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For years, one of the greatest criticisms directed at Apple has been its refusal to ditch the antiquated Lightning connector on iPhones for the faster, more flexible, and more commonly supported USB-C format. All modern Android phones rely on USB-C, as do Apple’s own iPads. Will we finally get USB-C on 2023’s iPhone 15?
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Probably, on some or all models of it. In 2022 the European Union announced that it would require USB-C for wired charging by December 28, 2024. While Apple could hypothetically abandon the European market, its profits from countries like England, France, Germany, and Spain are far too valuable to sacrifice. It could postpone USB-C until the iPhone 16, but that might be cutting things too close.
Sure enough, leaks and rumors seem to be pointing to an imminent USB-C switch. There could, however, be a discrepancy between Pro/Ultra models and regular iPhone 15s. While all models should support USB-C’s superior charging speeds and likely its faster data transfers, anonymous analyst 941 recently claimed that only Pro/Ultra models may support Thunderbolt cables up to 40Gbps. That could be a real boon to people who shoot 4K or ProRes video, since Lightning is so slow versus USB-C and Thunderbolt that it’s sometimes faster to use Wi-Fi or the cloud to transfer clips.
Apple is likely feeling some pressure to evolve, regardless. Even the iPhone 14 Pro Max can’t charge any faster than 27W, whereas some Android phones have been topping 100W — Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 12 Pro Plus reaches an insane 120W.
If USB-C is present on European iPhone 15s, it will almost certainly come to American ones as well. Strictly speaking, Apple could produce separate SKUs for Europe and the US, but the internal design changes needed to implement a USB-C port are probably too significant to easily swap for Lightning in other countries. That would also require operating separate supply chains and producing separate accessories.
Apple is thought to be exploring the idea of ditching ports entirely in the long term now that is has MagSafe wireless power to fall back on. That’s even slower than Lightning however, typically no better than 15W. Apple needs efficiency improvements to make MagSafe a practical substitute, and regardless, wired connections may be critical not just for high-speed charging and data but some troubleshooting functions.
That one’s a wildcard at the moment. You should be able to get base data and charging functionality out of any USB-C cable, but sources like well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo have hinted that only MFi (Made for iPhone/iPad) cables certified by Apple might be able to achieve maximum performance.
Those claims have already generated outrage, since the U in USB-C stands for Universal — the format is supposed to operate the same on a Samsung phone as it does on your iPhone, your GoPro camera, or your Eero router. Die Zeit reports that the European Union’s Internal Market Commissioner, Thierry Breton, contacted Apple in mid-2023 to warn the company that it wouldn’t be able to sell devices without universal compliance.
Expect Apple to back down there’s a legitimate threat of iPhones being blocked in Europe. The company is likely to resist if it can, since MFi certification not only generates money but enables greater control over the iPhone ecosystem.
MFi stands for “Made for iPhone/iPad.” MFi-branded accessories aren’t just built for Apple devices — they’re officially certified as meeting certain specifications, and only companies that complete that certification can display the branding.
While the MFi label usually ensures a certain level of quality and safety, it’s sometimes controversial. There are extra costs involved in gaining certification, and Apple sometimes restricts what non-MFi accessories can do, if they work at all.
Yes, across the board. Even the Lightning port on Apple’s high-end iPhone 14 Pro Max can only charge at 27W. Over USB-C, some Android phones are breaking 100W.
Lightning’s data speeds are meanwhile capped at 480Mbps. USB-C speeds vary, but usually range between 5 and 20Gbps, depending on generational compatibility. Still higher speeds are possible if a port doubles as a Thunderbolt connector.
Possibly, but probably not. Apple and others already tend to use USB-A or USB-C on their chargers, simply asking that you pair it with an appropriate Lightning-to-USB cable. Since Apple will probably include a USB-C-to-USB-C cable in the box, you should be good to go.
“Need” and “want” are different words, mind you. Many existing iPhone chargers top out at 20 or 30W, so you could find yourself upgrading anyway if you want to take full advantage of USB-C.