July 3, 2022

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Will iPhones become a little more modular?

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USB-C ports and connectors – the standard for charging smartphones and used with many accessories – are used by all but one of the major phone manufacturers: Apple. The company has always used a proprietary solution called Lightning, which is intended for iPhones and is not compatible with systems used by others. That difference, which has cost Apple so much criticism over the years, may soon change: according to consulting sources. Bloomberg And some tech sites, the company will start experimenting with USB-C port input on upcoming iPhone models, which could be present on new devices from next year.

In addition to starting tests on a USB-C replacement, Apple was also going to start work on an adapter, in order to make future iPhones compatible with accessories produced to date equipped with a Lightning connector, which is meant to disappear. As it always happens in these cases, the company has neither confirmed nor denied the circumstance, but Bloomberg good habit sources Within the company.

In fact, in recent years, Apple has already begun the transition to USB-C. The best-selling models of computers and iPads are already equipped with ports for the standard one, which has established itself in recent years thanks to the massive membership of other electronic device manufacturers. USB-C ports and connectors are smaller and more practical than previous systems of the same standard and, above all, allow you to insert the connector into one port in one direction and the other, unlike with classic USB ports that can only be inserted on one side.

USB-C on the left and former USB-A on the right

The USB-C system can also be used to charge devices and Apple is already using it for computers and some iPad models. This means owners can’t directly use the same chargers to charge their iPhones either, because the connector is different. Moving to USB-C would be a simplification in that sense, not to mention that iPhone owners can also charge their devices using chargers for Android smartphones, and vice versa.

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However, there are many Apple accessories currently equipped with Lightning only, and some are quite popular like wireless AirPods, cases with a battery inside, magic mouse, wireless keyboards, and remote control.

Apple Lightning Connector (Wikimedia)

Over the years, thousands of accessories with Lightning connectors have been marketed to be compatible with iPhones, which will stop working when new models have a different port. Hundreds of manufacturers must redesign their products and above all they must have a transition period to move from a proprietary system to the USB-C standard. Many users may also have to buy back some of their accessories in order to continue using them with their new iPhones.

By switching to USB-C, Apple will also lose some of the control it traditionally manages to exercise over the aftermarket, specifically by licensing the use of a system over which it holds the rights. Manufacturers pay for the license and go through a very strict licensing process if they want to get certified by Apple.

This system does not appeal to the European Union’s supervisory authorities, which on several occasions have indicated their intention to introduce laws requiring electronic device manufacturers to use standards such as USB-C, not only for practical and competitive reasons, but also for the environment. A single standard that makes it possible to use accessories on different devices, ranging from chargers and cables to connecting them, favoring their reuse and reducing the need to produce new ones.

The European Parliament last April has agreed A law requiring the use of the USB-C standard on mobile phones, tablets, cameras, headphones, game consoles and other rechargeable devices “regardless of the manufacturer”. Member states will have to examine the proposal, but it could force manufacturers still using proprietary solutions like Apple to change their approach. The company criticized the MEPs’ proposal, arguing that it could: “harm consumers by slowing down the introduction of beneficial innovations in battery charging standards, including those related to safety and energy efficiency.”

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However, for now, it seems unlikely that Apple will decide to sell its iPhones with a USB-C port in the European Union while keeping Lightning in the rest of the world. This choice will lead to numerous complications for individual iPhone owners, accessory manufacturers and Apple itself, which must differentiate the production cycle of its smartphones.

Apple could reduce compatibility issues by introducing an adapter, which could make iPhones still work with Lightning with new accessories being produced for USB-C-equipped iPhones. The company had already done something similar a decade ago when it first introduced Lightning On iPhone 5, and abandoning the previous, larger and cumbersome conductor. Even at that time there were protests not only for the transition to the new system, but also for Apple’s decision to charge 29 euros for an adapter sold separately to make new models compatible with old accessories.