I want an iPhone with USB-C. Now there are signs that Apple is doing it too


IPad Mini USB-C port

A USB-C port replaces the old Lightning port on the iPad Mini 2021.

Apple / Screenshot by Stephen Shankland / CNET

This story is part of Apple event, our comprehensive coverage of the latest Apple news.

I love my iPhone, but I wish it had USB-C. So I was encouraged this week to see an indication that it might someday.

I was not surprised when Apple introduced the iPhone 13 Tuesday with the same old Lightning port the company has been using since 2012. Lightning is fine. But it’s not USB-C.

Here is what I like about USB-C. It is versatile, an industry standard that increasingly covers the world of electronics. It transfers data at up to 20 gigabits per second and upgrades to 40 Gbit / s with the new USB data transfer protocol 4 just arrived. It charges phones, tablets, PCs and anything that requires up to 100 watts of power, with a 240W upgrade that will be ideal for gaming laptops. And there’s a growing ecosystem of accessories. USB-C, including hubs, docking stations, keyboards, flash drives, and memory card readers.

Apple has more or less stuck with Lightning, a proprietary product, for its mobile devices, although its top of the line IPad Pro got USB-C in 2018 and the mid-range iPad Air got the tech in 2020. (MacBook made its USB-C debut in 2015, a move that sparked some grumbling as it removed the beloved MagSafe connector.)

Now Apple is providing clues that USB-C could spread. During its event this week, the iPad Mini has a USB-C port, making the device more powerful and flexible. It will be more difficult to switch from iPhones to USB-C as there are so many Lightning phones and chargers already in use, but it increasingly looks like Apple is preparing its formidably broad customer base and product ecosystem to do so. jump.

Separating Apple product announcements is a bit like the Kremlinology of the Cold War: a spy trying to figure out what the Soviet Union was doing by assessing which Russian officials were for or against. Introducing USB-C to some new devices doesn’t necessarily mean Apple is setting the stage for a major change to its most important product line.

Still, I think USB-C is in the future of the iPhone. A big transition, while undoubtedly a big pain, will ultimately be good for you, the iPhone, and the planet. You’ll get less e-waste, the iPhone will become more utilitarian, and landfills won’t be littered with so many cables that only work with a fraction of the devices.

Apple has not commented on this story.

Apple, with the program

Almost every other corner of the tech world has switched to USB-C for data and charging. Android phones settled on USB-C ports years ago, and it’s a staple of Windows PCs. The additional price for USB-C accessories is also decreasing.

I use USB-C for external drives, headphones, earphones, flash card readers, two laptop docking stations, a Nintendo Switch and its Joy-Cons, iPad, Android phones, hardware security keys, family Macs, a Microsoft Surface Laptop, and a Google Pixel Slate. I have USB-C chargers in two cars and four rooms in my house. On the road, I use portable batteries with USB-C ports.

The pesky Lightning cable I need for my iPhone is getting more and more out of place. Lightning was a good replacement for the iPhone’s older, bulky 30-pin connector, but now USB-C is a much better alternative.

Apple also sees the benefits. Katie MacDonald, iPad product manager, said Tuesday that the iPad Mini’s USB-C connector is 10 times faster than Lightning and can “connect to a large ecosystem of USB-C accessories.” It’s great for everyone from amateur photographers to medical staff who scan patients with Butterfly portable ultrasound systems.

iPad Mini with USB-C connection to a camera

The USB-C connection of an iPad Mini allows it to connect directly to a camera.

Apple / Screenshot by Stephen Shankland / CNET

Why Apple isn’t rushing to sell USB-C iPhones

With millions of iPhones in use, getting rid of Lightning connectors won’t be easy. Customers have invested in chargers and cables in homes, offices and cars. Lightning is also used in AirPods charging cases and wired Apple headphones.

Switching to USB-C means Lightning gear needs to be replaced. I’m old enough to remember the howls of annoyance when Apple ditched its 30-pin connector, and Lightning is now much more established than the old connector in 2012.

Lightning has also kept iPhones above the fray for some of the growing pains of USB-C. It can be difficult to tell if a particular cable can handle the full power of USB and the highest data transfer speeds. Some of these issues persist, but the benefits of USB outweigh them.

A transition, if it were to happen, would force iPhone devotees to buy lots of new cables, a prospect no one should appreciate. In the long run, however, it will be worth it. Now or soon, you’ll likely be using USB-C to charge other devices, so switching ultimately reduces the electronic clutter in your life. It will also reduce electronic waste as you would need fewer cables to cover most of your devices. You can always donate your old cables to those who still need them.

How about an iPhone without any ports?

IPhones could go straight from Lightning connectors to no connectors at all. Connectors punch holes in a phone’s chassis that weaken it, expose it to the elements, and increase manufacturing costs.

Wireless charging and data transfer techniques are improving. With Apple’s iCloud, you no longer need to back up and sync your iPhone with a cable plugged into your laptop. The best way to get music from your phone to better speakers is to use Bluetooth, not a phone dock.

The charging and data ports, however, will retain their usefulness. Nothing beats an inexpensive copper cable for fast, private and reliable data transfer. If you only have a few minutes at the airport or in the car, a quick charge will boost your battery better than any charger.

When it’s time to plug that cable into my phone, I vote for USB-C.

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