5 things wrong with Apple’s lightning cable

  • Apple has used the lightning connector for seven years.
  • It used to be on everything, but now it’s only found on two types of devices — iPhones and some iPad models.
  • The lightning cable Apple includes with the iPhone doesn’t support fast charging and transfers data at USB 2.0 speeds.
  • Switching the iPhone to USB-C could unify Apple’s products.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: You probably recognize this. It’s a Lightning cable. They’re everywhere. In 2012, we said goodbye to 30-pin, and Lightning became Apple’s main connector. But, seven years later, it’s on only two types of devices: iPhones and lower-end iPads. When Apple introduced the Lightning connector, Phil Schiller said:

Schiller: So much has changed since we first created that 30-pin connector.

Narrator: Now, the same is true of Lightning.

1. It’s proprietary.

Apple’s connectors have become fragmented. In 2018, it unveiled the new iPad Pro with a USB-C port instead of Lightning. But when Apple updated its lower-end iPads in March, they kept the Lightning port. So now some iPads use Lightning, and some use USB-C. MacBooks also use USB-C. But still, the iPhone comes with a Lightning to USB-A cable. So you can’t even plug your iPhone into your MacBook without buying a separate cable. Somehow, Apple’s most important product is the odd one out.

To be clear, Lightning was a good connector seven years ago. It transfers power and data, it was faster than 30-pin, of course, it’s reversible, the connection is super secure, and replacement cables are really easy to find. The problem is that it’s proprietary, so few devices actually use it.

2. It’s more expensive.

This forces you to buy dongles and carry around extra cables. But it’s not just a minor annoyance. Because it’s a proprietary connector, official Lightning cables and accessories are often more expensive than the USB-C equivalent. These higher prices can lead consumers to buy non-certified cables, which might not function properly and could even damage your phone. And Lightning’s starting to show its age.

3. It’s slower.

The standard hasn’t been significantly updated in the seven years it’s been around. Most Lightning cables transfer data at USB 2.0 speeds, although there are some reports of USB 3.0 speeds with newer models. But we don’t really know how fast Lighting is since it’s proprietary, Apple, doesn’t have to release all of the specifications. It just feels weird to buy a cable that can transfer data without actually knowing how fast or slow it will be. Regardless, Lightning is no longer a fast connector. If only Apple had a faster standard they could use.

You’re right, Thunderbolt 3 is frequently used by Apple, and at 40 gigabits per second, it’s way faster than Lighting. It also supports things like external hard drives and displays. And of course, it uses the ubiquitous USB-C connector. But Apple has been reluctant to adopt USB-C on all of its devices.

4. It doesn’t support fast-charging.

Now, you may be thinking, why do I need fast data-transfer speeds? It’s just my iPhone-charging cable. Transferring large files to your iPhone isn’t something every user needs. But the included Lightning cable doesn’t even support fast charging, a feature found on almost every new Android phone. And it’s notorious for breaking or fraying. It’s almost inevitable that you’ll need to buy another cable.

5. On the other hand, ditching Lightning would complicate things.

Even with all of its flaws, a world without Lightning might still seem strange to you. But Apple has a long history of ditching features before users are ready to say goodbye. And having different connectors throughout their products is very un-Apple-like. It goes against the it-just-works ecosystem they try to promote. Switching the iPhone to USB-C would unify their products. But that would also force Apple to say goodbye to the money it makes from licensing the Lightning standard to third parties, while also frustrating users who have purchased various Lightning dongles and accessories.

We’ll have to wait until September’s iPhone event to find out if Apple will finally say goodbye to Lightning. Recent reports have predicted that the iPhone will have USB-C. But we’ve been hearing these types of rumors for a while. And, currently, it’s still just speculation, based on an image in the iOS 13 beta. Between 30-pin and Lightning, Apple has had its own connector for over 15 years.

Schiller: So a lot’s changed, and it’s time for the connector to evolve, and that’s just what we’ve done.

Narrator: Just like in 2012, Apple needs to evolve. One day we’ll look back at Lighting with the same nostalgia we have for 30-pin.