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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

USB-C, Lightning, and the next iPhone

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

A (paywalled) story from the Wall Street Journal suggests that USB-C will have some part to play in Apple’s next iPhone model.

[The iPhone will use] USB-C port for the power cord and other peripheral devices instead of the company’s original Lightning connector.

The way this is worded suggests strongly that Apple will ditch Lightning entirely and embrace USB-C. Which could happen, for sure. And the Wall Street Journal is commonly thought of a friendly venue for Apple to leak information in order to gauge reaction and prepare people for controversial developments.

It’s possible, of course, that this story is slightly wrong and Apple is only planning on replacing the charger end of the iPhone with a USB-C charger, rather than the current USB-A plug. This year all of the Macs Apple release will probably offer USB-C ports, for example. But Lightning and USB-C are so similar that it’s a recipe for some serious cord confusion.

I have always assumed that Apple would hang on to Lightning for a long time, since it’s designed by Apple specifically for Apple’s needs, and the company has control over how it’s used in other products via its licensing program. However, it would certainly simplify Apple’s product line in the long run if every device Apple sold used a single connector type.

So that’s why I’m unsure of this report. On the one hand, it seems too soon for Apple to ditch Lightning. On the other hand, it would be just like Apple to rip the bandage off with the promise that in a year or two every device Apple sells—from iPhone to Mac to Magic Trackpad to Apple Pencil—will use a common plug format.

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