The iPhone 15s have switched to USB-C, but this should not fundamentally change the use of Apple smartphones. Explanations.
Another Arlesian from Tech which has just ended. After the Pixel Watch released in 2022 following years of rumors, it is now Apple’s turn to finally put an end to the Lightning port of its iPhones with the iPhone 15. Pushed by Europe, but also by the age of its own technology, Apple has finally decided to cross the Rubicon.
Apart from obvious compatibility with a very large number of cables on the market, what will this change in concrete terms compared to Lightning? We watch it together.
Design and compatibility
It may seem obvious, but the first element that changes is the exterior, the look if you prefer. USB-C is thicker than the Lighting port. It has often been stated that the real reason behind Apple’s refusal to switch to USB-C was that it would prevent the brand from removing the chin on its phone. In reality, the iPhone 15s all have thinner bezels than the iPhone 14s, so the argument is not valid. Perhaps the internal design change from the iPhone 14 allowed the brand to find a solution.
Then, the port will of course be compatible with any USB-C cable, making it much easier to use with all chargers. This is the real strength of this change: we can now consider charging a MacBook, an iPad and an iPhone with the same cable. Cable which can also be used for a Nintendo Switch, True Wireless headphones or an e-reader. In short, a truly universal connector. But be careful, we must not forget that not all USB-C ports are the same.
When we talk about USB-C, we are actually talking about two very distinct things. On the one hand, USB-C is a beast connector, a physical interface between two machines. On the other hand, we have the USB transfer standard, which is what is hidden behind the curtain. And that’s where it gets complicated.
USB 2.0: this only changes for Pro
Because yes, if Apple has changed the connector, switching from Lightning to USB-C on all iPhone 15s, the basic range and the Pro range have not been treated in the same way. The iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus remain USB 2.0 while the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max upgrade to USB 3.0.
Clearly, for the iPhone 15, if the connectivity has changed, everything behind it does not change at all. We find the same speed and, until proven otherwise, the same load, the same audio and video transfer capacities. In short, we changed the packaging, but the USB-C of the iPhone 15 is otherwise strictly similar to Lightning in what it can offer the user.
What is USB 3 really for on the new iPhone?
This is not the case on the iPhone 15 Pro, however, which switches to USB-C in USB 3. This new feature offers multiple advantages in theory: a transfer speed of 10 Gb/s compared to 480 Mb /s over USB 2.0. An advantage that the new iPhone 15 Pro intends to take advantage of since it can shoot in ProRes 4K up to 60 FPS (a very heavy format), but only if it is connected to external storage. An obligation that was not imposed by the iPhone 14 Pro limited to ProRes 4K at 30 FPS.
We can therefore say that the move to USB 3 is almost entirely justified with the arrival of ProRes 4K at 60 FPS. Sure, it will be easier to transmit files over cable, but AirDrop already does this very well without any wires. Apple has understood that video is the essential argument to make its new iPhone 15 Pro shine. The brand also highlighted the use of shooting videos with external storage in several videos published the same evening as the Keynote.
We therefore understand that to be able to offer this new feature and allow videographers to shoot efficiently in this format, Apple needed to improve the speed of its USB controller. Ah, this surely explains the abandonment of Lightning in favor of USB-C, you tell us? It would be so simple, but no, not really. Already because Apple already offered a 12.9-inch iPad Pro in Lightning in 2015 which supported USB 3, but also because the real reason why the iPhone 15 Pro supports USB 3 is not to look for the port side, but for the A17 Pro chip. This integrates the USB3 controller which allows this new connection speed. This also explains why the iPhone 15, equipped with an older A16 Bionic chip, is limited to USB 2.0.
Is the switch to USB-C a storm in a glass of water?
Ultimately, the transition to USB-C, beyond its practical and ecological nature (which remains very important), has not fundamentally changed things for Apple. Same charging speed, same flow rate for two out of four models, very limited use reserved for Pros for USB 3… The Lightning, aided by a new USB controller, could undoubtedly have done the same. It should also be noted that Apple did not boast during its conference on its new connector. Perhaps a way of assuming that in their eyes, it is not so much a revolution.