Why Apple's hesitation on USB-C for iPhones?

I was reading today about how Apple will follow the new EU regulations and starting next year belatedly introduce an iPhone with USB-C instead of lightning connectors. I was wondering, why the hesitancy about it?

I have USB-C on my iPad Pro I got last year. And on my MBP I also got last year. And it’s on my inexpensive Motorola Android phone I got for testing. Yet my iPhone 13 Pro is still lightning, as are the iPhone 14 phones.

I was wondering what the logic behind it is.

  • MBP already had USB connectors in the past. Conversion to USB-C gave a common connector for Thunderbolt and Video applications, making business sense.
  • Apple does not agree with environmental arguments claiming that a single charger type must apply to a device connector and will reduce charger waste – Apple chargers (AC adapters) have been USB for many years and USB-C quite a while.
  • Apple’s lightning connectivity has been quite universally accepted by peripheral makers. Support costs have been sunk by Apple and third-party vendors. Being forced to obsolete these on EU’s schedule instead of Apple’s diverts development time ($) from preferred projects.
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The lunacy is this.

The iPhone 14 Pro can record ProRes but has to transfer those huge files over 480 Mbps USB2 on its completely outdated Lightning. The iPad Pro can do far faster USB transfers over its TB3 port but it can’t natively record ProRes. The new iPad got a USB-C port but has its throughput throttled to 480 Mbps USB2 speed. :man_facepalming:

And then there’s the whole thing about gimping the device to only use Pencil 1, but equipping it with a port that can only natively charge Pencil 2 so people are stuck having to get an a dongle so they can charge their Pencil 1. But here’s the kicker, Apple can’t even ship that 30¢ dongle (that they sell for $9) in sufficient number.

And then there’s the mouse and the location of its Lightning charging port. :rofl: :roll_eyes:

It’s almost as if Apple is intentionally trying to cripple their ports and use of them.

I just love that the EU is now essentially forcing Apple through written law to abandon Lightning. :champagne: They can now do USB-C and do it right, or embarrass themselves in front of the developed world. Their call.

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On the other hand, I and many others find lightning a better port for charging – it is more robust than USB-C and is less likely to be damaged by inserting a cable at an angle (possibly causing expensive damage to a board). It is a much slower connection for data, but on a iPhone it is much more frequently used for power than data.

Of course, this is now a moot point, since Apple has announced that they will switch.

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I agree with you that Lightning appears to be substantially more robust. And for charging of course that’s great. No disagreement there.

But I can also tell you that my $3k M1 MBP sees itself charged over USB-C even more often than my iPhone. The phone gets charged once over night, the MBP gets charged repeatedely throughout the day as I carry it around from docked on desk to meeting to home office dock to bed to … I rarely use MagSafe on the MBP and never on the phone. Bottom line, on the MBP I have yet to see any damage or issues with USB-C from frequent charging use despite using essentially always the same USB port for that. I would also wager that most folks swap their iPhones more often than their $3k notebooks so it’s the latter’s USB ports that really need to stand the test of time. Anyway, I’d like to believe that if Apple can somehow build a quality USB-C port for charging on their MBPs, I’d expect them to be able to also make that work on their swanky phones.

I guess time will tell.

The issue is that it will kill innovation in cables, connectors, or charging. Nobody will bother coming up with a better system if they aren’t allowed to use it in their products.

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There will be innovation, and it will be in products. It just won’t be deployed to EU nations until the right people can be lobbied into permitting it.

It’s a non-issue. The EU can take the law off the book or modify it the moment something promising pops up. The law in its current form actually anticipates that.

In fact, they could take the law off the books entirely the moment Apple has transitioned the last of their Lightning product to USB-C. It’s clear this law targets primarily Apple. And it’s also clear that once Apple has been forced to abandon Lightning, they won’t be able to reintroduce again.

It will be USB-C until there’s something better. And then folks even in the EU will be getting that. Everybody wins except perhaps for a few ideologues and marketers at Apple. And I honestly don’t care about those folks having their egos bruised.

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Companies are allowed to innovate and the mandate includes provisions for upgrading in the future. The worst thing that will happen is Apple or someone decides on a different connector and has to ship a lot of adapters in the EU that area thrown away.

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People make a lot of remarks about so many USB connectors but that’s only on the peripheral side for lots of irritating reasons. Type-A has been standard for over 20 years. USB-C eliminates the need for all other USB types and is now 7 years in the market. I think we’ll be using USB-C in 20 years with a fair amount of Type-A lingering.

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Ah, but it’s a global market. So my bet is that companies will decline to innovate new connectors, as developing and distributing adapters for certain markets, or having to lobby politicians who don’t understand technology anyway, does nothing but discourage advancement. But we’ll never know, as those ideas will simply be killed on the drawing board.

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If I had to guess, it would be some combination of (a) the need to implement all the other stuff besides charging that can go on through a USB port and/or (b) the size and/or water resistance of the USB-C port hardware as compared to Lightning.

A third factor—possibly also related to size and water resistance—might be Apple being a little too optimistic about wireless charging and hoping to go directly from using Lightning to doing away with a physical port altogether. If a portless iPhone is only 2-3 years away, then it would make more sense to stick with Lightning for that interval rather than introducing a new port just to eliminate it. (That would also explain going ahead and switching iPads to USB-C, since there’s less expectation of a port-free future there.)

