2019 Tech Predictions: Apple's iPhone Finally Jumps to USB-C

The smartphone maker is about to make the jump.

Brace yourself: Apple might be about to swap charger port again. After the success of this year’s iPad Pro, which ditched the Lightning connector for the more ubiquitous USB-C standard, speculation is mounting that Apple might pull the same move with the iPhone. Inverse is predicting it’s going to happen.

“I don’t have any knowledge that I’m sharing about the next iPhone, but I do believe they will go to USB-C in 2019,” Ryan Reith, vice president for IDC, tells Inverse.

We’re reporting on 19 predictions for 2019. This is #6.

The move would open a broad range of possibilities for the iPhone. While the reversible Lightning connector has served the iPhone well since it debuted in 2012, it requires third party accessory makers to adhere to a proprietary plug design, reducing interoperability with Android and other smartphones. Switching to USB-C could enable SD card readers, chargers and even novelty fans to work on iPhone and Android.

iPhone Gets Connected

There’s plenty of reason to think Apple might make the move. The company tends to introduce features on one device before gradually expanding them out across all devices, like pressure-sensitive touch screens that debuted on the Apple Watch in 2015 before moving to the iPhone, or the fingerprint scanner that debuted in 2013 on the iPhone 5S before coming to the iPad and MacBook.

Apple has had plenty of time to get acquainted with USB-C, . It debuted the Retina MacBook in 2015 with a single USB-C port, before bringing a similar design to the MacBook Pro in 2016, the iMac in 2017 and Mac Mini in 2018. The iPad Pro’s launch this year marked the first time USB-C came to an iOS device — or indeed any form of USB, a criticism leveled at the original iPad in 2010:

Other reports have suggested that a change is on the cards. DigiTimes claimed in June 2018 that next year’s devices would make the move. A 2017 report from the Wall Street Journal also alluded to the move.

Lightning Reigns Supreme

The main reason why Apple might not jump is the amount of pain it would cause consumers. A 2012 report from the Daily Mail reported “fury” over Apple’s “rip-off” plan to “make all iPhone accessories obsolete.” Like the iPad, Apple’s decision to switch drew a number of memes and jokes from fans upset that the company had changed connector.

Apple had particularly good reason to make the switch in 2012. The 30-pin dock connector, a holdover from the iPod days, took up a large amount of space on the base of the device. Its Lightning replacement was smaller, simpler, reversible, and eventually supported faster USB 3 speeds as of 2015. Fans were upset despite all these benefits, and USB-C’s only major benefit is interoperability. It could prove a hard sell to consumers upset about switching again.

“I don’t have any insight into whether the iPhone will make the jump to USB-C, but their track record would speak to them not feeling much incentive to do so unless they are forced to do so,” Melissa Chau, associate research director for IDC, tells Inverse.

19 Predictions for 2019: What Inverse Thinks

Apple doesn’t tend to make moves in half-measures. The company dropped MagSafe on the MacBook Pro in favor of USB-C, and it dropped Lightning on the iPad Pro for the same connector. The trend seems to be a gradual move toward USB-C for some of its products, and the company had laid the groundwork for support on iOS. A switch to USB-C seems more a question of “if” rather than “when,” and Inverse predicts it will happen in 2019.

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