(CNN) — Apple recalled its Lightning charger on Tuesday, exactly 11 years to the day it was first announced.
This marks a milestone for the company to finally embrace USB-C, a universal charging system. This is noteworthy not only because Apple has resisted doing this for years, but because it is about to make charging its devices much easier for its customers.
But, as with most things, there’s a catch: Moving to a universal standard means Apple is giving up control of its wired charging system, and determining good chargers from bad won’t be clear to many consumers.
At the iPhone 15 launch event, the company announced that all of its next-generation smartphones will launch with USB-C charging, as well as the latest version of the AirPods Pro, although Apple has already converted iPads and MacBooks to USB-C charging. So far he has been resistant to making the change to the iPhone.
This change will come less than a year after the European Union passed legislation requiring all smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, portable speakers and other small devices to support USB-C charging by 2024. It is the first of its kind and aims to reduce the number of chargers and cables. Which consumers have to deal with when purchasing a new device, and allow users to mix and match devices and chargers even if they are produced by different manufacturers.
Now Apple customers can use the same USB-C chargers to power their iPhones, iPads and Macs, without having to search for the right charger for each device. It will also be used to combine devices, such as connecting a low-battery iPhone to a fully charged iPad or similar between different brands.
“This is probably the biggest change to iPhone design in several years, but it’s really not a dramatic change,” said Ben Wood, an analyst at CCS Insight.
Last year, Apple’s senior vice president of global marketing, Greg Joswiak, highlighted the value and ubiquity of the Lightning charger, designed to charge devices faster, but noted that “obviously we’re going to have to comply” with the EU mandate.
“We don’t have a choice, as is the case around the world, to comply with local laws, but we believe the approach would have been better environmentally and better for our customers if there had been no government in the way,” Joswiak said at the conference. time.
The EU decision is part of an attempt to address the issue of e-waste more generally, but it could lead to more waste in the short term if people start throwing away their Lightning cables. Although Apple has expressed environmental concerns about what happens to its old Lightning chargers, it also has financial reasons for refusing to change.
Lightning charger history
Apple introduced the Lightning charger alongside the iPhone 5 in 2012, replacing the 30-pin dock connector with one that allows faster charging and has a reversible design. He also started a related accessories business, which required users to purchase a $30 Lightning adapter to connect the device to older docks, alarm clocks, and speaker systems.
“For Apple, it was about controlling its own ecosystem,” said David McQueen, ABI research director. “Apple makes a lot of money selling Lightning cables and many related accessories.”
It also requires a financial cut on third-party accessories and cables that pass through its Made For iPhone program. “Moving to USB Type C would remove that level of control, because USB-C is a more open ecosystem,” McQueen said.
Apple is now selling a new USB-C to Lightning adapter for $29 to let people connect their existing Lightning accessories to an iPhone or iPad with a USB-C port for charging or data sharing. Likewise, Apple introduced a $29 dongle in 2012 to connect the iPhone 5 (the first phone with its own Lightning charger) to legacy docks, clock radios, and speaker systems.
What does this mean for iPhone users?
The switch to USB-C probably won’t be an incentive for people to upgrade, but it may impact some consumers who have resisted the iPhone due to charging limitations, according to Thomas Howson, vice president of Forrester Research.
Given that many mobile devices already use USB-C, including Apple iPads and MacBooks, access to charging cables won’t be too difficult or expensive.
But fakes abound, and some USB-C chargers are safer than others. Some may save a lot of energy and others not enough. Some can regulate the flow of electricity and data to your phone, others can’t. CNN Underscored’s top recommendations for USB-C chargers include major brands, including Anker, Belkin, Apple, Amazon, and Google.
“Given the widespread use of USB-C in other devices, it is difficult to imagine that customers will be surprised by this change, and in the long run, it will likely benefit them, since the universal charging system has very clear advantages.” Wood said.
Apple also said that the custom USB-C controller will enable transfer speeds up to 20 times faster than USB-2 technology for the iPhone 15 Pro.
Pulling out a Lightning cable could, in the short term, lead to a wave of e-waste as iPhone users toss useless Lightning cables into the drawer. But Apple told CNN that it has a “robust” recycling program where used chargers and cables can be brought in. You can also find a local e-waste recycling center or Best Buy store for eco-friendly options.
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