Is Apple about to create its own version of USB-C for the iPhone 15?

Phones after the Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max may face charging restrictions  (Apple)
Phones after the Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max may face charging restrictions (Apple)

The iPhone 15 is widely expected to feature a USB-C port instead of a lightning port, but word is Apple could limit the type of cables and accessories you can use with the new handsets.

A notable leaker called ShrimpApplePro has tweeted that “USB-C with MFi is happening”, in reference to the Made for iPhone program. That is notable because Apple can impose data and charging restrictions on accessories that don’t meet its MFi certification standards. Worse still, the existing USB-C cables you have lying around may not be supported by the new iPhone.

If true, the move could land the company in hot water with European regulators and consumers. News of a USB-C iPhone pre-empts a new EU law that requires all future smartphones sold in the bloc to be equipped with the universal USB-C port for wired charging by December 28, 2024.

The European Parliament made the ruling last October, with a vote of 602 votes to 13, in an effort to reduce electronic waste and make life easier for consumers. While this rule does not apply to the UK, leakers claim the iPhone 15 will pack a USB-C port when it lands in the autumn.

Though it’s still a rumour at this stage, the latest leak aligns with an earlier tip from Chinese social media site Weibo, which claimed the iPhone 15 and 15 Pro would pack a chip for checking the compatibility of peripherals. That sounds like the MFi chip found inside cables approved by Apple as part of the Made for program.

Of course, it’s best to take the rumours with a grain of salt at this stage. After all, Apple’s iPad range has not come with any charging restrictions since the introduction of USB-C ports with the iPad Pro 11 in 2018. In addition, Apple acolytes who already own MacBooks and iPads with USB-C ports will likely be able to use their existing cables with the new iPhones.

Still, any step to impose restrictions on charging and data transfers will rankle consumers. Naysayers will point to Apple’s lucrative MFi licensing model as a reason for the move.

Apple charges fees to third-party and accessory makers who wish to manufacture official electronic accessories, AirPlay audio accessories, and game controllers that connect to its iPhones, iPads, and other devices. The company may not want to lose out on that revenue at a time when smartphone shipments are in decline.

While EU watchdogs could argue that Apple’s extra controls go against the letter of the law – though the common charger legislation does not cover slower data-transfer speeds.

For its part, Apple could justify the limits by talking up the pros of its Made for iPhone program. By selling certified accessories, the company is essentially providing a mark of quality for the products, in comparison to the legions of dirt-cheap and possibly dodgy USB-C cables made by third parties.

A far more divisive route could involve Apple removing cabled connections altogether in favour of a portless iPhone that relies entirely on wireless charging and AirDrop file transfers.

The European Parliament’s website says phones that are “rechargeable via a wired cable, operating with a power delivery of up to 100 Watts, will have to be equipped with a USB Type-C port”, which does not preclude a cable-free design.

Apple’s ​​flagship wireless charging tech arrived in 2020 with the iPhone 12’s MagSafe charger after numerous delays and cancellations.