The next iPhone will change the charging socket to USB-C… but there may be a sting in the tail.
When Apple releases this year’s iPhones, the iPhone 15 series, among the design changes expected is a crucial one: the shift from charging from a Lightning connector to USB-C. This change is welcomed and will mean that iPhones, iPads and Mac laptops will all use the same cable. Not to mention the Apple TV remote, Android phones and non-Mac laptops, for instance.
March 25 update below. This post was first published on March 22, 2023.
March 25 update. Another iPhone 15 report, and from a very reliable source, indicates a change though I predict it will pass unnoticed by every user. Ever since the first iPhone, there’s been a proximity sensor near the top of the phone. That’s the element that recognizes when you put the phone up to your ear and turns off the display accordingly so you don’t accidentally press something.
It’s also the detail that TV shows most often miss, so a character in a drama is chatting away on the phone with the screen blazing inappropriately.
Anyway, the new report comes from the reliable Ming-Chi Kuo from TF International Securities. Right now, on the iPhone 14 Pro, the proximity sensor is, “located under the display (outside the dynamic island)”. As you’ll know, the Dynamic Island is the display cut-out that houses the front-facing camera and other elements.
For the iPhone 15 and 15 Pro models, it’s claimed, things will change. “Conversely, in the iPhone 15 series, the proximity sensor is situated within the dynamic island, with almost no change to the Dynamic Island area.”
This means the component that spots your ear approaching will change and have a different wavelength.
As I say, you’re not going to notice any difference here. Apple will ensure the user experience doesn’t degrade. Maybe the new component will be cheaper for Apple—though don’t hold your breath waiting for the price of the iPhone to drop—or maybe there will be a fractional saving of power as a result of the change.
The good news is that it’s still anticipated that the iPhone 15 will gain the Dynamic Island, that is, it won’t be restricted to the Pro models as it currently is.
But a new report from Ming-Chi Kuo, the highly reliable analyst from TFI Securities, says there’s good news, but also a frustrating limitation when it comes to how USB-C will work on the new phones. In a new research note at Medium, Kuo claims that the move to USB-C will mean the company can optimize for faster charging speeds. That’s the good news, and very welcome, of course.
But the flip side is that these speeds will only be achieved when using the right charger, specifically an MFi charger, which means one that has been approved by Apple.
Since the iPhone 12, released in 2020, Apple has not included a charging plug in the box, so users have often relied on what they had already.
However, the cable now supplied in the box with all iPhones is USB-C to Lightning, whereas most older charging plugs have a USB-connection. So, for many, the supplied cable has sat idle.
This has meant slower charging from, for example, the old 5W charger Apple used to include with many of its phones.
So, Kuo says “I believe Apple will optimize the fast charging performance of MFi-certified chargers for the iPhone 15. Among Apple’s chargers, the 20W USB-C model is the most cost-effective choice for iPhone users, resulting in strong replacement demand for 20W USB-C chargers.”
In other words, you won’t get the fast charging unless you’re using a certified charger, and one that’s fast enough, like the Apple 20W version. As a result, it’s expected that this charging plug will sell in big numbers. Kuo again: “Apple has significantly increased the total shipment forecast of its 20W USB-C charger by approximately 120% for 2Q23 and 3Q23 and has set 20W USB-C charger shipment at about 70 mn units for 4Q23, as it is optimistic about strong replacement demand for 20W USB-C chargers following the switch to USB-C for the iPhone 15 series.”
The 20W charger sells for $19, while a more powerful 30W model costs a little over twice that at $39—which if you are planning on buying an iPhone 15 Pro, you might want to consider as it’s thought the Pro phones will charge faster still, at up to 27W. You can buy cheaper chargers than this, but you have to reckon with the expectation that they won’t deliver as fast a charger if they’re not Apple-certified.
While not explicitly stated by Kuo, it’s also thought that the charging speeds will only be delivered with MFi-certified cables as well There’s good news here, of course: there’ll be one of these cables in the box with a new iPhone, so you’re sorted.
Apple makes money from MFi-certified products, even from third parties. But Apple would make clear that it insists on MFi certification for other reasons such as ensuring the best user experience. It’s certainly true that not all cables are equal.
Since it’s rumored that the iPhone 15 price is going to climb, buyers may need to factor in a little more to pay for a suitable charging plug.