Is Apple finally making the move to USB-C?

When Apple announced the September 2020 “Time Flies” event, most focused on the new Apple Watch Series 6 and its rumoured cheaper version the Apple Watch SE, logically.

The Apple Watch Series 6 and SE were interesting. However I was more interested in the renewed iPad Air. There were many interesting things about the new iPad Air.

They got rid of the old home button and placed an almost edge-to-edge screen. Similar to the iPad Pro. However, unlike the iPad Pro the renewed iPad Air has no FaceID. Interestingly it has a new TouchID. The come back of TouchID has been rumoured in this compulsory face mask era.

But that is not what captured my attention the most. The change that captured my attention the most was that use of USB-C. Why? The European commission has been vocal in standardising charging cables and Apple has voiced against such proposal.

Let’s dive deeper in this USB-C vs lightning cable story from both the EU’s point of view as well as Apple’s. Finally let’s place the adoption of USB-C in the renewed iPad Air into context.

Why is the EU trying to standardise charging cables?

  1. Reduce waste of having multiple chargers
  2. Consumer convenience

Reducing waste

To reduce electronic waste and make consumers’ life easier, MEPs want binding measures for chargers to fit all mobile phones and other portable devices.

Most mobile phones sold in the market include a charging cable, plug and the device itself. I have accumulated a box full of different cables and plugs with each device I have bought over time. Most of it sits inside that box and I usually use the one cable.

Imagine that mobile phones are no longer sold with cables and plugs. If you already own a cable and a plug you’d probably not buy another one.

The idea is also to transfer the cost saving on cables and plugs to the consumer on each device sold.

Consumer convenience

Most of us have encountered the scenario where we go to a friends house with a near discharged phone. We do the usual greetings and soon we ask if they have a charger for your device i.e. iPhone charger. Imagine not having to ask that question ever again! Convenience.

Why has Apple voiced against the EU proposal?

Apple stands for innovation. Regulations that would drive conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones freeze innovation rather than encourage it. Such proposals are bad for the environment and unnecessarily disruptive for customers.

Apple argues that standardisation is bad for innovation. They also mention that standardisation is bad for consumer convenience:

We want to ensure that any new legislation will not result in the shipment of any unnecessary cables or external adaptors with every device, or render obsolete the devices and accessories used by many millions of Europeans and hundreds of millions of Apple customers worldwide.

What does the adoption of USB-C in the new iPad Air mean?

One device at a time Apple has moved from proprietary chargers to the standard USB-C. Whether Apple is making the move to USB-C is hard to tell at this point. However I believe that if Apple moves to USB-C with the new iPhone 12 then for me that would signal the end of the lightning cable.

And I for one would love to see that.

Senior iOS Engineer @ Onfido. Writing weekly blogs on iOS and programming. Follow me to stay tuned!

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