Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Anticipating the coming USB-C iPhone backlash

John Gruber, writing about how the anticipated switch to USB-C on the iPhone 15 will be received:

I think there’s going to be a backlash that most USB-C proponents don’t see coming, premised on accusations that this switch is a money grab from Apple to get people to replace all their Lightning cables with new $30 USB-C cables from the Apple Store….

I don’t know how many people are going to be irritated, if not downright angry, about this switch, but it’s going to be a lot more people than most “the iPhone should have already switched to USB-C” proponents expect.

I’ve been thinking about this one a while now, too. In the end, I actually think the switch from Lightning to USB-C will be less dramatic than the switch from the 30-pin Dock Connector to Lightning. This is primarily because USB-C has had several years to slowly creep into people’s lives in a way the Apple-invented Lightning connector did not. It will be a jarring change, but USB-C is at least familiar and you might have a cable or two around somewhere that will work.

But John is absolutely right in that the broad public reception to this change is going to be loud and unhappy. That’s the nature of change. Sure, we can see now that the iMac replacing all old ports with USB-A was a good idea for the long run. But in the moment the pain was exquisite. The dongles came to town and stayed for a long, long time.

People are going to scream bloody murder when Apple changes the cable on the iPhone. It is an inevitability. There will be stories about how it’s an Apple cash grab. There will be many anecdotes about people thinking they’d grabbed a USB-C cable when it was really Lightning and as a result their Phone died. Families with a mix of iPhone 15 and previous models will complain about which cable goes to which phone. That’s because this will be a real, legitimate inconvenience for many people.

But I do think that it won’t be as bad as the transition Apple made eleven years ago. Many (though not all!) hotels learned their lesson when it came to buying millions of Dock Connector-based clock radios only to have Apple turn to Lightning. These days most people are comfortable charging devices via USB adapters and cables. USB power ports are everywhere. There will be a storm, to be sure, but I expect it to blow through quickly.

I do wonder about the final fate of Lightning. While older iPhone models and that first-generation Apple Pencil will probably still be sold with the connector for years to come, I suspect we’ve already seen the final new product to include a Lightning port. Rumors suggest that M3 iMacs will be arriving this fall, and while Apple very rarely updates the Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, and Magic Keyboard, this would seem to be a good time to revise them to support USB-C.

In any event, dear reader, you should definitely get prepared to answer the questions of your friends and family as they discover that their new iPhone may not work with their existing cables and assorted accessories. It’s going to happen. I just don’t think it’ll be as bad as the last time.

—Linked by Jason Snell

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