It has finally happened: the EU has passed a measure requiring that all new smartphones must have a USB-C port starting in 2024.
The law, which according to a press release (opens in a new tab) will come into force from "the end of 2024," applies to tablets and cameras, but the biggest impact will be on smartphones, most especially affecting iPhones, as they are the only mainstream handset to not already use USB-C.
Apple currently only uses its increasingly-dated Lightning port for its phones, particularly for brand-new models, but this measure means that, in the European Union at least, the company will have to offer USB-C within a couple of years.
In practice, it means that Apple will make the switch with the iPhone 16 at the least, but it''s likely to make the change even earlier; as the text in the press release suggests, this change will apply to all devices that are still on sale at the time, not just ones that have been introduced following the law change.
With the iPhone 15, we''ll probably see the switch happen, especially as there are already rumors that the iPhone 15 line might use USB-C. Plus, Apple has already switched to USB-C for iPads, so it had always appeared like a matter of time before its phones would do the same.
Analysis: a little bit of wiggle room
While the most straightforward and most likely solution for Apple would be to replace Lightning ports with USB-C on future iPhones worldwide, there are still alternatives.
This measure is only applicable to the EU, which means that Apple might choose to only sell USB-C iPhones in the EU, with other countries sticking to Lightning. This would imply putting two significantly different versions of each of its phones, which sounds like less of a challenge and much more expensive than it does.
The iPhone 14 series, which in the United States eliminates a physical SIM card slot altogether, instead mostly relying on eSIM technology, does this even more, while the SIM tray remains on units sold in other countries.
Apple may technically have a battery as long as it has a USB-C connection, but that seems very unlikely; they aren''t intended to directly compete with the best gaming devices out there, some of which have two ports, for portrait and landscape charging.
Apple may, therefore, suspend ports altogether and use wireless charging and data transfer exclusively on future phones. We have seen whispers of a portless iPhone for a while, but we suspect that if one comes at all its further out than 2024.