As the iPhone rumor mill works practically year-round nowadays it’s kind of pointless to claim that new information and/or speculation about Apple’s next smartphone “is making the rounds” more than usual. What is not pointless is noting that almost all recent rumors focus exclusively on the Pro models of the iPhone 14 line-up to be unveiled in September — a difference that may or may not be indicative of Apple’s plans and intentions. Analysts and insiders alike insist that the 14 Pro models will actually live up to their name this year, offering considerably more than the 14 “vanilla” models.
This is something most of us would consider a positive change. The “Pro” moniker has become something of a joke in the smartphone market during the last few years — and it is partly Apple’s fault, as most manufacturers followed this company’s example in just building different versions of the same device and arbitrarily calling one of those “Pro” without it offering anything of actual “professional” value. This time around, insiders and analysts claim that the iPhone 14 Pro models will get decidedly superior components: the A16 processor instead of the A15, LPDDR5 memory instead of LPDDR4X, a 48 Megapixel main camera, last year’s ProMotion 120Hz screen refresh rate as well as the much-discussed “pill and hole” design for the front camera instead of the trademark notch.
These are serious upgrades that would truly make a difference between the “vanilla” iPhone 14 models and the Pro ones. There’s one more, though, that insiders and analysts claim it’s coming: the Pro models will allegedly feature a USB-C port, while the “vanilla” ones won’t.
That would be a mistake.
The transition from the current Lightning port to a USB-C port is something that consumers have been asking of Apple for years now. It is a matter of convenience (one less cable needed on a daily basis) as well as a matter of usability (USB-C would offer much higher charging speeds should Apple allow it) and utility (even without Thunderbolt support a USB-C port should offer much higher wired data transfer speeds than Lightning). While the rest of the smartphone market has practically transitioned to USB-C for a couple of years now, Apple insists on using the Lightning port because of the amount of money it’s still making off the licensing of compatible accessories. The company has now fully adopted USB-C in every new iPad model but simply refuses to do the same with the iPhone.
Insiders seem to think that Apple will adopt USB-C just for the iPhone 14 Pro models because they’d be the ones needing it the most: that 48-Megapixel camera means that they should be able to record 8K video and snap still photos at that resolution — using ProRES and ProRAW respectively too — so the need to offload extremely large files from the device’s storage quickly and easily is obvious. Users of Pro models of the iPhone also tend to use them more or for more demanding tasks, so the option of fast charging would prove valuable to them. Adopting a USB-C port, furthermore, would allow Apple to not even include a USB-C cable in those devices’ packaging (but sell one separately). All valid points, actually.
But offering a USB-C port exclusively with its iPhone 14 Pro models would buy Apple at least another year of using the Lightning connector on the non-Pro iPhones. This will not do. It’s a transition that’s long overdue from many consumers’ perspectives, for one. Then it’s the pressure the company is under from the European Union and the US to adopt USB-C as a universal, common standard for every type of portable device (it’s worth pointing out that Apple is the only manufacturer that has not already done so). As a company supposedly caring for the environment, Apple can even adopt USB-C as proof of the fact, helping reduce electronic waste such as unused chargers and cables. But all of that applies to every iPhone model. USB-C would be more beneficial to Pro owners, sure, but that’s not what adopting a different port for Apple’s smartphones is all about. Not really. So why the exclusivity, if the Pro models get so many other upgrades anyway?
What Apple would actually like, of course, is to see things play out differently: instead of adopting the USB-C port on iPhones, the company would prefer those devices to go completely portless, using MagSafe for charging and Wi-Fi for transferring data to or from an iPhone’s storage. As anyone who owns or has ever used an iPhone can attest, though, MagSafe is nowhere near ready for its widespread use and adoption by mainstream consumers, while transferring e.g. several GB of file data over Wi-Fi instead of a wired connection is often not practical or even possible. No. Apple must adopt USB-C this year on all iPhones and make the best of this port until such a time comes that a truly portless iPhone can work flawlessly. Here’s hope that Tim and friends plan to do just that.