iPhones will finally adopt USB-C, but what took Apple so long?

OPINION: Apple may finally be obliged to adopt the USB-C port, but what a shame that it has taken so much time and even legislation to do the right thing by consumers.

As sure as summer follows spring, every year for the past half-decade there has been a persistent rumour that the new iPhone would have a USB-C charging port. Whether based in fact or not, the main reason that these whisperings picked up such traction was because of high consumer demand; more a case of people wanting to believe that change was coming, even in spite of Apple’s longstanding position on proprietary ports. There was even a user-made Frankenstein’s monster of an iPhone X that was adapted to charge via USB-C, which went on eBay for an asking price of $90,000.

Now, finally, thanks to a new European Union directive announced this week, all smartphones models in the EU will need to have a USB-C charger, and yes, that includes the iPhone. Fortunately with this new legislation, customers can look forward to paying a bit less for this tech (not even Apple is that greedy), but the big question really is: what took so long?

For starters, USB-C is far more widespread than Lightning, which is limited just to Apple products. So with this one change, you can use the same cable for charging and data transfer between multiple devices, including not just your phone but also your tablet, your e-reader, and your Bluetooth headphones to name but a few everyday items.

That’s not just handy for all of us, but it also helps significantly cut down on e-waste since customers will need to buy fewer accessories; lest we forget but this is the very reason that Apple gave for dropping the charging bricks from the packaging of its latest smartphones. When both convenience and conservation go hand in hand, it’s difficult to disagree with the decision.

What’s more, USB-C isn’t inferior or even equal to Lightning, as you may have assumed from Apple’s clinginess. USB-C can transfer data at 40Gbps compared to just 480Mbps for the Lightning, and it also supports far higher charging rates too (never has this column’s title been more appropriate!). We can already see this in evidence with Android flagships such as the Oppo Find X5 Pro and the OnePlus 10 Pro easily eclipsing fast-charging rates for even the best iPhones, so hopefully Apple swiftly seeks to rectify this shortfall once USB-C joins the range.

Not only does the new standard have these qualitative advantages and consumer support, but Apple itself has even conceded defeat on a couple of occasions already, with the USB-C having made its way to the iPad Air and iPad Pro ranges already.

In response, Apple have argued that insisting on one standard across the tech market could stifle innovation. This could well ring true in the future, when the time comes to move on from USB-C, and we’ll have to watch closely to see how the transition to a new generation of port is handled. For the time being however, given the inferiority of the Lightning cables that Apple has lumbered its users with, it’s more than a little cheeky to claim that being dragged kicking and screaming towards the future is some form of legalistic suppression of the free market.

Given that the USB-C switch has made so much sense for so long, it’s been disheartening to see Apple’s fierce resistance to it, even now only being broken by actual supranational legislation. If customer needs were the priority, the change would have been made a long time ago.

Often, Apple’s exceptionalism causes the company to trailblaze in the tech industry, and in many instances it is refreshing to see brands forge their own path. But in this instance, Apple should have swallowed its pride and followed the crowd several iPhones ago.

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