Apple has discontinued its Lightning charger after 11 years and has embraced the USB-C universal charging system. This change will make charging much easier for customers. However, switching to a global standard means Apple will no longer have control over the wired charging ecosystem, which may make it difficult for consumers to identify good and bad chargers. At the iPhone 15 event, Apple announced that all next-generation smartphones will launch with USB-C charging. The switch to USB-C for iPhones comes less than a year after the European Union voted to require small devices to support USB-C charging by 2024.
With this change, Apple customers can now use the same USB-C charger to power their iPhone, iPad, and Mac computer. Charging can also be done between devices, even between different brands. Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, Greg Jozwiak, previously pointed to the value and ubiquity of Lightning chargers but acknowledged the need to comply with the EU directive. The EU’s decision to adopt USB-C is part of a larger effort to address e-waste, although more e-waste may be generated in the short term as Lightning cables are phased out.
Apple introduced the Lightning charger in 2012 with the iPhone 5, replacing the existing 30-pin dock connector. This change allowed for faster charging and a reversible design, but it also generated revenue from Lightning cable sales and related accessories. The shift to USB-C means Apple will lose some control over its ecosystem. While USB-C is a more open ecosystem, there are concerns about counterfeit products and the varying safety and functionality of USB-C chargers.
Despite these challenges, the move to USB-C is expected to have clear long-term advantages and benefit customers. Apple has also stated that the dedicated USB-C controller on the iPhone 15 Pro enables faster transfer speeds. Retiring the Lightning cable may result in an increase in e-waste, but Apple has a recycling program in place to mitigate this. Consumers can bring in their used chargers and cables to Apple or look for local e-waste recycling centers for eco-friendly options.