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Apple confirms it will leave Lightning behind in future iPhones

Current iPhones still use the Lightning port instead of the now-industry-standard USB-C.
Enlarge / Current iPhones still use the Lightning port instead of the now-industry-standard USB-C.

Samuel Axon

An Apple executive publicly stated that the company plans to comply with a new European Union regulation that will require specific devices to have USB-C ports, confirming that the iPhone will soon adopt USB-C.

“Obviously, we’ll have to comply,” Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Greg Joswiak told attendees at The Wall Street Journal Tech Live conference on Tuesday. He took an air of resignation about it, noting that the company still disagrees with the regulation. “We think the approach would have been better environmentally and better for our customers to not have a government be that prescriptive,” he said.

On Monday, the EU gave final approval to a long-under-consideration common charger law that will require all devices within specific categories—smartphones included—to standardize on USB-C. Most devices have already gone that way, including Apple’s MacBook and iPad lines, but the iPhone line has stuck with Apple’s proprietary Lightning connection.

The law would require iPhones to go in that direction by 2024. It applies to newly introduced products, not products that were introduced before it took effect, so in theory, Apple could keep selling older Lightning-equipped devices until they feel the products are otherwise no longer viable.

Those supporting the law argue that it will reduce e-waste and offer environmental benefits partly because users will be able to share cords and chargers between devices, and that it will be a boon for consumers who may feel frustrated with a confusing gadget landscape. Detractors have said that the regulation may stifle or prevent future innovation of new ports and technologies that might carry their own benefits for consumers and for the environment.

At first glance, it might seem obvious that Apple would have to adopt USB-C once the regulation takes effect, but for a time, there was rampant speculation and even some insider reporting that Apple might simply go port-free and depend on wireless charging and data transfer rather than adopt USB-C to replace Lightning. More recent reports suggested Apple will not skip USB-C for wireless, though.

Joswiak didn’t clarify whether the company plans to only introduce USB-C iPhones in Europe, where it is required, while still introducing Lightning-equipped phones in the United States, or whether it will offer different versions in different regions.

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