This could be the next Apple product to ditch Lightning after iPhone 15

Apple AirPods Pro 2 charging case placed on MacBook keyboard
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

It looks like the iPhone 15 isn’t the only next-gen Apple phone that could be ditching the Lightning connector for a USB-C port.

Earlier this week, the Twitter user @aaronp613 discovered two unidentified models of AirPods in the Release Candidate of iOS 16.4: “A3048” (a model of AirPods) and “A2968” (a model of AirPods case).

Now the respected and usually reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has chipped in with his theory of what the codes refer to.

“I think this is likely the USB-C version of the AirPods Pro 2, with mass shipments expected in 2Q23-3Q23,” Kuo tweeted

On the surface of it, this makes perfect sense. After all, Apple has signaled it will comply with EU legislation requiring electronics to adopt USB-C with similar plans for the upcoming iPhone 15. 

However, an interesting question remains. If this is just a USB-C charger update for an existing model of AirPods, then why do the earbuds themselves need a new number? There’s no reason to think existing models would be incompatible with a new charging case, after all. 

This was a point that the original source of the model numbers, @aaronp613, made on Twitter:

Maybe that’s a sign that this refers to something else — the long rumored AirPods Lite, perhaps? Or maybe Apple plans to make changes to future bundled AirPods Pro 2 so minor that it won’t make a big song and dance about it. There are, after all, currently three different model numbers for AirPods Pro 2, and no obvious differences between them. 

What’s perhaps more interesting is what Kuo said next in his tweet. “By the way, Apple currently appears to have no plans for USB-C versions of the AirPods 2 & 3,” the analyst added.

If true, given how reluctant Apple has been about abandoning Lightning in the past, that’s an interesting assessment of where the company has moved today. It suggests USB-C is now the premium option — whether that’s thanks to cross-device convenience, or because of faster charging remains to be seen. 

It presents a curious way of upselling to those buying the iPhone 15 later this year who are also shopping for AirPods: either buy the more expensive product (AirPods 2 Pro or a wireless charging case) or make do with the inconvenience of having to keep tags on a spare Lightning cable.

Of course, unless it bafflingly kills the line completely, Apple will eventually have non-Pro AirPods with USB-C charging, but the EU legislation doesn’t kick in until December 28, 2024. So there’s a bit of time to keep pushing the Lightning cable AirPods, if the company sees a business advantage in doing so.

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.