May 13 update below. This post was first published on May 11, 2022.
It looks like there’s a big change coming to the iPhone next year. One that, if you’d asked me about last year, I’d have said would never happen. Literally never.
But the claim comes from one of the most respected Apple observers, Ming-Chi Kuo from TFI Securities. So, it must be true, right? Well, maybe.
May 13 update. Here’s the thing: a couple of days ago, reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo came up with the most outlandish suggestion about a future iPhone: that it would switch from Apple’s beloved Lightning connector to the widely available USB-C. Ridiculous, you might have thought. When Hell freezes over, you could have said.
But now, another highly-thought of surveyor of the Apple scene, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, has weighed in.
He has added his own take on the situation but broadly agrees with Ming-Chi Kuo. Gurman says Apple is testing a USB-C version of the iPhone for release in 2023, yes, the iPhone 15, not this fall’s expected iPhone 14. He believes that this may be in part because of the European Union’s insistence that future gadgets such as phones should be equipped with USB-C. He also adds that if the law doesn’t pass, though I think it will, it’s possible Apple won’t switch to USB-C after all. Gurman rightly points out that the situation is complex. Switching to USB-C would mean that almost everyone would be able to use just one cable and charger for their iPhone, iPad Pro and MacBook Pro—as well as Android phones, tablets, Windows and Chrome PCs and more. Win-win, right? Eventually, but in the short term remember that lots of people use Lightning for charging their Mac mice, MagSafe Duo Charger and more. So, for a while, these people will have just as much confusion, if not more, than they do now. Technology is such that a bit of me believes that by the time everyone has switched to USB-C, there’ll be a whole new, backwards-incompatible connector developed. I mean, hasn’t Apple just re-introduced MagSafe for the MacBook Pro?
Of course, the fact that two rumors have arrived does not mean it’s going to happen. Of course not. But the fact that they’re both from such reliable analysts has to mean something.
Kuo claims, in a pair of tweets earlier today, that “My latest survey indicates that 2H23 new iPhone will abandon Lightning port and switch to USB-C port.”
In other words, the iPhone due to arrive in the second half of 2023, the one everybody is referring to as iPhone 15, will change one of the only things about the iPhone that hasn’t altered since the iPhone 5 was released in 2012: the Lightning connector.
Kuo claims it will be replaced with USB-C, the connector used on almost all Android phones, the iPad Pro, iPad Air, iPad mini and Mac laptops.
For those who don’t follow these things closely, it may not seem much but here’s why it is.
Apple has stuck rigorously to Lightning connectors for its iPhones and made clear that it did not think the move to USB-C was a good idea. Indeed, when the European Union said it was going to insist that electronic devices all used the same connector, that is, USB-C, to reduce electronic waste, Apple pushed back powerfully, explaining that it would reduce innovation.
It’s true that the Lightning connector is slimmer than USB-C, so it gives Apple greater flexibility in design. Additionally, since so many households have Lightning cables and chargers, throwing all those away to switch to USB-C would create more waste, it’s been argued.
The expectation was that Apple would stick to Lightning for as long as possible and switch instead to a portless iPhone that would charge wirelessly, for instance.
Ming-Chi Kuo has come to the conclusion that USB-C is on its way to the iPhone through his latest supply chain survey, seeing a change in emphasis away from Lightning, it seems, with suppliers saying they are expecting boosts in USB-C orders.
Kuo points out that there are benefits to a switch to USB-C, such as better data transfer and charging speeds. He also notes that the final details are still dependent on support in iOS.
Could it be that increased pressure from the E.U. has helped change Apple’s mind? After all, if it is faced with either not selling Lightning products in Europe or making a version with USB-C for the E.U. then it makes more sense to move to USB-C globally.
If you’re skeptical about this report, I can’t blame you. The only thing I’d say is that this topic is something I’ve talked to Apple about repeatedly. I have certainly not heard anyone say they think USB-C would be right for the iPhone, but by the same token, I’ve noticed the opposition to such an idea has been a touch more muted recently. Though not enough for me to say this change is going to happen.
The other practical benefit for consumers is that suddenly there really would be only one connector type for gadgets and picking up the wrong charging plug or cable could, soon, become a thing of the past.
It’s an intriguing prospect, even if it seemed outlandish until, well, now. More as we have it.