Apple is testing iPhones that use the industry-standard USB-C port, according to a report in Bloomberg citing people with knowledge of the situation.
Since 2012, Apple’s smartphones have used the company’s proprietary Lightning connector. But more recently, the slightly larger USB-C port has come to dominate consumer electronics, including most of Apple’s other products. Consumers, reviewers, and even government regulators have called for Apple to drop Lightning in favor of USB-C in recent years.
This has led Apple to a tough spot, with three possible paths forward, each with some significant downsides.
On one hand, the company could stick with Lightning—that would mean that customers who’ve been using the iPhone for a while wouldn’t have to buy new adapters, wires, or chargers. Apple’s ecosystem of accessory-makers wouldn’t have to go back to the drawing board to release updated products for the new connection.
On the other, Apple could switch to USB-C, making the iPhone play more nicely with other gadgets, including the Mac. But that move could trigger consumer confusion and chaos among accessory-makers. It would also loosen Apple’s control over the user experience.
The third option would be to go all-wireless, but wireless connections usually don’t transmit power or data as quickly or efficiently.
According to Bloomberg’s sources, Apple is actively testing the second option—switching to USB-C—in no small part because the European Union appears to be moving forward with a law that would require companies that make “mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld video-game consoles and portable speakers” to standardize around USB-C.
The new law isn’t final yet, but its prospects are good so far, and it would force Apple’s hand here. The sources aren’t certain whether Apple will continue with its plan to switch to USB-C should the law ultimately fall through.
That said, the USB-C models Apple is testing right now are not targeting a 2022 release—this year’s iPhones will reportedly still use Lightning. But the switch could happen as soon as 2023, according to the report.