Welcome to our weekly collection of all the Apple news you missed this week, in a handy bite-sized roundup. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you want to give it a read during lunch or dinner hours too.
Welcoming the end of Lightning
The end really does seem to be nigh for Apple’s Lightning port. Earlier this month the EU approved a ruling to make USB-C the common charging port for all mobile phones. Now. U.S. lawmakers gave the move their full-throated support. The U.K. government has said it won’t pursue the same strategy, but you can’t make one phone for Brits and another for everyone else. Barring legal or political miracles, Apple will have to make the switch, very likely beginning with the iPhone 15 in 2023.
In truth, this isn’t such an onerous requirement, because Apple is halfway through the transition already: its Macs and nearly all of its iPads are based on USB-C, with the last hold-out expected to flip later this year. The iPhone would be the last piece of the puzzle, albeit the biggest and most valuable piece.
There are lots of benefits if the industry can coalesce around a single charging standard. It makes sense for consumers, who can more easily reuse chargers from old devices and don’t have to worry about packing a compatible charger. It makes sense for the environment since e-waste should be reduced. And it even makes sense for politicians, who get to act tough with corporate giants and stick up for the little guy.
But the way in which this tussle has been presented would lead us to assume that somebody must be paying the price for these benefits. Most obviously we would expect the loser to be Apple, which by speccing devices with a proprietary charging standard gets to control and profit from the accessories market and lock in customers. But is it really a zero-sum game?
Accessories are certainly a lucrative side business that Apple will be reluctant to endanger, but as far as lock-in is concerned, it’s worth bearing in mind that standardization means customers can also leave your rivals and come to you. Given that there are considerably more Android than iPhone users in the world, and that Apple prides itself on its customer loyalty and user experience, one would think the company would be licking its lips at the prospect of easier platform switching.
More broadly, Apple has made a great deal of money by following a guiding principle of simplicity, and of making buying decisions as easy as possible. A world in which every mobile phone (and tablet, laptop, and e-reader) uses the same charging port is one in which tech newbies feel more comfortable making a purchase. That’s good news for every manufacturer, but particularly for Apple, which offers the most beginner-friendly devices and software platforms.
No, the main fly in the ointment is simply this: legislation moves slowly, and it’s hard to trust political bodies to keep up with the progress of technological innovation. Campaigners have been lobbying for a common charging standard since 2014, and this ruling won’t take effect until 2024. When USB-C becomes outdated, will it take another decade to agree on the next standard? We hope not.
And with that, we’re done for this week. If you’d like to get regular roundups, sign up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Twitter for breaking news stories. See you next Saturday, enjoy your weekend, and stay Appley.