There are still plenty of questions about how Apple will handle the iPhone's switch to USB-C.
For the first time in more than a decade, you might need a different charger for your iPhone. Apple executives said the company plans to comply with European rules mandating that new phones all use the same common USB-C charging port. Most phones already use USB-C, with Apple being the main outlier.
When asked if Apple will move to USB-C, Greg Joswiak, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said the company has "no choice." Apple will "comply with local laws" as it does around the world, Joswiak said during an appearance at The Wall Street Journal Tech Live conference in October.
That said, there's still a lot we don't know about how Apple will execute the transition to USB-C for the iPhone. Apple rarely discusses new products before announcing them, meaning we don't have much insight on details like whether all new iPhones will get USB-C, or just those sold in Europe.
Apple declined to share further details regarding future plans to bring USB-C to the iPhone.
There's a chance the iPhone 15 could have a USB-C port instead of the Lightning connector, but it's impossible to know until Apple releases its next iPhone. The EU's rules say all mobile phones sold in the EU will need to have a USB-C charging port by the end of 2024. That means it's unclear whether Apple will start the transition in 2023 with what will presumably be the iPhone 15, or wait until 2024.
But Chiew Le Xuan, a research analyst for Canalys, thinks the switch could come sooner rather than later.
"What we think is that Apple will bring Type C to the iPhone 15 series," he said. "So, similar to what they did for the iPads [and] the Macs: They sort of just transitioned the whole product line."
Apple has reportedly tested iPhone models with USB-C in the past. Bloomberg reported last May that Apple was testing future iPhone models with USB-C, as well as an adapter that would enable these iPhones to work with Lightning connections. Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst for TF International Securities known for his Apple predictions, also said Apple plans to convert the iPhone to USB-C in 2023.
It's also worth noting that Apple is a member of the USB Implementers Forum, a nonprofit organization that was formed to further advance USB development and adoption.
The new mandate is part of an effort to simplify the charging experience for consumers and cut down on electronic waste.
"Under the new rules, consumers will no longer need a different charger every time they purchase a new device, as they will be able to use one single charger for a whole range of small and medium-sized portable electronic devices," reads a European Parliament press release.
The shift is also meant to help cut down on the roughly 11,000 metric tons (12,125 tons) of annual e-waste resulting from unused chargers in the EU, the release says.
This is another question we won't know the answer to until Apple releases future iPhone models. But Maurice Klahne, senior research analyst at Counterpoint Research, thinks it seems likely Apple will transition the iPhone to USB-C more broadly rather than keeping it region-specific.
"It's just simply too costly to make different devices for different regions," he said. "And so Apple will likely make the switch everywhere all at once."
The transition to USB-C could result in more perks and conveniences for iPhone owners. For example, you'd be able to use the same charger that powers other devices, like your MacBook laptop or iPad, to charge your iPhone. There's also a broad accessory ecosystem for USB-C, considering it's been standard on most electronics for the better part of the last decade. Plenty of Apple's own products already rely on USB-C rather than Lightning, such as the iPad Air, iPad Pro and Apple's lineup of MacBooks.
It's possible the switch to USB-C could result in faster charging and data transfers, specifically on the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Kuo has reported that only the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max will support high-speed data transfers over USB-C, for example.
Le Xuan agrees, saying Apple will likely do more to separate the regular iPhone 15 from its premium sibling this year.
"By then moving into a Type C switch, we will probably see some sort of differentiation between the Pro and Pro Max and the non-Pro Max in terms of charging speeds," he said.
You shouldn't need an Apple-made cable to charge your iPhone when Apple makes the switch to USB-C. After all, that would defeat the purpose of the EU's push toward a universal charging cable.
But the company could potentially make it so that Apple-certified USB-C cables offer benefits over noncertified alternatives. Kuo, for example, reports that Apple will likely optimize chargers that are part of the company's MFi certification program to offer faster charging speeds. This follows a leak from ShrimpApplePro (who also leaked the Dynamic Island's design early), which says cables without an MFi certification will be limited in charging and data transfer speeds.
Apple hasn't spoken about its plans for the iPhone 15 or future USB-C charging cables beyond the comments made at The Wall Street Journal's conference. But a move like this could help Apple boost its accessory ecosystem by maintaining some level of exclusivity as it embraces the switch to a universal iPhone charger.
"Even though their walled garden isn't as walled anymore," said Klahne, "they can still make these little adjustments to keep their iOS base more walled off from the general Android market."
Apple is expected to announce the iPhone 15 lineup in the September timeframe during its usual annual product launch event. Other than USB-C charging, rumors suggest new solid-state buttons are coming to the Pro models, while the Dynamic Island is expected to expand to non-Pro versions.