Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Bring on the USB-C future

USB-C ports

Up until recently, USB-C was more of a fluke in my household—a strange visitor from a possible future, in which we all used small, reversible plugs. Sure, my iMac had a couple of Thunderbolt ports that use the USB-C ports and every once in a while a random cable might have a plug on it, but by and large we remained a good old USB-A household.

Even by late 2020, when I bought a new M1 MacBook Air that had only USB-C ports, the connector was still more of a curiosity than something in daily use. Truth be told, I didn’t plug many things into my laptop, so I wasn’t even really living the Dongletown lifestyle. I did have to buy a USB-C-to-USA-mini cables in order to use my ATR-2100 travel mic while I was on the road, but as the Air arrived during the pandemic, I wasn’t even really traveling.

Slowly but surely, however, USB-C has begun to creep in and take over. When I had some outlets with USB plugs installed in our new kitchen last fall, I made sure to buy ones that had both a USB-C and a USB-A port.1 Lightning cables packaged with new iOS devices now came with USB-C on the other end. My wife’s new Lenovo laptop has a USB-C charger.

But it all got real a couple months back when I bought a new iPad Pro to replace my aging 2017 model. All of a sudden, it seemed like a preponderance of my primary computing devices were USB-C: my iPad and my MacBook Air now shared the same charger, and I was increasingly buying external accessories that had USB-C ports.

Except for that one pesky little holdout: the iPhone.

This past week, there have been rumors from two separate generally reliable sources, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and Bloomberg columnist Mark Gurman, both of whom suggest that Apple is actively testing an iPhone with USB-C to arrive as early as next year.


I’m all-in on USB-C—if I never buy another USB-A device it’ll be too soon.

The truth is, Lightning has had a good run. Originally rolled out on the iPhone 5 back in 2012, it had a ton to offer over the 30-pin dock connector that it replaced: a much smaller port, versatility with output, and, of course, the real coup de grace: the ability to insert it in either direction. At the time, all of those were wins, even if it meant having to switch over a plethora of peripherals and accessories that were bound to the dock connector.2

But that was ten years ago. The dock connector itself only made it to about nine years before Lightning replaced it. Despite the foofaraw bound to erupt if and when Apple announces a change, changing the connector twice in 20 years doesn’t seem that unreasonable.

I’d argue, moreover, that such a transition is likely to be a lot easier this time around. Many of the tasks that users might have once relied upon physical connections for have been superseded in the intervening years by wireless technologies. You don’t have to connect your iPhone to a computer to back up or sync any more. And the wide adoption of wireless music streaming via Bluetooth or AirPlay mean that you don’t need a speaker with a physical connector.

Even in cases where people are still using wired accessories, USB-C presents a possibility of change for the good. For example, while I still know people using Lightning headphones, a non-proprietary port stands to have way more options in the long run (even if USB-C headphones aren’t exactly ubiquitous at present).

Yes, we’ll have to replace our myriad charging cables—although more and more of us probably have some USB-C cables lying around, what with all our other Apple devices—and yes, there will be some cases where we’ll need adapters. But I’m willing to bet that the transition won’t be as hard as many fear.3 Apple also seems to have committed to USB-C: even as they returned the MagSafe to the latest MacBook Pro models, they still support charging over USB-C as well.

More to the point, this switch has additional benefits for Apple, third-party hardware makers, and consumers. For itself, Apple won’t be targeted by the EU for not using the same charging port as every other phone manufacturer. Third-party developers won’t necessarily have to pay Apple for the rights to license the Lightning connectors. (Though, again, I wonder how many accessories are going this path these days, beyond those for charging.) And consumers get a single port to charge and connect most of their devices.

So, let me put it plain and simple: bring on the USB-C future. Yes, Apple might dream of a portless iPhone, a perfectly smooth and featureless slab of glass and steel, but that’s their dream, not mine. Mine is never having to hunt around to find a Lightning cable again. Instead, I’ll just unplug my laptop or my iPad and plug in my iPhone.

  1. Honestly, we’ve never really used the USB-A ports. 
  2. Even now I’ve occasionally found myself in a random hotel that has one of those clock radios with a 30-pin dock connector. Frankly, I’m often amazed they don’t have VHS players. 
  3. Of course, Apple will also have to change charging on AirPods, the Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, and Siri Remote too. 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at or reach him by email at His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]

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