After years of speculation, Apple has finally confirmed that it will release its first USB-C iPhones. But the news comes with a twist.
Speaking at the Wall Street Journal’s Tech Live event, Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of worldwide marketing, confirmed that Apple will follow new European Union law mandating the use of USB-C on all smartphones sold in its member countries from autumn 2024. But that might not be the end of the Lighting port on iPhones.
Responding to a question from The WSJ’s Joanna Stern, Joswiak refused to answer whether Apple will transition all iPhones to USB-C worldwide — something that had been assumed due to the added production line complexity any split would introduce. He was also blunt about time scale, stating: “the Europeans are the ones dictating timing for European customers.”
Interestingly, although this assertion indicates Apple will transition its iPhones to USB-C in late 2024, multiple leaks have claimed that the universal connector will arrive a year early with the iPhone 15 range in 2023.
Reports are split over whether this will be for all models or just the Pros. But it would make sense for Apple to test this on at least a few models ahead of time. The so-called iPhone 15 Ultra, in particular, looks like a standout case with Apple able to sell its benefit to professional users and purported Thunderbolt 4 transfer speeds.
During the interview, Joswiak made it abundantly clear that Apple was not happy with the new law, saying the company has “been in this little bit of a disagreement” with the EU. He argued that moving to a common charger standard would stifle innovation and cause a lot of e-waste. However, cynics will point to the proprietary nature of Lightning as the real reason for Apple’s aggravation, with the company unable to charge a licensing fee for USB-C.
While it was always likely Apple would follow the new EU rules, it was not a given. The company is currently accumulating millions of dollars in fines from the Brazilian government over its ongoing refusal to sell iPhones with a charger in the country. Apple was also fined €5M/week for 10 weeks earlier this year by the Netherlands government for refusing to meet requirements for alternative payment systems.
If Apple does continue to sell iPhones with a Lightning port outside of the US, the respite might not last long. Other countries, including the US, are also investigating the enforcement of universal charging standards to reduce e-waste. 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.
Personally speaking, I think transitioning all iPhones worldwide to USB-C is a no-brainer. Yes, Apple will lose some licensing royalties, but MagSafe will mitigate some of this as it grows in popularity. Moreover, the ubiquity of USB-C makes it popular with customers (a custom USB-C iPhone X sold for over $85,000 at auction last year), and it might just give Apple’s standard iPhones the shot in the arm they could do with right now…
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