The launch of iPhone 15 comes with a change that has been long awaited by many but also dreaded by some – the transition from the Lightning connector to USB-C. This change, although seemingly minor, holds significant implications for consumers and the environment. It might sound bothersome to replace all the charging cables lying around your house, car, and office, but it’s not all gloom and doom. Here’s why this change could ultimately make our lives easier and better.
The USB-C Revolution
The iPhone 15 ditching the Lightning connector for a USB-C is not just about keeping up with the trend. USB-C has proven to be the mini but mighty champion of connectors. It has no “up” or “down” side, can be incredibly cheap, and can also transfer data more quickly. This means fewer cables to worry about, and you can charge your iPhone using the same cable as billions of other phones, laptops, and tablets worldwide. Imagine going on vacation and packing just one charging cable! However, there’s a caveat – if you own an Apple Watch, which uses another proprietary cable, this dream may not be fully realized yet.
A Move Towards Sustainability
Switching to USB-C is not just about convenience; it’s also a step towards sustainability. The European Commission estimates that a common charger will save 11,000 tons of e-waste annually in Europe alone. However, this switch does come with its share of confusion and potential expenses. Not all USB-C cables are created equal, and it can be hard to tell them apart. While all USB-C cables support charging, some can carry as much as 240 watts of power, and others much less. Similarly, data transfer speeds can vary wildly. It’s important to know the capability of a USB-C cable, which can usually be found near the plug part of the cable or on the box or website.
The Reluctance of Apple
Despite the benefits, one might wonder why it took Apple so long to make the switch. The rest of the smartphone world transitioned to USB-C around 2016. Apple has been notoriously resistant to making it easier for people to switch to Android phones and has even criticized the idea of moving away from Lightning for generating too much e-waste and allowing lawmakers to dictate product design decisions. Yet, with the European Union passing a law requiring common plugs by 2024, Apple had no choice but to comply.
The Cost of Transition
Apple is charging $29 for a Lightning to USB-C adapter, which is necessary if you want to use older cables or accessories with Lightning plugs. The iPhone 15 and 15 Pro come with a 1-meter cable with a USB-C connector on both ends, capable of the same data-transfer speed as a Lightning cable (480 Mbps). However, there is no charging brick, adapter for older cables, or USB-C headphones included. If you want to take advantage of the faster data-transfer rates that the iPhone 15 Pro is capable of, you’ll need to purchase a separate USB-C cable capable of 10 Gbps transfers (also known as a USB 3 cable).
Choosing the Right USB-C Cable
Prices for USB-C cables can vary widely, from under $10 to as much as $160. It’s important to choose a cable that matches your needs without overspending. For most iPhone users, around 20 watts of power is sufficient, and since most people transfer data off their iPhone via WiFi, the speed isn’t really critical. However, safety is paramount, so it is recommended to stick with reputable brands like Anker, Cable Matters, and Monoprice, or those certified by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF).
Using a USB-C Cable Safely
Your iPhone automatically manages the amount of power coming into it, so you can plug it into a high-wattage USB-C charger for your laptop without worrying about damaging your phone. However, it is advisable not to get your phone warm while charging as it will degrade the battery. The ‘live’ part of the plug is hidden inside the metal shield, so there’s no need to treat it any differently from your old Lightning cable.
Disposing of Old Lightning Cables
Old Lightning cables can still be used to charge AirPods or an Apple Magic Mouse or keyboard. If you no longer need them, consider giving them to a friend with an older iPhone or taking them to an e-waste recycler. Your old charging bricks may still be useful as well, as you can buy cables with a USB-C plug on one end and the older, wide USB-A plug on the other. However, smaller bricks will charge your devices more slowly.
The switch to USB-C could save 35 thousand tons of e-waste from being manufactured in the first place. However, the best way to help the environment is to keep our phones for longer. Over 90% of the environmental impact of smartphones comes from the phone itself. Keeping our phones for one year longer could reduce emissions equivalent to taking more than 600 thousand cars off the road for a year. Right to Repair protections, modular and durable hardware built for repair and reuse can make it easier for us to use our phones for longer.
The switch to USB-C with the iPhone 15 is a significant move for Apple, aligning with the rest of the smartphone world and contributing to global sustainability efforts. Although the transition comes with some hassles and costs, it also brings benefits such as convenience, faster data transfer speeds, and a reduction in e-waste. Ultimately, the switch to USB-C is a step in the right direction for both consumers and the environment.
Click on this link to read this article in French version