Apple will be announcing their new iPhone 15 series this coming Tuesday morning, 10am California time. One of the biggest little changes will be replacing the Lightning port with a USB-C port. Both connectors are similar in size and both can be inserted in either direction. The change results from a requirement of European Union regulators that all phone manufacturers standardize on this connector to reduce electronic waste. Expect also to USB-C connectors on all new Airpods and iPads.
The change will likely garner lots of complaints- something that happens with most any change, especially when you’ll need to discard or replace your expensive accessories and cables. There’s also an educational process that will be needed because USB-C comes with more variations than Lightning.
While all USB-C cables look alike, there are two types, charging and data cables. Some USB-C cables will work for charging, but not work for high-speed data transfer. For example, when connecting your phone to Car Play in your car, you’ll want a USB-C data cable. A data cable will work for charging, but costs more than a charging-only cable. And then there are different type of data cables: 3.0, 3.1, 3.2, etc. each reflecting the changing standards. For most things it doesn’t matter.
USB charging-only cables provide a 2-wire connection, while data cables make 4 connections. But few of the cables are marked with their designation and you usually need to check the box it came in to figure out which is which. While you can just buy USB-C data cables, you’ll still end up with charging only-cables that come with some of your accessories.
Then there’s the issue of USB-C chargers. Some devices can be charged using any USB-C charger because the device can tell the charger how many volts it needs and the charger can adjust itself. But some devices need a simple fixed 5-volt charger and won’t charge when plugged into a more capable charger. The good news is that an iPhone, MacBook, and the new Airpods will be able to be charged using the same cable plugged into the same MacBook charger. While this EU-mandated change is intended to simplify, you can see how it creates issues of its own.
Other changes to the iPhone
According to MacRumors, here are the 12 new changes rumored to be on the iPhone 15 series. Unfortunately, none of them address the feature most users want most: a significantly larger battery. My comments are in Italics.
- Titanium frame: Weighs less than the stainless steel frame on previous Pro models. (Does it matter when nearly everyone uses a case?)
- A17 Bionic chip: Faster, more power efficient, manufactured with a 3nm process. (There’s always the next, faster chip, but few will notice any differences.)
- Action button: Replacing the Ring/Silent switch, can be assigned to various functions. (Ring/silent is a frequently used button – why would you want to change it to another function?)
- USB-C port: More common charging standard, faster data transfer speeds
- New color options: Titan Gray, Blue, Silver, and Space Black
- Ultra-thin curved bezels: A thinner border around the screen (Useful if it makes the overall phone smaller while keeping the screen the same size.)
- Wi-Fi 6E: Wi-Fi expanded to 6GHz band, faster wireless speeds with supported router. (Barely perceptible).
- 8GB of RAM: An additional 2GB of RAM for multitasking. (Likely not noticeable.)
- Periscope telephoto lens: Up to 5x-6x optical zoom, exclusive to iPhone 15 Pro Max. (This could be one of the few reasons to upgrade, basically adding a real zoom that doesn’t degrade the image like a digital zoom does. But will likely come at an eye-popping price.)
- More repairable design: Following in the footsteps of the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus (Beneficial to 3rd party repair companies and hopefully will reduce waste because less of the phone needs to be discarded when one component fails.)
- Ultra Wideband improvements: U1 chip upgrade in preparation for the Vision Pro
- SIM card slot removed in more countries: France and potentially others (Has already been removed in US phones that now use eSims.)