This year’s new iPhone could come with an unexpected surprise, as Apple finally moves to unify the product line and move slowly towards adopting USB-C. Just don’t expect Tim Cook to put all the benefits in the iPhone’s retail box.
This is not expected to mean the iPhone itself is moving to USB-C connectivity. Although many would be happy with a change to a standard connector (with the benefits of reducing e-waste and increasing peripheral compatibility and reuse), the lightning port is a gate into the iPhone ecosystem that Apple controls – you want the connection, you have to go through Apple’s certified program to do so, which naturally involves a feudal payment to Apple.
Instead the move is to use USB-C is at the other end of the phone’s cable, specifically to the charger. Rather than the USB-A style connection, the charger is expected to move to a USB-C connector, as will the bundled cable. Given Apple has switched over the Mac and MacBook machines to USB-C ports for connectivity, ensuring port compatibility through the entire ecosystem makes practical sense.
It also opens up the option of the iPhone using the higher rated USB-C charger that ships with the iPad Pro. That charger provides power at 30W which kicks in the fast-charging of not only the MacBook and MacBook Air machines, but also the iPad and the iPhone. This isn’t a new option – the iPhone 8 would happily fast charge with a higher-rated adaptor than the 5W charger shipped in the box.
If you want faster charging on your iPhone, you currently have to buy this as standalone adaptor from Apple. That has kept the retail cost down for Apple, but also increases the average revenue generated per customer as they upgrade the slow charger for a fast charging adaptor found in the Apple Store as an additional purchase.
Apple’s smaller USB-C charger puts out 18W. That’s more than the current 5W USB-A charger found manufacturers. Apple does have a 30W fast charger that is also built around a USB-C connector, but my feeling is that Tim Cook will let the revenue and margins overrule the principle of offering consumers the best option possible.
The margins on the USB-C fast charger are too high. With unit sales of the iPhone falling and Apple needing to keep revenue streams and margins high, increasing the average revenue per user remains key.
Come the time to launch the new iPhones, I expect Apple will move up to the 18W USB-C charger, talk about ‘the fastest charging iPhone ever’ and ‘the most powerful charger ever shipped with an iPhone’… while carefully forgetting to mention that Apple has a better and more efficient option available, and that the iPhone will still come up short when compared to the competition.
If you want a real fast charger for your new iPhone, be prepared to pay extra.