Remember the 30-pin connector that originated on iPods and was later used on the early iPhones? It was a large, clunky but surprisingly functional thing. It was replaced in 2012 starting with the iPhone 5 – Apple’s new Lightning connector was sleek and reversible, a few years before the first Androids with USB-C appeared in 2015.
And that made a lot of people angry. While the Lightning had advantages over the 30-pin connector, due to being on millions of iPods and then millions more iPhones, the old connector was featured in a multitude of devices that suddenly needed an adapter.
There were things like iPod docks in cars and hotel rooms, people bought clock radios that could double as iPod speakers too. And they worked with the iPhone too, of course.
Well, now history is about to repeat itself as Apple prepares to abandon the Lighting in favor of USB-C. This means that any charging and speaker docks that use Lightning will need an adapter, if you’re Lightning headphones, you’ll need to get a new pair and certainly the most common item – the Lightning charging cable – is headed for obsolescence.
Apple users likely already have a USB-C cable or three, they come with new MacBooks and new iPads. Desktop Macs use them too, but there is a catch – the Magic Keyboard, Trackpad and Mouse all need a USB-C to Lightning cable to charge from those Macs. The AirPods use Lightning too. Even iPhone chargers have USB-C ports and need that same cable. What a mess!
Going all in on USB-C means that USB C-to-C cables is all that Apple users will need to use (including when plugging in external monitors) and that they can share or borrow such cables from their Android and Windows using friends.
Or that’s going to be the case in the future, at least. Right now there are probably a number of accessories that Apple users own that require a Lightning cable – and you have the matching Lightning cables too. And either you will have to settle for the mixed Lightning/USB-C lifestyle or just chuck them and buy new ones.
If you won AirPods right now, you will probably swap them for new ones in a few years time regardless of the connector drama. But those keyboards and mice will stick around for many more years. Either way, some e-waste is unavoidable and some extra spending too as you replace those old accessories.
So, how do you feel about the transition from Lightning to USB-C?