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The iPhone 15 could embrace USB-C in the most Apple way possible

The latest iPhone 15 leaks have shown that the phone will finally trade a Lightning port for USB-C, but a new rumor suggests that Apple will still find a way to bring restrictions to the charging standard.

A previously reliable leaker called ShrimpApplePro has said in a tweet that “USB-C with MFi is happening”, with the MFi standing for Apple’s ‘Made for iPhone’ program. That’s significant, because Apple’s program can limit the functionality and performance of accessories that aren’t approved by the tech giant.

If the rumor is true, and USB accessories for the iPhone 15 do need MFi certification, that could create a situation where some cables will have their data and charging speeds limited. In a worst-case scenario, you could even see the dreaded ‘This accessory is not supported’ warning on your iPhone.

The leak has added credibility because it follows earlier rumors from the Chinese social media site Weibo that the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro will be fitted with an authenticator chip for checking the compatibility of peripherals; in other words, Apple’s MFi chip.

But while evidence is growing that Apple may characteristically add an extra layer of control to the USB-C standard for the iPhone 15, there are reasons to doubt the rumors, too. The Apple iPad, for example, has had USB-C ports since the iPad Pro 11 (2018), but the series has never come with any kind of charging restrictions.

The inclusion of MFi authentication on the iPhone 15 could also create a potentially annoying inconsistency for those who own both an iPhone and iPad, and want to use the same charging cable for both. Still, the rumors increasingly suggest that proprietary cables could still be a thing for the iPhone 15, so it’ll be interesting to see how Apple spins that one in September if it proves to be the case.

Analysis: a highly charged, polarizing issue  

Three Apple iPhone 14s on a green background

(Image credit: Apple)

Rumors of Apple wedging a ‘Made for iPhone’ step between iPhone 15 accessories and a global standard like USB-C have inevitably polarized opinion. And it’s important to remember that these are just rumors at this stage.

Apple critics will point out that the company traditionally charges third-party accessory makers a fee to get certified MFi branding for Lightning accessories. With smartphone shipments having just recorded their largest-ever decline (with an 18.3% year-on-year drop during the last few months of 2022), this could be something that Apple is reluctant to lose.

Then there’s the issue that iPhone 15 owners could potentially face issues like slower data transfer speeds (something that isn’t covered by EU legislation) if they don’t buy MFi-approved cables. In theory, this goes against the idea and spirit of an open standard like USB-C.

But there is also the argument that ‘Made for iPhone’ helps protect iPhone owners from buying potentially damaging cables, or ones that don’t work as intended. USB-C cables can vary greatly in spec and the type of charging they offer, so it wouldn’t be hugely surprising to see Apple intervene in an attempt to create a consistency of experience.

What could prove slightly more controversial are the rumors that the iPhone 15 Pro could support higher data transfer speeds than the standard iPhone 15, which has been tipped to remain at the same Lightning speeds (equivalent to USB 2.0) as current iPhones.

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