The Future of iPhone Chargers: USB-C, Lightning or Wireless?
The world has been phasing in USB-C technology as the gold standard for charging and data transfer for years, yet Apple has looked that change in the face and said, "Not today," opting instead for its own Lightning cables on iPhone products.
Thanks to new standards in the European Union, however, Apple will finally be forced to create iPhones with USB-C ports rather than its proprietary Lightning charger.
Apple’s vice president of worldwide marketing, Greg Joswiak, has confirmed that Apple will have to comply with the new EU regulation and switch the iPhone to USB-C. The iPhone 15 lineup next year is expected to feature USB-C pic.twitter.com/ORo1iLZVYa
— Apple Hub (@theapplehub) October 26, 2022
This isn't a huge leap for Apple, actually. Its laptops and computers have used USB-C ports for a while now. But the iPhone was always a holdout, which meant that charging cable manufacturers and distributors had to take that proprietary design into account.
That's the whole point of the EU's new law – to minimize waste by making a standard across all smartphones, meaning that people don't need to buy new cables when they switch from an Android to an iPhone, or vice versa. Or, if they already have other USB-C cables around the house, they won't need to go to the store when they accidentally leave their iPhone cable at a hotel.
Greg Joswiak, senior vice president of worldwide marketing for Apple, said that the company is playing ball with the EU lawmakers, but is doing so reluctantly, saying that the two parties have "been in this little bit of a disagreement" over the idea of a common charger solution, according to 9 to 5 Mac.
Apple loves its proprietary technology. But as the EU dictated here, people are catching onto the idea of minimizing tech waste, and that could start with charging cables. So, it's kind of a coin toss whether Apple will start manufacturing iPhones with USB-C ports in the U.S. or other non-EU countries.
Lisa Eadiciccio at CNET posited that Apple would sooner ditch the idea of charging port all together than go all-in on USB-C worldwide, opting for wireless charging. It's not out of the question, since Apple made a pretty big deal out of bringing back MagSafe technology for the last iPhone releases.
"Consider the iPhone's trajectory when it comes to wireless functionality, and it seems like Apple has been gradually laying the foundation for a completely wireless iPhone," Eadiciccio wrote. "The success of AirPods and Apple's focus on new types of cable-free connections like MagSafe all point in that direction."
Removing a headphone jack seemed absurd at the time, but Apple did it with the iPhone 7. Is removing the charging port a bridge too far?
Gordon Kelly at Forbes wrote that a port-less iPhone is unlikely, due less to the change in lifestyle that came with ditching the headphone jack, and more to do with the current quirks that come with a lot of wireless charging.
"Meanwhile, the slow charging speed, heat build-up and high costs of MagSafe are unlikely to make it a practical standalone alternative to wired chargers for several years," Kelly says.
The whole draw of the USB-C, aside from its ubiquity, is that it's fast. Apple would sort of be cutting off its nose to spite its face if it goes fully MagSafe rather than just adopting the USB-C tech.
Anecdotally, I had an Uber driver recently complain that the charging mat in his Tesla overheated his phone to the point where he got an error message and had to let the phone cool down.
These are bugs that can be worked out over time, but for the time being it seems like the most logical course of action would be for Apple to just go with USB-C like everyone else.
The problem is that Apple has never wanted to be like anyone else. So, in the meantime, the promotional products industry will still have to navigate around the Lightning cable when designing and selling smartphone accessories.
Someday, we'll probably have some sort of global standard, either officially or unofficially. What that looks like remains to be seen. But, as long as Apple has its way, the tech world will still require special attention and construction.