Apple has switched from its Lightning connector to USB-C—we explain which is better and why they did it


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After many years of designing and selling a variety of different cables to power and charge its devices, Apple has slowly switched to USB-C chargers for all of its products.

The last device to swap is the iPhone, and it happened against Apple’s will. In October last year, the European Commission requested all phones and laptop producers switch to the USB-C connector (which had earlier been agreed on as a common standard).

Apple could have chosen to ignore the request and stop selling in the EU, or to produce versions with USB-C for the European single market only. Instead, it chose to comply and follow the EU rules everywhere. The common charger for all devices is thus becoming a reality, at least until the world moves completely to wireless charging.

A better standard

The Lightning charger was introduced by Apple in 2012 and first featured on the iPhone 5. It was the successor to the 30-pin dock connector introduced in 2003 for the first iPods and iPhones. Arguably, the key visible innovation of the Lightning cable was reversible ends.

This enabled the user to insert the charger into the dock without having to wonder whether it was oriented in the right way. It might seem trivial now, but this was not the case with any other charger. If you are using the standard USB port on your laptop now, you are likely to spend a lot of time plugging the cable in and taking it out in order to find the right orientation. You’re probably also complaining about how inconvenient it is. At least, that’s what I do.

The USB-C connector came out about two years after the Lightning. There was nothing particularly novel or remarkable about it compared to Apple’s cable. However, one notable feature was that it borrowed the Lightning connector’s reversibility.

USB-C is just the name of the connector, not the entire cable. The cable and connector are part of a bigger technical specification called USB-4. USB-4 outperforms Lightning in every technical dimension conceivable. It can…