Why Hasn’t Apple Adopted USB-C for iPhone? Brewing An Alternative…

Apple does not incorporate, change or replace things without a reason. So why hasn't Apple adopted USB-C for iPhone? Let's check out the possible reasons...

Amongst the adjective that we can bestow upon Apple Inc., stubborn and adamant can be ranked on the top along with path-breaking and innovative. The Cupertino giant is known to stick to its guns, no matter the current trend or no matter what the opposition says.

While the whole world is going gaga over USB-C, why hasn’t Apple adopted USB-C for iPhone? Despite contrary rumors, Apple sticks to its proprietary Lightning port for its 2019 iPhone 11 series. When Apple introduced the technology in Macbooks, iMac, Mac mini and iPad Pro, a transition in its smartphone were expected. However, Apple continues to alienate the USB Type C as far as the iPhone’s are concerned; pushing everyone to ask, why?

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Why Apple Hasn’t Got Rid of Lightning Port Yet?

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Apple acknowledges that the iPhone 8 or later does support fast charging, but only when lightning to USB-C connector is used. In fact, it’s latest iterations iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max models comes with an 18W charger with a USB Type-C port and a Lightning to USB Type-C cable. As per Apple, the new charger will allow the iPhone 11 Pro to reach 50 percent charge in about 30 minutes.

This above-mentioned inclusion and the abundance of Lightning to USB Type-C converter raises a fundamental question; Why Apple won’t change the iPhone from Lightning to USB-C? But before we try to figure out the reason, let’s understand Apple’s commitment to the Lightning cable.

The Birth of Lightning

When the tech world was busy with USB-A, Mini USB, and Micro USB, Apple introduced Lightning in 2012; a massive upgrade from its 30-pin predecessor. Way ahead of its time, Apple developed a smaller, reversible, and faster cable; that can understand and meet the power and speed requirements of its future phones.

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Every iPhone box since then has an original Lightning to USB Type-A cable in its box. At the time USB-C was under development and Apple engineers a significant part of the team. However, Apple opted for Lightning as USB-C was not ready yet. Notably, It took the technology about six years, to come at par with the Lightning cable.

Why Should Apple Switch From Lightning to USB-C?

The Lightning cable has a male connector, i.e., the pins and major protrusion are on cable and does not depend on port. Whereas, USB-C’s pin section is in the port and the head of the cable have slots into the aperture. In our quest to understand or guess Apple’s ideology behind not incorporating USB C in iPhone; it is essential to understand the buzz around the port and why is the tech world wrapped around itself.

#1. Power

While Apple doesn’t disclose these specifications, they are available to third-party manufacturers. Given the 12W power supported by Apple Charger, Lightning can easily handle the said watt. While USB-C can handle up to 100watts and 20V/5A charge speed with the USB Power Delivery technology.

#2. Optimal use of your device

The 5W charger has been a staple for iPhone, though the power and battery capacity has seen a linear increase. So, when the iPhone 8 and above can support fast charging, not having a USB-C port to do so is unfair. In a way, this bars or restricts you to explore the full potential of the device

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#3. More than just Fast

USB-C supports full Display Port A/V performance, up to 8K resolutions at 60Hz. Additionally, it has backward-compatibility with VGA, DVI, USB 2.0, and HDMI, when you have the right adaptor.

#4. One world, one wire

Looking at the spectrum of benefits the USB-C (USB 3.1) offers, it is aiding in creating a single style of connector and port that could run pretty much everything. So, you can live a dongle free life and just carry one wire with you everywhere. Isn’t that an ideal scenario!!

#5. Competitive edge

In terms of this very technology, Apple is lagging behind its competitors. Most notable flagship Android devices are offering over 20W fast charging. Leading the charts is OnePlus with one of the fastest charging speeds with their newest wrap chargers. Not, far behind Xiaomi and Oppo are trying to incorporate 100W charging in their future devices.

In a market where a single feature can cut-down or soar your sales, Apple really needs to buck up its charging speed. After all, Apple loyalists will only show patience to a certain point.

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So, Why Hasn’t Apple Adopted USB-C for iPhone?

Apple certainly knows the capabilities of the technology, after all, 18 of its engineer were part of USB-C’s development team. In fact, Apple was among the firsts to incorporate USB-C in its Macbook series in 2015. Later, the tech giant cemented its trust, as the latest iPad Pro started sporting a USB-C port. Then, why the iPhone is still missing USB-C?

Does iPhone Really Need USB C?

An iPhone is meant for everyday consumers and their usage, apps and basic requirements vary. Both USB-C and Lightning are small and thin, have reversible plugs and can transfer data and power at high-speed. Apart from fast charging, the Lightning cable manages to handle almost everything else in your iPhone smoothly.

And as for fast charging, do we really need 100w power to charge our iPhones??? Maybe that’s why Apple is not in a hurry to make the shift or to compromise on the below-mentioned categories.

Consumer Loyalty

About seven years ago, Apple replaced its 30 pins, as the technology was bulky and wouldn’t have worked well with the new age devices Apple was planning. While some felt the burn of it, most of us have benefited from the decision in the long run. As mentioned above, the Lightning cable is almost at par with USB-C.

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So, should Apple just make the switch because everybody in the market is? Wouldn’t that be unfair to customers and accessory makers, to make changes for an at par technology and then change again as new and better technology arrives? Isn’t it better, that Apple innovates or waits for smarter and faster technology and adopt that directly?

