In a rare occurrence this week, Apple provided a tangible clue about the iPhone’s future. Company officials confirmed that Apple wouldAll phones in that region . This means future iPhones will need to move away from the Lightning connector .
The transition to USB-C seems inevitable forGiven the new requirements of the EU. Speaking at the Wall Street Journal Tech Live conference, Greg Joswick, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said the company had “no choice” and that Apple would “comply with local laws” around the world. But that doesn’t mean the Lightning cable is going extinct just yet. The Lightning port may play a bigger role in Apple’s lineup than you might expect, thanks to the many accessories still in use and the popularity of older iPhones.
It’s no secret that USB-C has become increasingly common on Apple products. It’s on every iPad in the company’s current portfolio except the ninth-generation iPad from 2021. You’ll also find USB-C ports on Apple’s MacBook Pro and Air lineup.
But both consumers and tech critics have been waiting for USB-C to arrive on the iPhone. An iPhone X modified with a USB-C port sold for $86,001 on eBay last year. After all, why wouldn’t you want to use the same cord to charge your iPhone, iPad, and Mac? The EU’s new mandate represents a step towards a simpler charging experience in the long term. Still, the transition period is likely to cause some friction as consumers potentially bounce between chargers to power the new iPhones with legacy accessories.
Besides the iPhone, there are a handful of products that require a Lightning connection for wired charging. Such devices include:Earbuds, the , the first-generation Apple Pencil (which is the only model that works with the new USB-C-equipped iPad), Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, and Magic Keyboard. This means that owners of these devices will find themselves replacing cables if they buy an iPhone with USB-C in the future.
Apple did not immediately respond to CNET’s request for comment on whether it plans to retain the Lightning port on future versions of these products.
It’s also important to remember that not every iPhone buyer opts for a newer model. Apple often discounts older versions when new iPhones come out. Take its current lineup, for example, which still includes last year’s lineupand 2020’s iPhone 12. Apple also kept the iPhone 11 in the lineup at a low price of $499. In September 2021. If Apple continues that tradition, the 2023 lineup will have some Lightning-powered iPhones as well.
Although many buyers gravitate towards newer iPhones, there is a significant market for older iPhones. According to Counterpoint Research, the iPhone 11 was the fifth best-selling smartphone in 2021 despite launching in 2019. Sales of the iPhone 11, iPhone SE and 4-year-old iPhone XR accounted for 15% of US iPhone sales in the March 2022 quarter, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.
Refurbished iPhones are also popular, with Apple accounting for more than 40% of the global market for secondhand phones, according to a separate Counterpoint Research report. Considering that all iPhones have been charging via Lightning since 2012, it’s safe to say that future buyers of refurbished models will want to hang on to their Lightning cables. That’s especially relevant given that demand for refurbished phones is expected to grow 15% in 2021 as consumers look to avoid higher prices and make more sustainable purchasing decisions, Counterpoint also reported.
People may also tend to hold on to their current phone for longer as inflation cuts into other day-to-day expenses. Global smartphone shipments are expected to decline 6.5% in 2022 as inflation dampens demand, according to the International Data Corporation. According to Assurant, an insurance provider that helps companies develop device trade-in programs, the average age of a trade-in smartphone has also reached 3.5 years for the first time. The more iPhones continue to be used, the more Lightning cables will be used.
In the long run, the move to USB-C will be an improvement for iPhone owners. The change will make it possible to charge the most recent iPads, Macs and eventually iPhones with a single cable – which is why the EU mandated USB-C in the first place. The switch also comes at a good time given that improvements in wireless charging, the increased popularity of Bluetooth accessories, and Apple’s new MagSafe connection system make iPhones less reliant on wired connections.
But such transitions take time. And there are still many unanswered questions about how Apple will comply with the EU’s decision. For example, we don’t know if Apple will switch to USB-C in 2023 or wait until 2024. We don’t know if Apple will specifically use USB-C for European iPhones. Standard globally.
However, it seems clear that the arrival of the USB-C iPhone could be a step towards using one universal cable for everything. But it won’t happen overnight.