Fresh off a new EU law that forces all iPhones to adopt USB-C cables, the next generation of iPhone 15 releases are all expected to jump to the new standard. Despite this move, however, rumours from a reliable source have stated that only the Pro line of models will move beyond USB 2 tech. While this might not matter for all users, it does paint a strong disparity between the models, while also raising questions on how necessary the fastest USB transmission speeds could be.
What Caused the Change to USB?
Apple has long relied on non-standard cables for its devices, with the iPhone 14 line relying on a Lightning port. While a fast connector, this reliance on rarer cables has long meant that obsolete cables quickly contribute to issues of e-waste and that consumers are often left frustrated.
If you lose a cable for a Samsung phone, chances are you have another compatible one lying around. If you lose one of Apple’s, you might need a trip to the store for an overpriced product. At current prices, a 2m long USB-C to Lighting cable to charge an iPhone 14 costs £35.00 from the official store. For reference, a 2m long high-quality USB-C to type C cable costs around £7.00 on Amazon.
Both these lines of thinking were what drove the EU to force Apple to abandon its older sockets in favour of a more universal option. While it would technically be possible for Apple to produce two different models, one for within the EU and one for the rest of the world, this would be self-defeatingly complicated and expensive, so it went with a simpler option.
Changes to the Norm
Reports about the new line of phones came from noted analyst Ming-Chi Kui, who has an established history of finding accurate information from his sources in Apple’s supply chain. According to him, the standard tier of iPhones will be limited to USB 2.0 speeds, which are rated for 480 Mbps, or around 57 megabytes per second.
Kuo states that the new iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max are likely to support at least USB 3.2. This operates with transfer speeds of 40 Gbps or about 4.8 gigabytes per second. Approaching an almost ten times speed increase, the difference between these systems is staggering, but it doesn’t raise questions of usability.
Returns on Speed
While it’s nice to have the extra speed on the new connectors, whether users will take advantage of it is very much in question. This isn’t just a matter for Apple users either, as the growing speed in high-tech devices is increasingly reaching an unnecessary point. Firstly, let’s look at Apple’s systems.
Traditionally, USB connections on phones were used to transfer larger media files like music and movies. While this can still be the case, most of the music and movies used today on Apple’s ecosystem come from iTunes or the cloud. These can be downloaded more conveniently over Wi-Fi transference, and since wifi6 speeds can hit up to 9.8 Gbps, or 1,170 megabytes per second, the difference isn’t all too important.
For reference, the iPhone 14 Pro Max has a total storage capacity of 128 gigabytes. Filling this space on USB 2.0 would take almost 4.5 minutes. On Wi-Fi6, it would take 109 seconds. Users of USB 3.2 could expect a theoretical fastest speed of 27 seconds. Sure, that’s faster, but you’re never going to fill the whole storage drive, and even if you were, 5 minutes is not an inconvenient wait time.
For another look at how transfer speeds might not matter as much as we think, consider the much-touted standard of 1Gbps fibre internet connections. The highest demand uses we’d commonly see for these connections is 4K video streaming, which most streaming services recommend as requiring around 30 Mbps. At this standard, a home with 1 Gbps fibre could run 30 simultaneous 4K video streams, an unlikely event.
To make this look even more ridiculous, consider a lower-demand system like playing live dealer casinos in the UK. Whether browsing the different websites, comparing game selections and ratings, or jumping into titles like live blackjack or roulette, bandwidth costs here would rarely, if ever, exceed 10 Mbps. Even the most advanced live dealer features of these popular sites could handle nearly a hundred simultaneous users on 1 Gbps.
Given the overkill of these systems, you’d be forgiven for thinking that all this extra speed in iPhones, and the greater world of tech, is useless, but this isn’t quite true. In the 2020s, we’ve finally reached a point where we’re not playing catchup to what data transfers require, we’re actively getting ahead of the curve. Sure, most of this speed might stand idle for now, but in the interest of never going back to the days of stuttering, buffing, and waiting hours, a little overkill is exactly what we need.