(Bloomberg) — Apple is testing future iPhone models that replace the current Lightning charging port with the more prevalent USB-C connector, according to people familiar with the situation, a move that could help the company comply with looming European regulations.
In addition to testing models with a USB-C port in recent months, Apple is working on an adapter that would allow future iPhones to work with accessories designed for the existing Lightning connector, said the people, who requested anonymity because the matter is being published.
If the company keeps changing, it won’t happen until 2023 at the earliest. Apple plans to keep the Lightning connector for this year’s new models.
By moving to USB-C, Apple will simplify the range of chargers used by its various devices. Most of the company’s iPads and Macs already rely on USB-C instead of Lightning. This means Apple customers can’t use a single charger for their iPhone, iPad, and Mac—a strange setup given Apple’s penchant for simplicity. Wireless chargers for both the iPhone and Apple Watch also use the USB-C connector for their power bricks.
Apple, based in Cupertino, California, declined to comment on the change.
The move, which analyst Ming-Chi Kuo also predicted, will bring trade-offs – and potentially create confusion for customers. USB-C chargers are slightly larger than the Lightning connector, but they can provide faster charging and data transfer speeds. The new connectors will also be compatible with many existing chargers for non-Apple devices, such as Android phones and tablets.
But the majority of Apple accessories — including AirPods, Apple TV remote control, MagSafe battery pack, and MagSafe Duo charger — still use Lightning. A USB-C adapter in development could mitigate this problem, but it’s unclear if Apple will include that in the box or make customers pay for it.
There is also a wide range of third-party accessories, such as chargers, car adapters, and external microphones, that use the existing connector. The switch may force third-party providers to redesign their products.
Read more: Apple’s confusing strategy for its chargers
This shift will reduce Apple’s control of the iPhone accessories market. Apple requires accessory makers to pay for the Lightning connector and participate in a rigorous approval process. USB-C is a standard used by many consumer device makers, including most Android phone manufacturers, making it less likely that Apple will be able to exercise its usual level of control.
In recent years, Apple has also been working on iPhones without any charging port, seeking to promote the MagSafe wireless charging system introduced in 2020. But the wireless connection is often slower charging the phone’s battery and doesn’t sync data with other devices as quickly. It is also not practical in all situations, such as the setting in some cars.
One of the main reasons for making the change is the European Union’s decision to force phone and other device makers to adopt USB-C. In April, legislation for such a requirement was approved by a majority vote.
According to legislation.
Apple said European law would harm its ability to innovate. “We are concerned that regulation requiring only one type of connector for all devices on the market will harm European consumers by slowing the introduction of beneficial innovations in charging standards, including those related to safety and energy efficiency,” the company said last year.
Apple could release a version of the iPhone for Europe that’s compatible with keeping Lightning elsewhere. But having multiple versions of the same iPhone with different connectors can potentially lead to more confusion, as well as supply chain issues.
It’s unclear if Apple might eventually give up on the USB-C key if European law fails to enforce. Many consumers are clamoring for a change regardless, for the sake of simplicity.
The move to USB-C will be the second port change in iPhone history. From the original iPhone in 2007 to the iPhone 4s in 2011, Apple used the 30-pin iPod connector that was popular years ago. With the iPhone 5, Apple switched to the smaller Lightning port, touting its more durable design that can be inserted into the iPhone in either direction.
This switch raised some complaints, but customers adopted the change fairly quickly. At the time, Apple sold a separate adapter for older accessories. It costs $29.
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