Apple totally wasted the iPhone 15’s biggest design change

USB-C port on the iPhone 15.
Apple

The Apple iPhone 15, regardless of which model you buy, has a USB-C connector and not the old Lightning cable connector on the bottom.

This huge design change could have brought with it a truly new and exciting feature to the latest iPhone. But it’s as dreary and uninteresting as you’d expect a new cable and port to be, and that makes it a truly wasted opportunity.

What did we want?

OnePlus 11 on charge, with OnePlus Buds Pro 2.
The OnePlus 11 fast charging using USB C. Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

When most people plug a cable into the port on the bottom of a phone, it’s to recharge the battery. When you do that with some Android phones, such as the OnePlus 11, it fires enough power into the cell to fully recharge it in less than 30 minutes. Fast charging is the only reason the majority of people will ever care about the cable and port on a smartphone, and Apple had an amazing opportunity to introduce this transformative feature on the iPhone 15 models … but it decided not to do that.

It’s probably useful to know why Apple chose now to introduce USB-C to the iPhone. It’s because it has to, not because it wants to, despite the company cheekily suggesting during the launch event that the reason is because it has become the universally accepted standard. A new law regarding the use of a common charging standard that is being brought in by the EU is forcing Apple’s hand, and if it doesn’t bring USB-C in now, it’ll have to do it in the near future anyway.

The company spent some time talking about USB-C on the iPhone 15 during the launch event, but when it comes to new features related to it, we’ve been left wanting. Apple didn’t mention charging speeds at all, only confirming the cable can be used for charging. It isn’t a big surprise, as charging speed has never been a focus for Apple, but here was the opportunity to make it one, a chance to create something useful and exciting out of a situation it really can’t avoid.

Sadly though, it appears the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro will recharge at the same speeds as before. It won’t be painfully slow, but charging certainly isn’t about to get any faster despite the new cable and port.

What did we get?

A promotional image showing an iPhone 15 plugged into a MacBook using USB C.
Apple

If USB-C on the iPhone didn’t bring fast charging to the iPhone 15, what did it bring? The disappointment continues because it does absolutely nothing new on the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus. The cable charges, transfers data, and plays audio in the same way as the now-dead Lightning cable it replaces, and is otherwise the same as the one you already use to charge your iPad. Oh, it does make all those old Lightning cables you have redundant, but let’s not worry about that.

Surely then, something exciting has been added to the more expensive, flagship iPhone 15 Pro models? There was a moment when I wondered if fast charging would be a Pro-only feature, but no. Instead, Apple gave the iPhone 15 Pro … faster transfer speeds. The iPhone 15 Pro models have a new USB controller inside the A17 Bionic chip that enables USB 3 and its ability to transfer data at up to 10 gigabits per second, which is 20x faster than USB 2 speeds. That’s provided you use a special USB 3 cable, of course, and don’t expect to find one of those in the box.

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

Apple, keen to illustrate how useful this would be, went on to link USB 3 with the camera and transferring ProRAW stills and ProRes video directly to Macs and external drives, a feature perfect for filmmakers and professional photographers. I’m sure there are some people who got a bit excited about this feature, but the vast majority of iPhone buyers have no idea where ProRAW settings are in the camera app, let alone have a need to transfer them to a computer in double quick time.

Imagine how much of an impact an announcement that USB-C would enable just 2x faster charging speeds on the iPhone 15 would have on people, instead of the collective shoulder shrug I have to assume the 20x faster transfer speeds news was met by.

A missed opportunity

The USB C port on the bottom of the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Apple

What’s even worse about the transfer speed “feature” is Apple made cable data transfers a waste of time years ago with the introduction of wireless, cloud-based software updates, iCloud Drive backups, and AirDrop. I haven’t used a cable to do anything except charge my iPhone for years, and I’d be shocked if this changes when I get my new iPhone 15 Pro. Forgive me if I don’t care about them now.

Instead, what will happen is I’ll feel a twinge of disappointment every time I plug the USB-C cable in, hear the familiar chime indicating it is plugged in correctly, and then see on the screen the power is flowing at the same old speed as ever into the battery. For all the talk about USB-C’s arrival on the iPhone ahead of the launch, its introduction is as dull as perhaps it deserved to be.

The change from the proprietary Lightning to the universal USB-C cable and port is undeniably a radical change for the iPhone’s design. It’s the end of an era, and unfortunately, Apple missed the chance to start a new one by bringing fast charging — a fantastic, useful, and sometimes even transformative feature — to the latest iPhone 15 series.

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