In tech’s least surprising reveal of 2023, Apple announced USB-C for iPhone 15. The world did not end. A miffed Thor did not blast Cupertino with lightning for forsaking Lightning. Apple didn’t even try to infer it had invented this ‘new’ smartphone technology during a quiet Thursday afternoon.
Instead, an Apple exec explained USB-C had “now become a universally accepted standard”. Without mentioning ‘now’ meant ‘several years ago’. And that the EU will soon mandate USB-C for most portable tech. They then, without irony, beamed that now the same cable can charge your Mac, iPad and iPhone. Like folks have been saying for years would be a Very Good Thing.
Still, at least now everyone’s happy, right?
USB-C or not USB-C, that is the question
No. This is the tech and gadgets sphere. No-one’s ever been happy, not even when someone first realised you could flip a calculator upside down, type in certain digits, and end up with a rude word. No sooner had Apple made dreams come true (at least for fans of USB-C) than the griping began. But did the grumps have a point that Apple nerfed USB-C? And does that matter?
Nerf the first was long known – the now confirmed claim the vanilla iPhone 15 would be stuck with USB 2 speeds. So a phone that starts at £799 has slower data transfer (480Mbps) and charging than a host of comparable Android blowers. And… most people won’t care. An iPhone 15 with a 20W charger gets to 50% full in 30 minutes, and no-one’s using them to film Hollywood blockbusters.
That’s the preserve of the iPhone 15 Pro. Nerf the second rocks up there, with Apple’s flagship getting USB 3 speeds – but not USB 4. Apple presumably reasoned 10Gbps would finally shut people up, and only about eleven people worldwide could make use of the even speedier Thunderbolt in a current phone. Nonetheless, some folks cheered the new iPhone Pro’s ability to pipe 4K60 footage to external drives while looking glumly at their Thunderbolt cables.
USB-Ceen it all before
Speaking of, nerf the third was the cable. There isn’t a high-speed one in the box. You get a USB 2 cable for your USB 3-capable phone, because USB 3 cables are expensive and Tim Cook needs a new castle. I’ve more sympathy for this gripe, because, as I recently wrote, USB-C cables are a nightmare. Having a reliably speedy one in the box would be a boon.
Finally, nerf the fourth is a stretch, but it’s Apple’s ongoing stubbornness regarding not allowing iPhone to be the one device to rule them all, even though it now (sort of) has one port to rule them all. So although you can use your swanky new iPhone/port/cable combo to connect to a 4K display, that’s likely for mirroring. We can expect an iOS Samsung DeX equivalent – where you plug your phone into a screen and it becomes a full-fat computer – ooh, shortly after the heat death of the universe.
USB-C the light
So, yes, Apple nerfed USB-C for iPhone 15. And, no, it doesn’t matter. Most folks will be more concerned about the accessories no longer being compatible, or when a loved one wrecks a USB-C port by shoving a Lightning cable into it with all their might.
Me? I’m going to revel in a future with fewer ports and cables – while grumbling about a present where loads of the things remain necessary. And I’m glad that although the USB-C we got on the iPhone 15 line isn’t perfect, it still beats a portless iPhone that would have resulted in inefficient charging, latency for connected accessories and, at the ‘pro’ end, much slower file transfers.
Chances are Tim Cook then wouldn’t have got away with calling Apple’s flagship blower the “most pro iPhone we’ve ever created”, without being hunted down by angry cinematographers and pelted with clapperboards until he saw the error of his ways.