iPhone 15 and 15 Pro First Look: Why a Tiny USB-C Port Is a Huge Deal | Mint

iPhone 15 and 15 Pro First Look: Why a Tiny USB-C Port Is a Huge Deal

TOPSHOT - The new Apple iPhone 15, with EU ordered USB-C charger, is displayed amongst other new products during a launch event at Apple Park in Cupertino, California, on September 12, 2023. (Photo by Nic Coury / AFP) (AFP)
TOPSHOT - The new Apple iPhone 15, with EU ordered USB-C charger, is displayed amongst other new products during a launch event at Apple Park in Cupertino, California, on September 12, 2023. (Photo by Nic Coury / AFP) (AFP)

Summary

Apple’s latest may have new cameras, action buttons and designs, but that new port will have a bigger impact on buyers—and their cord collections.

Sometimes you have to travel 3,000 miles just to see an 8mm hole.

Yes, I’m talking about my trip to Cupertino to see the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro’s new USB-C port. After 11 years Apple has retired the Lightning port and swapped in the same port you can find on most Android phones, Windows laptops, even iPads and MacBooks.

Sure, Apple spent nearly an hour at its event on Tuesday running us through all the new iPhone features. The lower-price iPhone 15 and 15 Plus models got a softer color-infused back glass, the Dynamic Island multitasking trick, faster A16 Bionic processors and new cameras. The more expensive Pro models have a new shortcut “action button" in place of the mute switch, a lighter titanium design and faster A17 Pro chips. My colleague Shara Tibken wrote a rundown of what’s new and different, and I will have reviews of the new iPhones soon.

But this little port is…a big deal. It could be the biggest iPhone news to impact you in years. A decade of cords you’ve accumulated in your car, desk, nightstand? They no longer work with these new phones. (It’s Apple, so of course there’s a $29 dongle for that.)

Breathe. Together, we will get through this challenging time. Here are answers to your most im-PORT-ant questions.

What is this port anyway?

There are four new iPhone 15 models—the regular, the Plus, the Pro and Pro Max—and they all have USB-C ports.

It’s the same port found on most new devices, even my baby monitor and teeth-whitening gadget. So it means that I can now use the same cord that I use to charge all those things to charge my next iPhone. Hooray!

All the new iPhones are capable of fast charging with this new port. But if you go up to the iPhone 15 Pro or Pro Max models, you’ll get even faster file data-transfer speeds—if you have the right cord. With a USB-C cord designated “USB 3" (cause that’s easy to follow!) you can transfer large files faster. That means moving RAW photos or ProRes video from the phone to your computer up to 20 times as fast as older USB.

Are all Apple gadgets going this way?

Apple had already transitioned iPads and Macs to USB-C. On Tuesday, the company announced that the 2nd-generation AirPods Pro will be available with a USB-C port.

One cool new trick: You can plug your AirPods or Apple Watch directly into the iPhone 15’s USB-C connector to charge them.

Is Apple at least including this cable in the box?

Yes, when you buy the iPhone 15 or 15 Pro, you’ll get a new USB-C to USB-C cable, but not just any cable…it’s a higher quality woven cable. It’s still white so it may get dirty over time, but at least it feels and looks nicer to all us cable snobs. What you won’t find in the box is a USB-C charging brick that plugs into a wall outlet.

Why did Apple do this?

Well, to be clear, Apple didn’t want to remove the Lightning port. The European Union passed legislation that states that by the end of 2024, mobile phones, tablets and other gadgets sold in the EU will have to be equipped with a USB Type-C “receptacle."

Alex Agius Saliba, one of the members of the European Parliament who led this legislation—who I like to call the “Lightning Murderer"—told me that having one charger has benefits for the environment since we’ll need fewer types of cords.

“Why should we continue to use Lightning cable? The only advantage is for Apple to continue to sell proprietary charging solutions, which cost more for our consumers," he told me in a video interview.

In an interview with me last year, Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, argued that this would just create more e-waste since over a billion people would have to get rid of Lightning cables.

“We think the approach would have been better environmentally and better for our customers to not have a government be so prescriptive," he said.

What should I do with my old cords?

May I suggest using them to make door curtains? A new necklace? Christmas ornaments?

When Android phones went through the transition from MicroUSB to USB-C and laptops went from USB-A to USB-C, we bought dongles so we could use our old cords. As I mentioned, Apple is continuing its dongle tradition with this, but the difference is, many of us already have regular USB-C cords as well. Besides, if you’re dying for dongles, there will probably be cheaper options online.

It’s more likely that you’ll keep those old Lightning cords in a box in your basement. Instead, if you no longer have a use for them, I encourage you to recycle. Apple’s own recycling program lets you send in your old cables and will send you a prepaid shipping label. (On the company’s trade-in site, go to Recycle and then select Power Cords & Devices and input your information.)

OK, but are we at least done with new ports for a while?

Yes, you’re safe. In fact, I think the next big port change will be to no ports at all. Apple highlighted MagSafe, its wireless charging tech, a few times during its presentation on Tuesday. It’s just a matter of time before our phones just charge themselves and we say—for real this time—“USB-C you later!" (It never gets old.)

—Sign up here for Tech Things With Joanna Stern, a new weekly newsletter. Everything is now a tech thing. Columnist Joanna Stern is your guide, giving analysis and answering your questions about our always-connected world.

Write to Joanna Stern at joanna.stern@wsj.com

iPhone 15 and 15 Pro First Look: Why a Tiny USB-C Port Is a Huge Deal
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iPhone 15 and 15 Pro First Look: Why a Tiny USB-C Port Is a Huge Deal
iPhone 15 and 15 Pro First Look: Why a Tiny USB-C Port Is a Huge Deal
View Full Image
iPhone 15 and 15 Pro First Look: Why a Tiny USB-C Port Is a Huge Deal
iPhone 15 and 15 Pro First Look: Why a Tiny USB-C Port Is a Huge Deal
View Full Image
iPhone 15 and 15 Pro First Look: Why a Tiny USB-C Port Is a Huge Deal
iPhone 15 and 15 Pro First Look: Why a Tiny USB-C Port Is a Huge Deal
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iPhone 15 and 15 Pro First Look: Why a Tiny USB-C Port Is a Huge Deal
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