We initially thought Apple was removing the headphone jack in order to create devices that were even smaller than the 3.5mm audio outlet allowed. We were duped. Apple’s devices have never been thinner than the competition. In retrospect, everything appears to be a money grab. We didn’t get thinner devices; instead, we had to buy all new equipment to go with our existing equipment. Here’s why I’m concerned about the iPhone 15’s USB-C port.
I despise proprietary ports like the iPhone’s Lightning connector. It increases the cost and limits the capabilities. Apple’s proprietary port will almost certainly be replaced by a USB-C design in the next iPhone 15. That doesn’t mean it won’t remain exclusive to Apple. I want to be excited about an iPhone 15 with USB-C, but I’m worried that Apple will profit from the switch, which may limit the new port’s capabilities anyway.
Before USB-C, Lightning was cool. Mini-USB and micro-USB ports dominated phones before Lightning was introduced to the iPhone and Apple lineup. These earlier USB port designs were dreadful. If you plugged your cord in backwards, which is a common mistake with micro-USB, you could cause serious damage. I witnessed the devastation firsthand when relatives destroyed old Galaxy phones.
In 2012, Apple released Lightning. It is not any faster or more capable than USB 2.0; it simply has a different appearance. It fits perfectly regardless of how you hold it. It’s simple to blend in the dark. Because it is small, it is compatible with small devices such as an iPod shuffle or a pair of earbuds.
That Lightning cable contains a tiny chip
A genuine Apple Lightning cable or accessory contains features that a generic USB cable does not. It contains a microcontroller known as a ‘integrated circuit,’ which allows your iPhone or iPad to verify that the accessory is Apple-certified. In theory, this means you won’t get low-quality junk devices that don’t work properly.
Is this, however, a real issue in practice? I’ve bought a slew of USB cables and accessories for my laptop, Samsung Galaxy tablet, and Android smartphones. I have keyboards, mice, memory card readers, dongle hubs, and adapters that allow me to connect to Ethernet, HDMI, and even older Thunderbolt devices.
Nothing I own has ever been a source of contention. Some of it is more effective than others. My Belkin hub outperforms my Samsung hub, but you can’t tell me that’s because Samsung is a shady vendor. I’d guess it’s a manufacturing or design error. There’s no need to protect my phone from inferior accessories.
Lightning was an excellent design, but it was never technically superior to USB, despite the fact that it was introduced more than a decade ago!
I don’t believe Apple is that concerned about malicious accessories or an experience that falls short of Apple’s expectations. I don’t believe it. It appears to be a money grab. Every integrated circuit must be licensed by Apple. Unlicensed Lightning gear is currently available, but if you buy something with an official Apple logo, you know that company paid Apple for the privilege.
What exactly is a privilege? Lightning was an excellent design, but it was never technically superior to USB, despite the fact that it was introduced more than a decade ago! Since then, the USB-C port, with its USB 3.2 specification, has outperformed the micro-USB port. Thunderbolt 4, which uses the same USB-C pin design as Lightning, is a significant advancement over Lightning.
As a result, Apple’s best tablet, the iPad Pro, has a Thunderbolt 4 USB-C port. Thunderbolt 4 is a desktop-level specification developed in collaboration with Intel that offers incredible performance compared to basic USB-C and is lightyears beyond Lightning.
The iPad Pro does not have all of Thunderbolt 4’s capabilities, but it is far more capable than the average smartphone. It has a data transfer rate of 40 gigabits per second. When compared to the iPhone 14 Pro’s Lightning port, which can only transfer video files at a sluggish 480Mb/s. The iPad Pro transfers data at a rate that is more than 80 times faster!
Unlike smartphones (and iPads) with USB-C, the current iPhone cannot drive an external monitor. The Galaxy S23 Ultra can support an external monitor with a 4K resolution and a refresh rate of 60Hz. The iPad Pro with Thunderbolt 4 support can even drive Apple’s 6K XDR Pro display at full resolution.
Even the less expensive iPad 10.9 (2022) can support an external screen with a 4K resolution and a refresh rate of up to 30Hz. However, just because Apple’s USB-C tablets can support a feature doesn’t mean it will be included in the upcoming iPhone 15.
With an integrated circuit, Apple could ruin USB-C
According to recent iPhone 15 USB-C rumors, Apple will use a USB-C port, but actual cables and accessories will require an integrated circuit microcontroller, similar to today’s Lightning limitations.
So far, no further USB-C feature lockdown has been reported, but why would Apple force accessory makers to include a controller chip if not to control the accessory makers? Apple obviously does not want to lose its proprietary Lightning licensing fees, but it could simply require accessory manufacturers to affix a “Made for iPhone” badge and charge a fee for the logo.
Adding a hardware controller to USB-C cords and accessories allows you to control their capabilities. I’d like to believe that this is just a precaution to prevent hackers from using USB-C to gain access to my iPhone. The abundance of hacking tools already available suggests otherwise. End of story. Hackers will hack.
Will Apple support more external storage features via USB-C? Although there are Lightning accessories that can read and interact with storage devices, Apple’s file system is relatively restricted in comparison to what Android users can access.
My guess is that Apple will severely restrict USB-C on the next iPhone. I wouldn’t expect much more than basic accessory support, and I doubt the basic iPhone 15 will be able to connect to an external monitor, though the Pro and Pro Max models should be able to.
Everything I require from an iPhone 15 with a USB-C port
Here’s what I require from USB-C on the next iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro. I need to use a USB-C dongle to connect to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. I’d like to play iPhone games on my computer screen or watch movies using my iPhone accounts. I want to answer my personal email from my phone while making it appear as if I’m using a computer.
The next iPhone 15 Pro must support much faster data transfer speeds, preferably up to 40Gb/s like the iPad Pro, so that I can quickly transfer all of my large RAW image files to my computer. It takes about two minutes to transfer 100 photos via the Lightning port. A Thunderbolt 4 port could do the same thing in three seconds.
It’s a long shot, but I’d like faster charging as well. Thunderbolt 4 is capable of handling up to 100W of power. That’s enough juice to combine a power cable and an external monitor’s video cable into a single Thunderbolt 4 cable.
Even with Thunderbolt 4 capabilities, the iPad Pro cannot charge faster than 30W, which is still faster than an iPhone. I’d like to see Apple at least match Samsung’s USB-C 45W performance, if not Thunderbolt’s insane power.
Most importantly, whatever Apple does with USB-C, it must take a step back and consider whether the changes are beneficial to its users. Will USB-C make owning an iPhone more affordable and accessible to all? Will it make accessories more accessible and easier to use? If not, Apple must abandon any plans that stand in the way. The ‘C’ in Apple’s USB-C connector does not stand for ‘Control.’