Apple is testing iPhones that use the industry-standard USB-C connector, according to a report in Bloomberg citing people with knowledge of the situation.
Since 2012, Apple’s smartphones have used the company’s proprietary Lightning connector. But lately, the slightly larger USB-C connector has been dominating consumer electronics, including most of Apple’s other products. Consumers, reviewers, and even government regulators have been urging Apple to ditch Lightning in favor of USB-C for the past few years.
This has put Apple in a difficult spot, with three possible paths forward, each with some significant downsides.
On the one hand, the company could stick with Lightning — which would mean customers who’ve been using the iPhone for a while wouldn’t have to buy new adapters, cables, or chargers. Apple’s ecosystem of accessory makers wouldn’t have to go back to the drawing board to release updated products for the new connection.
On the other hand, Apple could switch to USB-C, which will make the iPhone more compatible with other devices, including the Mac. But this move could lead to confusion and consumer chaos from the accessory makers. It would also loosen Apple’s control over user experience.
The third option would be to go completely wireless, but wireless connections don’t typically transfer power or data as quickly or efficiently.
According to Bloomberg sources, Apple is actively testing the second option – the switch to USB-C – not least because the European Union appears to be moving forward with legislation that would require companies to use “mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld video game consoles and portable speakers” to standardize USB-C.
The new law isn’t final yet, but its prospects are good so far, and it would force Apple to act here. Sources aren’t sure Apple will go ahead with its plan to switch to USB-C if the law ultimately falls through.
However, the USB-C models Apple is currently testing aren’t targeting a 2022 release — this year’s iPhones will reportedly still use Lightning. However, according to the report, the switch could happen as early as 2023.