iPhone will be forced to use USB-C, but when?

Apple will likely have to extract the decade-old Lightning connector from its phones and switch to USB-C if it fancies continuing selling them in one of its most lucrative global markets.

The European Parliament voted in favor of new legislation requiring all mobile phones marketed in the EU to employ a USB-C port for wired charging. The suggested rules, which lawmakers approved in June.

The EU’s new rules — technically an amendment to its Radio Equipment Directive — are yet to have formally consented to. Although they’ve been offered the thumbs up by the bloc’s Parliament, the standard charger legislation still requires to be signed off by the Council of the EU and issued in the EU Official Journal. It would then document into force 20 days later.

Apple releases a new flagship mobile like clockwork in the latter half of every year, so it’s safe to think that we’ll visit a new iPhone released around the same time the rules come into effect in late 2024.

But given iPhones are usually launched in September, and the EU’s legislation won’t go into effect for 24 months after the European Council formally approves it, the iPhone 16 could end up being projected just before the new rules come into effect. That would make 2025’s iPhone 17 the first model propelled to use USB-C for wired charging.

This forgiving phase makes it more feasible for Apple to announce and launch a Lightning port-equipped iPhone 16 in 2024 before the EU’s new rules come into effect. But statements suggest it could be preparing to switch to USB-C far earlier. For example, reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo recently indicated that Apple might be prepared to make the change in 2023.

Beyond mobiles, the rules will apply to all electronic devices, including tablets, headphones, keyboards, and mice. So apple will also need to start offering everything from AirPods to the Magic Mouse with a USB-C port for wired charging.

The legislation also covers laptops but has been given a slightly more extended implementation period, so they won’t have to employ USB-C for wired charging until early 2026.

EU product legislation only involves goods sold in its member states, so it can’t compel Apple to swap to USB-C for iPhones sold elsewhere. Of course, apple could limit its USB-C iPhones to EU markets or even exit the territory entirely if it req the iPhone to remain Lightning-exclusive. But given the scope of the European market as a whole.

If Apple wanted to avoid adding a Type-C port to its phones, it could eliminate the wired charging port. However, the rules state that phones must use USBuires-C for charging “insofar as they are capable of being recharged via wired charging.” It escapes the door for Apple to remove the wired charging port altogether and offer some hypothetical portless iPhone.

The wording of the legislation suggests Apple can’t try to get around them by offering USB-C charging via a detachable adaptor while continuing to equip each iPhone with a Lightning port. However, the EU’s legislation notes that a USB Type-C port must “remain accessible and operational at all times.” So a detachable adapter isn’t going to cut it.

As a proprietary benchmark, Lightning has given Apple unprecedented control over the accessory demand for its phones, but it hasn’t kept speed with the specs of modern cables. When Apple introduced the Lightning port alongside the iPhone 5 in September 2012, Phil Schiller named it “a modern connector for the next decade.” But, unfortunately, the decade has just completed, and the EU thinks it’s time for Apple to move on.