Commentary: The Lightning port may be more common than you think on Apple products, even when the USB-C iPhone is released.
This week, it was unusual for Apple to provide a specific hint about the iPhone’s future. According to company executives, Apple will abide by the European Union’s directive that all phones in the region adopt USB-C as the standard smartphone charging port by 2024. Future iPhones will therefore be forced to do away with the Lightning connector, which has been around since 2012.
It appears inevitable that the iPhone will switch to USB-C in light of the new EU regulations. During a presentation at the Wall Street Journal Tech Live conference, Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of global marketing, argued that the company “has no choice” but to abide by local laws, just as it does everywhere else. This does not, however, imply that the Lightning cable is merely going out of style. Given many accessories that continue to use it and the popularity of older iPhone models, the Lightning port may impact Apple’s lineup more than you might expect.
It’s no secret that Apple products use USB-C more frequently. Except for the ninth-generation iPad from 2021, it is on every iPad in the company’s current lineup. Additionally, Apple’s MacBook Pro and Air models have USB-C ports.
However, consumers and tech critics have been expecting the iPhone’s USB-C port. A modified iPhone X with a USB-C port sold for $86,001 on eBay the previous year. Why else would you want to use the same cord to charge your iPhone, iPad, and Mac? A step toward more convenient long-term charging is the new EU mandate. Consumers may use different chargers to charge both new iPhones and legacy accessories during the transition period.
Besides the iPhone, only a few products need a Lightning connection for wired charging. AirPods earbuds, AirPods Max, the original Apple Pencil (which oddly is the only version that functions with the new iPad with USB-C), Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, and Magic Keyboard are some examples of these gadgets. Therefore, owners of these devices might still need to switch cables if they later buy an iPhone with USB-C.
It’s crucial to keep in mind that not every iPhone buyer chooses the most recent model. Once a new iPhone is released, Apple frequently discounts older models. Consider its current lineup, which still includes the iPhone 13 from last year and the iPhone 12 from 2020. After releasing the iPhone 13 in September 2021, Apple continued to sell the iPhone 11 for $499. If it follows its past practice, lightning-powered iPhones will likely still be available in Apple’s 2023 lineup.
There is a sizable market for older iPhones, even though many consumers may rush to buy the most recent model. Despite its 2019 launch, Counterpoint Research reports that the iPhone 11 was the fifth best-selling smartphone in 2021. Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimates that 15% of US iPhone sales in the March 2022 quarter came from the sales of the iPhone 11, iPhone SE, and the 4-year-old iPhone XR.
According to a different Counterpoint Research report, refurbished iPhones are also popular, with Apple controlling more than 40% of the global market for second-hand phones. It’s safe to say that those purchasing refurbished models in the future will want to hold on to their Lightning cables, given that all iPhones manufactured since 2012 charge via Lightning. This is especially true given that, according to Counterpoint, demand for refurbished phones increased by 15% in 2021 as consumers sought to avoid paying high prices and make more responsible purchasing decisions.
As inflation raises the cost of other daily expenses, people might be more likely to hang onto their current phones for longer. The International Data Corporation predicts that due to weaker demand due to inflation, global smartphone shipments will fall 6.5% in 2022. According to Assurant, the average age of smartphones traded in surpassed 3.5 years for the first time. This insurance company also aids businesses in creating device trade-in programs. There will be more Lightning cables available the longer legacy iPhones are used.
In the long run, iPhone owners will benefit from the switch to USB-C. Most recent iPads, Macs, and eventually iPhones will be able to be charged with a single cable thanks to the change, which is exactly why the EU made USB-C mandatory in the first place. The change occurs at a perfect time as well because Bluetooth accessories are becoming more and more popular, wireless charging technology is advancing, and Apple’s new MagSafe connection system is reducing the dependence of iPhones on wired connections.
However, these kinds of transitions take time. Additionally, there are still a lot of unanswered concerns regarding Apple’s ability to abide by the EU ruling. For instance, it’s unclear whether Apple will switch to USB-C in 2023 or wait until 2024. Whether Apple will use USB-C exclusively for European iPhones or if it will become the norm worldwide is unknown.
However, it does appear that introducing a USB-C iPhone may be a step toward using a single universal cable for everything. However, it won’t happen immediately.