Why did Apple dump its Lightning charger for USB-C?

Sushim Mukul
Sushim MukulSep 15, 2023 | 17:06

Why did Apple dump its Lightning charger for USB-C?

Apple introduced the Lightning charger alongside the iPhone 5 in 2012. Photo: DailyO/Unsplash/Apple

With the unveiling of the iPhone 15 series on Tuesday (September 12), Apple bid farewell to its proprietary Lightning charging port exactly 11 years after it was introduced, and embraced the universal USB-C standard.


The decision came shortly after the European Union (EU) approved legislation mandating a common charging standard across various electronic devices by 2024, reflecting the "Brussels effect" (unilateral regulatory globalisation by the European Union) on global tech companies.


This transition not only aligns Apple with the industry trend but also holds implications for consumers worldwide, which we will be having a look at in a while.

First, let us see under what circumstances Apple had to make the sweeping change.

The reasons

  • Apple's decision to adopt USB-C is primarily driven by its commitment to keep up with technological advancements and meet consumers' evolving needs.
  • USB-C's slim design too perfectly aligns with the trend of sleek, compact devices.
  • The European Union also played a significant part in Apple's shift to USB-C, considering that roughly one-third of European phone users are iPhone users.
  • For over a decade now, the EU has been urging the tech industry to embrace a common charging standard to reduce electronic waste and enhance sustainability.
  • The EU's common charging rule, set to take effect in December 2024, covers a wide range of devices, including smartphones, tablets, headphones, and more.
  • It also aims to standardise fast-charging technology and enable users to choose devices with or without chargers.
  • While retiring the Lightning cable may generate a short-term spike in e-waste, Apple said it has an established recycling program for used chargers and cables.

Kaiann Drance, vice-president of iPhone Product Marketing, said the universality of USB-C has been integrated into Apple products for years, including MacBooks, iPads, iPhones, and AirPods. Now, it's the iPhone's turn to change.

Why USB-C?

  • USB-C (Universal Serial Bus Type-C), presents several advantages for users as it has a symmetrical and reversible design, eliminating the frustration of plugging it in the wrong way, which was very common with the Micro B, Mini B (old Android ones) from the yesteryears.
  • USB-C cables are said to carry more power, facilitating faster charging and quicker data transfers between devices.
  • Additionally, it supports video output to monitors, and powers connected accessories, making it versatile in application.
  • Finally, one charger/ cable to go for all your gadgets... wouldn't that make life easier?

What was Lightning charging all about?

  • Apple introduced the Lightning charger with the iPhone 5 in 2012, replacing the 30-pin dock connector (the long and wide one, if you remember).
  • This upgrade allowed for faster charging and featured a reversible design.
  • However, it also prompted users to purchase a $30 Lightning adapter to connect their devices to older docks and accessories, generating additional money for Apple.
  • Most importantly, the Lightning charger provided Apple with control over its ecosystem and a share of profits from third-party accessories and cables.
  • By moving to USB-C, Apple is giving up some of this control, as USB-C is a more open and widely adopted standard (compatible with almost all Android devices these days).

Impact on iPhone users?

  • With USB-C's widespread use, finding charging cables should be straightforward. However, it will be essential to differentiate between quality USB-C chargers and the dodgy ones, which may vary in terms of power output and safety.
  • The shift to USB-C is unlikely to be a major motivation for iPhone users to upgrade, but it does simplify the charging experience fully.
  • To discard the old cables and adapters, users can seek out local e-waste recycling centres for eco-friendly disposal options.
  • The good news is that Apple has assured its customers of faster data transfer speeds with a dedicated USB-C controller for the iPhone 15 Pro, offering a good enough reason to upgrade.

The move, driven by EU regulations and the desire to adapt to industry trends, simplifies charging for consumers and aligns Apple's devices with the universal standard. As technology continues to evolve, the adoption of USB-C ensures compatibility and convenience for Apple users around the world bringing uniformity.

Last updated: September 15, 2023 | 17:06
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