Is This the End for Lightning?
By: Victor Peng
As of October 4th, 2022, Apple has been facing some real challenges.
In the European Union, a new law has been passed. First proposed in September 2021, this new law requires tech companies to default their cell phone charging ports to the USB-C system by autumn of 2024. The law is deemed to cut waste from the sheer amount of different chargers needed, and make consumers’ lives easier by allowing them to use one charger for multiple devices.
USB-C Cable (Left) and Apple’s Traditional Lightning Cable (Right) | Victor Peng / KJLS Panthercast
So why USB-C? USB-C is an outlet already used in many modern devices such as laptops (and chromebooks), tablets, smartphones, typical consumer-level cameras, and more. It’s a connector with built-in fast charging and speedy data transfer, not to mention that with the right software, the port can also be used in Power Delivery systems (up to and far beyond 100W charging), as well as Thunderbolt (up to 40 Gbps data transfer). It’s a need for speed!
One of the few tech giants remaining indifferent to this standard is Apple, with their lightning cable for the iPhone, as well as a MagSafe system for their laptops. Lightning proves to perform much slower than USB-C. To compare: USB-C Android phones can take up to a 120W charge. Meanwhile, Lightning supports 20W charging and 0.5 Gbps data transfer.
The new iPhone cables even have USB-C on one end that plugs into the wall, and lightning on the other. Apple seems to prefer charging users an extra $19 on a wall plug for USB-C instead of popping it in the package. They were even fined in Brazil, but that’s a whole other story.
USB-C Power Adapter (https://wccftech.com/apple-is-now-selling-the-20w-power-adapter-and-lightning-earpods-for-19)
Although Apple has managed to implement both MagSafe and USB-C into their laptops, this legislation seems to spell the end for Apple’s lightning phone charger. It would not be worth the money or effort for Apple to produce different devices with different ports for different regions, seeing as consumers could just order from the Apple marketplace of an EU country.
Even though USB-C far outperforms Apple’s Lightning, we do have to take into consideration why Apple is trying to hold onto it. Apple holds the patent for the Lightning system, so any third party manufacturers who create lightning cables must pay a small royalty to Apple for each charger sold. Users need extra cables, and Apple makes extra money.
This (and a few other cases) has allowed Apple to continue profiting from their own tech, unlike other companies who only benefit from the first phone sold and none after. And while extra profit may sound selfish, profit has allowed Apple to continue innovating⸺from the first truly smart smartphone, to computers, now to manufacturing their own extremely fast computer chips and phones.
Apple’s Lightning system turned 9 years old last month! It was introduced with the iPhone 5. (CNET, https://www.cnet.com/tech/tech-industry/apple-iphone-5-gives-the-world-a-new-connector-lightning)
Apple seems to have no choice but to conform to the EU, and change their devices in the rest of the world as well. The Lightning cable has served us well for nearly a decade, through arguably the fastest innovation technology has ever seen before. With a pat on the back and a well-deserved thank you, it may soon be time to say goodbye.