USB-C vs. Lightning

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Data transmission speeds depend more on USB standards for both Lightning and USB-C. Lightning devices usually connect to a computer for data transfer. This is facilitated by a Lightning to USB cable. The data throughput actually depends on the ports on the source and target device. The first Lightning devices transferred data at USB 2.0 speeds. Newer devices have embraced newer USB standards. Apple hasn’t divulged the maximum theoretical data throughput for Lightning. In the real world, it is fast enough to take advantage of the newest standards.

Lightning connectors use far fewer pins than USB-C, but the latter doesn’t use all of its pins. Although USB-C uses 18 pins, only 9 are used at the same time. This allows the connector to be reversible. Lightning only uses 8 pins, however, the plug fits into the receptacle in a way which allows it to be reversible. Furthermore, electronics inside Apple devices determine the orientation of the plug and adjust accordingly. It sounds like a lot of effort, but it makes for a slimmer receptacle. This enables Apples to make such slim iPhones and iPads.

Lightning Is the Right Tool for the Job

Apple developed Lightning at a time when chunky USB ports were the only standard option. In order to make slimmer iPhones, it was necessary to develop their own proprietary connector. USB-C was two years away, and it still ended up having a larger footprint than Lightning.

Lightning is simply the right tool for the job. It’s intended for mobile devices. Not only is the connector smaller, but it is more robust. If you think about the abuse a mobile device takes, the latter aspect is appealing. Apple customers pay a premium price for iPhones and iPads and expect them to last. If Apple went with USB-C, their devices would be larger and more fragile.

Apple haters recoil at the very notion of Lightning. Once again, they claim Apple is creating something proprietary. “They don’t play well with others”. This simply isn’t true. Apple was a significant contributor to the USB-C standard. They quickly adopted this standard and added it to their MacBook lineup. The slimmer design of USB-C allowed them to create the thinnest MacBooks ever, while still retaining compatibility with standard peripherals.

The fact that MacBooks use USB-C and not Lightning demonstrates that Apple conforms to standards. But they also use the right tool for the job. For iPhones and iPads, the slimmer and more durable Lightning port was a great fit.

A lot of these decisions and outcomes are based on history. Lightning debuted two years prior to USB-C. Apple needed to make slimmer iPhones right away, and existing USB technology just didn’t provide the right solution. Now that Lightning is ingrained, Apple can’t just replace it with USB-C. This would be a slap in the face to customers and accessory makers. Also, USB-C is larger and less robust than Lightning. It’s simply more appropriate for mobile devices.

Wireless is the Future

Clickbait bloggers raised the possibility that Apple is replacing Lightning with USB-C. As we’ve covered, Lightning is still much more appropriate for mobile devices. Why would Apple replace Lightning with something that’s bigger and more fragile? They would also anger customers and accessory makers with such a move. It just doesn’t make sense.

Wireless is the future of device connectivity. This is exactly why Apple removed the 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone 7. It’s why the MacBook only has one USB-C port. People are simply not plugging devices into their computers, tablets and smartphones. Wireless headphones have replaced their wired ancestors. Printers, scanners and external drives are all wireless these days. You can even wirelessly connect to some displays. As wireless technology improves, the need for cables and ports will gradually be eliminated. Apple will replace Lightning with nothing. Your future iPhone won’t have any ports, making it much more durable and waterproof. When this day comes, critics will cry foul, but the vast majority of consumers will be better off. The days of dongles, adapters and messy cables are almost over. Good riddance!

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