Dave

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And that something better will take a much longer time coming to market because whoever invents it will have to convince EU lawmakers to permit it. And they won’t do anything until that “something better” is fully deployed and tested elsewhere.

Or until someone bribes enough people in the EU so they can change the law before the new something is proven to be better.

It’s not about Apple. It’s about politicians, who have no skills other than how to get themselves re-elected, writing mandates about technology, that they don’t and never will understand. It’s about the incompetent wielding supreme power over those who actually invent new things. And that never ever ends well.

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To me…it’s more about what business the government should be in. The EU is much like CA, OR, WA, and NY over this side of the pond in adopting the nanny state attitude. I don’t think government should be involved in this decision at all…and I can see why Apple has been slow to change from Lightning because it is paid for and the previous note about iPhone connections being much more often power and not data as well.

Unfortunately…the nanny state EU is a big enough market that they can force a change just because they want it regardless of whether it’s a good idea or not. Much like GDPR…and net neutrality…and censorship (or not) on social media…it’s a much more nuanced and not black and white issue.

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I think it’s far more likely that someone will invent a better wireless charging and data connectivity system than a new physical port, and even if Apple/someone does have a better port for this - something like the keyboard connector for the iPad Pro and Air - they could just offer that as well as USB-C and still comply. It seems a weird hypothetical to worry about, innovation in charging connectors.

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It is completely impossible to know what the industry will come up with next, because there are dozens of businesses employing thousands of people, who are all researching in different directions.

  • We used to think serial data technology couldn’t go much faster than 115,200 bits per second because of RS-232’s limits. So the industry moved to parallel technologies like SCSI.
  • SCSI evolved from 5 Mbps up to 320 Mbps, over many different generations before the industry gave up on that direction and moved to twisted-pair serial for technologies like FireWire.
  • FireWire shipped at 400 and 800 Mbps, and there was active research to take it much faster (1600 and 3200 were specified), but it too fell by the wayside as USB 2 and 3 showed up with their higher speeds, and Thunderbolt came around sporting 10, 20 and 40Gbps.
  • Everybody thought SATA (and its external cousin, eSATA) was going to evolve to higher and higher speeds, until NVMe was invented and now SATA is on its way out.
  • Now USB 4 is all the rage, having been (sort of) combined with Thunderbolt and is now talking about 80Gbps. And all anybody can talk about is how much faster future USB will get. Which will be the case right until some other tech ships and the entire industry abandons USB for something else.

Likewise for video. We saw various standard including Apple’s proprietary DB15 connector, VGA, DVI, DisplayPort, HDMI, Thunderbolt and others. Today, we all think DP and HDMI are the final word, but you can guarantee that at some point, we’ll hit the limits on them and they’ll be replaced by something nobody is even thinking about today.

So I think it is just naive to believe that just because USB-C does what everybody requires today, that we will never see anything better in the future. People will require higher bandwidth. They will require faster charging. And there will be new capabilities that we aren’t even thinking about today.

But industry is going to move much more slowly if they know that they won’t be able to ship it in sufficient quantities to be profitable without first getting government agencies to grant permission.

And yes, a company could deliver a device with two charge ports - USB and something else. But that means the second port it taking up space that could have been used for something else. Maybe that will be OK for big devices like laptops, but it just won’t happen for small devices like phones.

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Nobody is saying that.
Nobody is claiming there won’t eventually be something better.

/strawman

What people are saying is that when that comes along the EU law won’t be an obstacle. As the law already foresees better standards will come. Some object and claim this will nevertheless stifle innovation, while others disagree.

The more I hear this debate, the more I realize it’s not about USB-C or Lightning. It’s about people with what I would call libertarian leanings made uncomfortable by the fact that democratically elected officials have decided to intervene in business interests and that they’re inserting themselves in technical matters. And they’re successful: the law is now on the books and the target, Apple, will be forced to comply.

Yes, in TX that would probably never happen. But the world is a bigger place. And in the EU this is possible. And guess what, this legislation is actually very popular in the EU. Their bottom line is it’s their right to do it that way. And that’s indeed the case, no matter how much US/UK libertarians disagree. Now perhaps those guys are right after all and the EU’s wrong, who knows? But ultimately, it’s the EU’s call. Nobody has been wronged, they perhaps just don’t agree. End of story.

Either way, Lightning is history. Just as a reminder: had Apple transitioned away from Lightning on iPhone years ago when everybody else adopted USB-C, I’m pretty sure this EU law would have never made it onto the books.

Tim will now get one more chance to show the world how “Apple complies with local laws” — only that this time for once it’s a democratically elected and legitimate governing body that is telling them what to do. Should make compliance easier. :wink:

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The EU was very clear about how they tried to get the industry to settle on a common charger over the last 8 years to no avail. From the original press release we linked:

In the past decade, Parliament has repeatedly called for the introduction of a common charger. Despite previous efforts to work with industry to bring down the number of mobile chargers, voluntary measures failed to produce concrete results for EU consumers.

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The irony is that the law will do nothing to make Apple change its chargers, just the cable it includes in the box.

The market voluntarily brought itself down to two plugs - USB micro-B and Lightening. Both extremely popular (Apple vs. everybody else). But that was apparently not good enough. The politicians refused to settle for anything other than One Plug To Rule Them All.

Apple solved that problem years ago - by not bundling any charger in the box.

And what is wrong with Apple’s chargers? They are all USB chargers that can literally work with any USB-charging device from any manufacturer. And the ones sold for the iPhone always were.