iPhone 15 USB-C — it’s time to throw out all of your Lightning chargers

iPhone 15 Pro Max
(Image credit: Ice Universe / Twitter)

After more than a decade since the introduction of Apple's Lightning port (all the way back on the iPhone 5) you've probably accumulated your fair share of Lightning cables and accessories. Well, all the iPhone 15 rumors ahead of next week's Apple event suggest you're not going to need them anymore.

The iPhone, like the best iPads and best MacBooks, seems all-but-certain to move to USB-C next week when Tim Cook takes the stage to unveil the iPhone 15 and the iPhone 15 Pro. That we'll see Apple adopt USB-C on its tentpole product isn't the thing, though. It's more about how Apple chooses to implement it.

While the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus are both expected to swap Lightning for USB-C, it's been claimed the change may be cosmetic and the port on both phones will still be limited to USB 2.0 data transfer speeds — or 480 Mbps — and the same speed as Lightning. That means you could use the same charging cable as your MacBook or Samsung Galaxy S23, but there are a bunch of external accessories that USB 2.0 is just too slow to work with. External displays are a good example.

Meanwhile, the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max (or iPhone Ultra) could adopt full-throated USB-C with 40GBps data transfer speeds as standard, and Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. Plus there are rumors of braided cables color-coded to match whichever iPhone you buy.

However it comes to pass, Apple is navigating through a difficult transition with USB-C. As Mark Gurman noted in his latest Power On newsletter, Apple's golden rule when dealing with the public and the media is to operate from a position of strength. And it's no secret the EU is forcing the company's hand when it comes to putting USB-C in place. European regulators overwhelmingly voted in favor of adopting the standard in October 2022 and Apple has agreed to comply — because it wants to sell iPhones in Europe.

But Lightning is a proprietary and profitable technology for Apple. Each Lightning cable retails for $19 on the Apple website as of right now.

So what can we expect? As Gurman points out, Apple will put its best spin on the adoption of USB-C and how you're going to be better off throwing away your Lightning cables come 2024.

Gurman zeroes in on four tangible USB-C benefits Apple will highlight at next week's event:

  • Customers will be able to use a single charging cable for iPhones, Macs and iPads.
  • It will bring breakthrough data transfer speed increases for the new high-end iPhone models.
  • iPhones will charge faster in some instances.
  • iPhones will be compatible with chargers used by billions of non-Apple devices.

The biggest question around USB-C on iPhone

Tom's Guide Awards 2023 winner:

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple's proprietary charging tech has always been covered by Made for iPhone (MFi) certification, which means third-party items meet the standard of quality set out by the tech giant. And, while this messaging helps consumers, it also pays dividends for Apple as it earns royalties on sales of MFi products.

We don’t know how much coin Apple sees as a result of this, but it's likely significant. The MFi program falls under the Wearable, Home and Accessories department that pulled in $41.1 billion last year. Although it does include money from sales of other products like the Apple Watch, AirPods and HomePod.

What remains to be seen is whether or not Apple extends MFi to cover USB-C. So far there have been rumors this could be the case and, if so, we'll likely hear about it at the Apple event. 

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Jeff Parsons
UK Editor In Chief

Jeff is UK Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide looking after the day-to-day output of the site’s British contingent. Rising early and heading straight for the coffee machine, Jeff loves nothing more than dialling into the zeitgeist of the day’s tech news.

A tech journalist for over a decade, he’s travelled the world testing any gadget he can get his hands on. Jeff has a keen interest in fitness and wearables as well as the latest tablets and laptops. A lapsed gamer, he fondly remembers the days when problems were solved by taking out the cartridge and blowing away the dust.

  • JMC75
    Lol, imagine someone being stupid enough to buy an overpriced usb cable from apple because it matches their phone colour or, worse yet, apple manages to con them into believing apple usb cables are "better" than every other usb cable on the planet.

    As apple often shows us, though, a fool and his money are easily parted.