Does the iPhone 15 have USB-C? It’s complicated

A promotional image showing the USB C port on the iPhone 15.

When Apple introduced the Lightning connector in 2012, Apple executive Phil Schiller called it “the modern connector for the next decade.” The decade has passed — and Schiller’s prophecy has been proven to be correct — bringing unimaginable (at that time) changes to the iPhone.

But even after continuous reports on plans to relinquish it, Apple has held onto the Lighting port. Does the legacy continue with the iPhone 15, or will Apple switch to a more standard USB Type-C? You’ll find out in this article.

Does the iPhone 15 have USB-C?

iPhone 15 with USB-C port.
iPhone 15 with USB-C port. Apple

The iPhone 15 and the iPhone 15 Pro models are finally embracing the USB Type-C port, as confirmed during Apple’s September 2023 event. Even though several iPads and MacBooks have adopted USB-C as the standard port for charging and data exchange, this is the first time any iPhone uses a standard USB connector. Apple is continuing to work on a portless iPhone.

Initial iPhone models came with the 30-pin “dock” connector — for anchoring its previously famous iPod docking stations. While launching the iPhone 5 in 2012, Apple switched to the Lightning connector as a more compact and reliable means to charge the iPhone and sync data to a computer. Later, with the iPhone 7, the lightning port also assumed the role of an audio connector in the absence of a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The bottom of an iPhone 14, showing its speaker grille and Lightning port.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Apple has long maintained that transitioning to USB-C would result in e-waste as users ditch their Lightning cables and other accessories, including wired earphones. However, an EU directive mandates that every smartphone, tablet, or headphones sold in the region must feature USB Type-C as the only charging port.

The directive goes into action starting in 2024, which means Apple has no time to challenge the directive and no option but to comply. Since using the USB Type-C port exclusively for the EU and sticking to the Lightning connector in other regions would increase the cost for Apple, it will revamp the connector for all areas.

Does the iPhone 15 have fast charging?

iPhone 15 Pro USB-C charging port.
USB-C port on iPhone 15 Pro Apple

While USB-C is a standard port, there are different variations in speed based on the generation. The iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus get the same treatment as the 2022 10-inch iPad and utilize a USB-C port based on USB Gen 2 specifications. This is surprising because USB 2.0 is an archaic technology that limits the data transfer speeds to only 480Mbps. Further, the iPhone 15’s charging speed can be expected to max out at roughly 30 watts, based on data from the 2022 iPad — although we will have to wait for more concrete results.

Meanwhile, the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max models rely on USB Gen 3, with theoretical charging speeds of up to 100W and data transfer at 10Gbps. While Apple does not specify the exact generation, these specifications align with at least USB 3.1 Gen 2, also marked as “SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps.”

However, the iPhone 15 Pro models have been rumored to only support charging at a maximum of 35W, which is only a marginal bump over the 27W charging on iPhone 14 Pro models. Meanwhile, the iPhone 15 could be limited to around 30W, which is once again only slightly higher than the iPhone 14’s 25W charging. Notably, you will need an Apple charging brick with 45W or faster charging to achieve those speeds.

Even worse, Apple will only supply an older USB 2.0 cable within the iPhone 15’s box, which will limit rates for both charging and data transfer and is in no way faster than the Lightning cable. To enjoy faster charging speeds, you will be required to buy a separate cable that supports the USB Gen 3 protocol. While that contradicts Apple’s stance on e-waste, this cable will likely be braided and, therefore, more durable than the one inside the box.

Is the iPhone 15 USB-C port Thunderbolt?

iPhone 15 Pro Thunderbolt cable.

Unlike the MacBook and iPad Pro models, the iPhone 15 Pro does not appear to support Thunderbolt, a more advanced charging and data transfer protocol with speeds up to 40Gbps. The only glimpse of Thunderbolt we see is through an image (above) showing the iPhone 15 Pro connected to a Thunderbolt-certified cable (represented by the icon) — but that does not guarantee support.

If you need the cable to fast charge the iPhone 15, Apple’s $29 USB-C to USB-C cable should suffice. However, if you are looking for a more durable cable that also supports fast charging your iPad Pro and MacBook, you will need to spend at least $69 on a cable with Thunderbolt 4 support.

Meanwhile, Apple is also expected to add new accessories and cables for the iPhone 15 under its Made For iPhone (MFi) program, which might feature some less expensive (but certainly not inexpensive) cables for faster charging.

Display casting with the iPhone 15

iPhone 15 front and back.

While the iPhone 15 and the iPhone 15 Pro presumably lack Thunderbolt support, all models can project 4K video at 60Hz onto a much larger display, thanks to DisplayPort support. Apple recommends you buy a USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter for an additional $69. You may also use a generic USB-C to HDMI adapter, but it might be limited to a 30Hz output on the bigger screen.

Alternatively, you may choose a USB-C to DisplayPort cable if your TV or PC monitor features DisplayPort functionality. Meanwhile, if you want to connect your older Lightning cables or accessories with the Lightning connector, you can pay Apple $29 to get another hilariously overpriced dongle.

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