The infamous iPhone with USB-C input it could soon take off the role of the chimera (or the bizarre amateur experiment) and turn into reality. This is confirmed not only by the numerous news leaked by the international media in recent weeks, which would see the Cupertino giant ready to yield to the latest EU regulations (which we will deepen in this article) and retire the Lightning trust, a proprietary connector produced starting from 2012 in combo with iPhone 5, for years defended with a knife between the teeth (we will also talk about this).
But so is the clear feeling, shared equally by experts and consumers and confirmed by the facts, that the times for wireless as the only charging standard are not yet sufficiently mature, and that the intermediate phase that separates the present from a future entirely devoid of cables and ports is ainevitable yield in the presence of the Type-C. Among the recent measures in the European context, the moves of the producers, the second thoughts and the imminent officialities, the game thickens and on the chessboard of charging standards the USB-C acquires an even more central, but not immortal, role. We see it in this article.
THE EU HAS BEEN OBSTANTED FOR A LONG TIME
Over ten years ago, the market (and the attics) were populated by over 30 examples of different connectors for charging electronic devices. Subsequently, on a voluntary basis by the manufacturers and under the European aegis, the plethora of chargers available until then was drastically halved, reducing to only three “surviving” standards: the microUSB port, the Lightning and the USB-C, or Type C, which will be destined to cannibalize the others and remain the only charging standard compatible with small and medium-sized electronic equipment on sale in the Old Continent.
In its decades-long battle in favor of standardization of connectors, the European Union has put more than a good result in its pocket. Lastly, the go-ahead from the European Parliament for the Commission directive on the introduction of a universal charger for most electronic devices on the market, such as smartphones, headsets, game consoles, digital cameras, tablets and much more, with the exception of small wearables that would struggle, for obvious dimensional reasons, to accommodate a USB-C port (for example, smartwatch, smartband). The intent is to extend the scope of application of the proposal to notebooks in the future, which would thus be obliged to comply with the new rules.
The bill will later be negotiated with individual EU governments and it will come into effect in the next two yearsby 2024. In addition to the standardized charger, the legislation would aim to make interoperable wireless charging technologies by 2026 to avoid further segmentation of the market and limit the dependence of customers on individual manufacturers, as well as making the recharging options of the devices clearer in the eyes of consumers through special labels.
The result, upon completion of the legislative process of the proposal, will allow users to no longer have the need to purchase new cables or chargers when purchasing a new generation device, consequently gaining practicality, versatility and, above all, sustainability.
On the last point, in particular, the numbers show that cables and connectors also contribute to replenish the vast mountain of electronic waste (WEEE) that accumulates every year, coming to produce from 11,000 to 13,000 tons per yearfor one and a half billion portable chargers shipped to Europe.
BUT ALSO APPLE
Going back to Cupertino and recently leaked rumors, Apple’s near future will be in the name of the USB-C port, but not forever. The bitten Apple, one of the main detractors of standardization and avid champion of the Lightning cable, has begun to show the first signs of “failure” by integrating USB-C in MacBooks starting from 2016 and iPads from 2018, without however considering the possibility to extend it to phones.
After years of stubborn and contrary leadership, according to the well-known analyst Ming-Chi Kuo the arrival of the first iPhone with Type-C would be close and could coincide with the launch of iPhone 15expected for the end of 2023. But, as anticipated, it would be only a transitory moment in view of the definitive passage to the next epoch, that portlessdestined to last much longer.
Between rumors and assumptions, which in the past would have even bet on the iPhone 12 as Apple’s first smartphone with a USB-C connector, the turning point would now be near – accompanied by a first hint of divorce from Lightning. The news does not end there: according to the analyst’s forecasts, the Type-C could also make its debut on future Apple-branded accessories, starting with the AirPods Pro 2, along with Magic Keyboard, Magic Trackpad, Magic Mouse and the battery. MagSafe.
On the reasons behind Apple’s repeated rejection of the single connector, the company’s official response points to the adoption of a universal connector to brake of innovation, rather than its impulse, which would primarily harm consumers. The empirical facts, however, suggest something else: the migration of iPhones to USB-C would force the company to rethink its business model, largely driven by proprietary and third-party accessories, on which Apple earns royalties with a strong MFI certification.
After all, the development of a proprietary connector has allowed Apple to create a market of its own by controlling the rich range of devices compatible with its products. To undermine it, as explained in our recent study, would mean only one thing: potentially reduced income, and not a little.
THE PROS AND THE CONS
Although the Lightning port has always stood out for functionality and repairability, its proprietary nature limits it to the Apple ecosystem, penalizing it in comparison with USB-C for diffusion and versatility. In fact, most of the devices in circulation, such as smart speakers, notebooks, tablets and the latest Android smartphones, integrate the latter.
As for the speed of charging and data transfer, especially for photos and videos, the experts reward the Type C hands down, which with its 40Gbps exceeds the 480Mbps of Lightning. The alleged arrival of Lightning USB 3.0 with iPhone 14, which would reach 5 Gbps to the delight of creatives, has however been overshadowed by a much more tempting proposal, the new USB-C 2.1 cables, which support up to 240W of power.
Net of performance, for the European Union the advantages of a single connector are first and foremost eco-sustainable nature, in opposition to the phenomenon of electronic waste in constant increase (not even the disposal of billions of cables that have become unusable would wink at the environment, to be honest). But also economic: on average two and a half billion euros are spent on the purchase of additional single chargers, so a single connector would also benefit consumers’ wallets.
As for the disadvantages, there are those who argue that standardization can push companies to increase the retail prices of smartphones, but this will only be seen with the accounts in hand. There is only one certainty: the future is portlessand the producers are well aware of this.