Apple's USB-C to Lightning cable is a harbinger

Apple's USB-C to Lightning cable is a harbinger. Foreshadowing what's to come from Apple, the cable gives clues to Apple's direction on ports, power delivery, and charging.

USB-A to Lightning

The typical cord supplied with new Apple devices and accessories is a USB-A to Lightning cable. It has served us well, for many years, with the occasional annoyance of changing colour from white to grey to brown, splitting, not working, and forcing us to buy a new one for upwards of $30.

Though that wont change any time soon, what will change in 2019, is Apple dropping the rectangular USB-A plug and supplying a USB-C to Lightning cable.

Currently available on the Apple website starting at AU$35, the USB-C to Lightning cable will became the default cable for all Apple accessories in 2019, and be supplied in the box when you buy a new iPhone, iPad, keyboard, mouse, or other Lightning-equipped product from Apple.

Likewise, Apple iPhone and iPad chargers will drop USB-A and move across to USB-C ports, for use with a USB-C to Lightning cable, sold separately.

Apple's recently-released rechargaeble keyboards and mice are supplied with a USB-A to Lightning cable for charging, and these will soon switch to USB-C to Lightning as well.

USB-C to Lightning

Apple's newer USB-C to Lightning cable is available in Apple retail stores, Apple online, and at other retailers in-store and online. Useful for connecting your iPhone or iPad to one of Apple's new MacBook or MacBook Pro laptops that only have USB-C ports, it can also charge, sync, and update your device.

You can also buy a USB-C enabled charger for your iPhone and iPad, and use it to recharge the battery in your iPhone or iPad.

Maybe USB-C is the answer.

USB-C and Thunderbolt

While USB-C and Thunderbolt share the same connector/plug, their internal operation is quite different.

USB-C and Thunderbolt can do many of the same things, but Thunderbolt does all of them faster; and thunderbolt can achieve things that USB-C can't.

USB-C cables were popularised on Android smartphones, external hard drives, and other modern accessories. USB-C connected monitors are starting to trickle out in the wild, but so are Thunderbolt connected monitors.

Thunderbolt, jointly developed by Intel and Apple, was made famous by Apple on the MacBook and MacBook Pro, and is now also available on 2018 iMacs and the iMac Pro. Intel has now taken over the partnership, and is making Thunderbolt available on Windows PCs and laptops.

Thunderbolt can replace all other cables and connectors, including USB, HDMI, DisplayPort, mini DisplayPort, VGA, DVI, audio, Ethernet, eSATA, ePCI, FireWire, power, and others. It can be used to power and connect eGPUs.

Thunderbolt-only and the iPhone and iPad

The utility of having a high-bandwidth, do-it-all connector reduces the complexity of computer motherboards, and has the side benefit of enabling devices to be thinner and lighter, due to the size of the Thunderbolt port.

While I do not believe that Apple will ever drop the Lightning connector and put a USB-C port or Thunderbolt port on the bottom edge of an iPhone, they will certainly move toward having a cable that is USB-C/Thunderbolt on one end and Lightning on the other.

Apple prefers more and more of its gadgets to connect wirelessly, be that via Bluetooth, Wifi, LTE, magnetic attachment, or wireless charging. We may one day see an iMac with a Qi wireless charger in its base, where we could place an iPhone, iPad, Watch, keyboard, or mouse to recharge while we're not using the computer.

The short version

The short version:

  • connect everything to your 2018 Apple computer with a Thunderbolt cable.

  • connect everything to your 2019 Windows computer with a Thunderbolt cable.

The harbinger

Why is the Apple USB-C to Lightning cable the harbinger, the oracle, providing a glimpse in to the future of computing, not just from Apple, but the whole industry?

Simply because very soon, USB-C and Thunderbolt will be the only two ports on any modern computer.

Until next time,

Xavier Zymantas


XYZ Media Group

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