, we would expect to see leaks confirming iPhone 15 prototypes with USB-C in the coming months so stay tuned.
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Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more. Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.