This past week, Apple did something quite uncommon: it gave us a definite hint regarding the future of the iPhone. Apple’s top brass has stated that the tech giant will follow the EU’s directive that all phones sold in the region begin using USB-C as the standard smartphone charging connector by 2024. This necessitates a departure from Apple’s Lightning connection, which has been in use since 2012. This will affect the iPhone 16 and potentially the iPhone 15.
With the EU’s new regulations, it appears that the iPhone will be required to switch to USB-C. Speaking at the Wall Street Journal Tech Live conference, Apple’s senior vice president of global marketing Greg Joswiak stated that the business had “no option” and that Apple will “comply with local laws” as it does in every country in which it operates. However, this does not necessarily spell the end for the Lightning cable just yet. Due to the widespread availability of Lightning-port accessories and the continued demand for older iPhone models, the Lightning port may play a more significant role than you’d initially think in Apple’s product line.
No one should be surprised to learn that Apple goods now frequently have USB-C ports. Aside from the iPad of the ninth generation, which won’t be released until 2021, it’s included on every iPad the business now sells. Both the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air include USB-C connectors.
However, both iPhone users and IT experts have been waiting for USB-C. In fact, a USB-C modded iPhone X went for $86,001 on eBay in 2017. After all, it’s logical to want to utilize a single wire to power your iPhone, iPad, and computer. The new EU regulation is a move in the direction of a more straightforward billing process. But there’s a risk that users will experience disruption during this time as they switch between new and old chargers to power their iPhones and accessories.
Aside from the iPhone, only a few few devices support electrical charging using a Lightning port. Items like the AirPods and AirPods Max headphones, the original Apple Pencil (the only version compatible with the iPad Pro with USB-C), and the Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, and Magic Keyboard are examples. Thus, if an iPhone with USB-C becomes available in the future, owners of current devices may still need to switch cords.
CNET asked Apple if it has any intentions to keep the Lightning port on future iterations of these items, but the company did not answer.
Keep in mind that there are some people who don’t buy the most recent iPhone. When a new iPhone is released, Apple typically makes previous models more affordable. For instance, the iPhone 13 from last year and the iPhone 12 from 2020 are still part of the company’s current product line-up. After releasing the iPhone 13 in September 2021, Apple still offered the iPhone 11 at a discounted price of $499. Keeping with precedent, it’s probable that Apple will include Lightning-powered iPhones in its 2023 product line.
While many consumers may be drawn to the newest iPhone, there is still a sizeable market for previous-generation models. Counterpoint Research reports that despite having a 2019 release date, the iPhone 11 was the sixth best-selling smartphone in 2021. In the March 2022 quarter in the United States, sales of the iPhone 11, iPhone SE, and the iPhone XR (which is already 4 years old) amounted for 15% of all iPhone sales, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.
Similarly, a separate survey from Counterpoint Research found that refurbished iPhones were highly sought after, with Apple taking up more than 40% of the global market for secondary phones. It’s logical to assume that future refurbished iPhone buyers will wish to keep their Lightning cords, given all iPhones released after 2012 charge using Lightning. Counterpoint also claimed that in 2021, as consumers sought to avoid excessive pricing and make more sustainable purchasing decisions, demand for reconditioned phones climbed by 15%.
With inflation eating away at people’s ability to pay for basic necessities, they may be reluctant to upgrade their phones, either. Inflation has decreased demand for smartphones, thus sales throughout the world are anticipated to fall by 6.5% in 2022, according to the International Data Corporation. Assurant, an insurance firm that also helps businesses set up device trade-in programs, reports that the average age of cellphones being turned in has reached 3.5 years. A larger number of Lightning cords will stay in circulation for as long as older iPhones are still in use.
The switch to USB-C will be beneficial to iPhone users in the long run. The EU mandated USB-C so that modern iPads, Macs, and eventually iPhones could all be charged with a single cable. The timing of the change is perfect, since wireless charging, Bluetooth accessories, and Apple’s new MagSafe connection mechanism are reducing iPhones’ need for connected connections.
However, changes of this magnitude take time. It is unclear how Apple will implement its response to the EU’s ruling. As an example, we have no idea if Apple will adopt USB-C in 2023 or wait until 2024. Whether or whether USB-C will become the universal standard, or whether Apple will reserve its use for European iPhones, remains to be seen.
However, one thing that appears to be apparent is that the introduction of a USB-C iPhone might be the first step toward a world where just a single cable is needed. It won’t happen instantly, though.