Technical Constraints

#1. Aesthetics

Albeit, ever-so-slightly, USB-C is thicker than a Lightning port. For a brand, who keeps the design aesthetics and slimness at par with its technology, every millimeter of space matters. In a diagram rendered by Josh Flowers, the USB-C is as thick as the 3.5mm headphone jack.

USB Vs Lighting Connector Size Comparison

Do you really think Apple should or would compromise the aesthetics of its device just because of USB-C when it can offer a converter and solve the issue?

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#2. Not Every USB-C Is Superfast

Just having a USB Type C port doesn’t guarantee superfast speed. The real magic behind USB-C is what under its hood, i.e., USB 3.1 or USB 2.0. It is when USB 3.1 technology is used, the cable can have 100w of power and is capable of the SuperSpeed 10Gbps data transfer rate.

For instance, when OnePlus 3 launched one of the first Android phones with USB-C port, it only had USB 2.0 speeds. In layman’s terms, you might not get the same features when you use any Type-C cable. So when you intend to use USB-C cable for fast charging but every one of them is not Superfast, why should Apple make a compromise?

Control Over Accessories

Apple likes to control every minutest of detail in its ecosystem. Be it giving permission apps to use information or allowing third-party repairs. Apple has always been very picky about the accessories for their devices as well. Being a proprietary product of Apple, Lightning gives the company better control.

Especially with the MFI (Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad) certifications, the tech giant can keep a quality check. Even with an MFI in place, the market does have fake iPhone Lightning cables. So, imagine the lack of control on USB-C as it is not registered with the Apple Inc. Further, the fake wire business will exponentially increase as USB Type C gains popularity.

Monetary Constraints

Along with keeping a check on fake accessories, the MFi certification also earns the tech giant an additional licensing revenue for each and every authorized Lightning device. Taking into account that the iPhone and its accessories contribute just under two-thirds of the company’s business; the hesitation towards the shift is understandable.

It’s not just about Apple, what about the 3rd-party accessory manufacturers and the loyal customers, who have stock of Lightning cable compatible accessories such as charging docks, Lightning headphones. Though Apple has taken such risks before, when it discarded the 30-pin dock connector on September 12th, 2012; Or when it removed the headphone jack.

Notably, all of this was done to introduce some groundbreaking technologies. Maybe the tech giant will shift from the Lightning port for better and bigger technology such as Wireless.

Wires – What are those?

Wireless is undoubtedly the technology every smartphone manufacturer is looking forward to; In just the last few years, Apple has grown by leaps and bounds with the technology. The AirPods, Qi wireless charging support and cable-free charger Pencil stylus on the new iPad Pro.

All these examples can quickly relay that Apple has different plans for the iPhone and wireless technology. No port at all!!! A totally wirelessly chargeable iPhone. Additionally, the feature can also render your phone completely waterproof and dust-proof. Imagine a magnetic wireless charging pad at public places; you won’t have to worry about wire just stick your iPhone on the board.

Imagine a Magnetic Wireless Charging Pad at Public Places to Charge your iPhone
Imagination of Magnetic Wireless Charging Pad at Public Places

Additionally, this would probably be way faster than any USB-C fast charger. While we can’t predict the timeline for such a dream to become reality, it surely does not seem very far. In such a scenario, Apple not changing the iPhone from Lightning to USB-C is understandable.

Why should it push users to buy new USB-C compatible accessories or convertors, only to discard the port altogether in due time would definitely unfair.

While there is no USB-C on iPhone Yet, Why does iPad Pro or Macbook have one?

Looking at the constraints mentioned above, many might question Apple’s decision to shift to USB Type C for iPad or Mac. I totally understand their question, but what they do not understand is that there is a huge difference between the Macbook, an iPad Pro, and an iPhone.

The former two are devices developed for users to perform a wide range of professional tasks. From photoshop to video editing, a USB-C enabled quite a few use cases; such as to monitor mirroring, data transfer, and external peripheral connections.

Apple is evolving iPad Pro as a standalone device that can replace or substitute as laptops. It can perform multitasking to another level; in fact, the company has specially launched iPadOS this year with special features and apps chiefly suitable for the device. To allow the iPad to perform a variety of functions with speed and efficiency, the USB-C was an obvious addition.

However, while a very versatile and multitasking device, your iPhone is basically a very – very smartphone; that doesn’t necessarily need a shift.

As for evolving a new technology altogether, making the iPhone completely wireless is an easier task and probably accomplishable within a few years. Though incorporating a similar technology to the iPad or Mac is an arduous process, that would take its own sweet time. As per me, skipping the USB-C altogether in favor of wireless makes sense for iPhone, but isn’t a smart idea for the other two devices.

It’s not just a port !!!

You can always question Apple, that every other smartphone manufacturer is converting in USB-C, so why not they? But then if you know Apple, you will see the answer to it as well. Apple doesn’t do things to please people; it innovates technology that surprises them.

I believe Apple is brewing a storm that will make all naysayers fall in love with the brand. I can’t contain myself, just hope Apple reveals the surprise as soon as possible.

Your turn…

I am waiting for Apple’s next step, what about you? Do you think any of these points could be behind Apple’s alienating USB-C in its iPhone? Do share your feedback with us in the comment below.

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Jignesh Padhiyarhttps://www.igeeksblog.com
Jignesh Padhiyar is the co-founder of iGeeksBlog.com who has a keen eye for news, rumors and all the unusual stuff that happens around Apple products. During his tight schedule, Jignesh finds some moments of respite to share side-splitting contents on social media.
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