Apple has officially missed the boat on USB-C with this year's iPhones


Apple’s latest iPhones, the XS and XR, have been announced, and, once again, Apple has made the incredibly frustrating choice of including a USB Type-A Lightning cable and low-power 5W brick in the box instead of a USB-C cable and charger.

Apple hasn’t given an explanation on why it insists on selling its latest, greatest, and, in most cases, $1,000-plus smartphones with the same legacy cable it’s been including since Lightning was introduced back in 2012. Maybe it’s a simple matter of cost. Maybe the company is afraid of alienating customers with a new, unfamiliar cable.


But USB-C isn’t new or unfamiliar at this point, especially for Apple’s most loyal customers who have been stuck with it as their exclusive port choice on almost every single laptop Apple sells.

In 2015, when Apple made the switch on the 12-inch MacBook, and then further cemented that decision with 2016’s MacBook Pros, it was predicated on the fact that doing so would drive the rest of the industry forward by forcing people to use the new port. But years later, USB-C growth has still been agonizingly slow across the industry, and plenty of new products are refusing to put the port on their devices since adoption “just isn’t there yet.”

Apple is part of that problem: not including USB-C to Lightning cables further cements the fact that USB-C isn’t a “real” port standard. Why should accessory makers invest in USB-C if Apple won’t look at it as anything other than a side project?

Adding to the frustration is the fact that it’s not only that USB-C cables would be more convenient than legacy USB ones; it’s that they’re legitimately better. USB-C supports a higher power than the old Type-A standard, and it’s the only way to get real fast charging on an iPhone 8, 8 Plus, X, XS, XS Max, or XR. Not only is Apple charging the buyers of its priciest phones a $20 to $30 tax to use those devices with their laptops, but it’s also boxing them into a worse experience to use those phones.

And it’s not like Apple is afraid of alienating customers by not including a legacy cable type in the box with its phones anymore. If it was, it would still include the headphone dongle with its new iPhones.

All of this highlights perhaps the biggest frustration with Apple and USB-C: the fact that the company has refused to put the port on its iPhone devices. It’s not that Apple’s adherence to Lightning doesn’t make sense. It gives the company a port that it can fully control, instead of relying on the oftentimes messy and differing specifications for USB-C. And there’s the MFi program, too, which essentially gives Apple an iron-clad grip over exactly what types of accessories can work with its phones and tablets, along with the extra licensing revenue it makes off of each and every authorized Lightning device.

Imagine a world where Apple made the change with the iPhone 7 to not only nuke the headphone jack, but to switch to USB-C? Or maybe last year’s iPhone X, heralded as the shining future of the company’s mobile devices, would have been a good place to make the change, considering all the other updates Apple was making.

It’s the kind of change that would almost certainly move the entire industry toward the glorious universal port standard (which, again, Apple already uses exclusively on its laptops). Do you think there would be a drought of USB-C headphones or dongles if Apple had put the full force of its newest iPhones behind them?

Plus, rumors of a potential USB-C iPad only further question why there’s no USB-C iPhone. It can’t be about the confusion of switching standards. After all, everyone adjusted to the switch to Lightning just fine, and now Lightning ports are more ubiquitous than the old 30-pin connector ever was.

Instead, we’re not only stuck with Lightning ports, but a terrible, legacy USB Type-A cable to boot. And until Apple is willing to acknowledge the port standard that it claims to be trying to popularize, we’ll be stuck in this limbo for the foreseeable future.

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