November 30, 2022

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Before the iPhone, the iPod was Apple’s only portable device. It had a proprietary 30-pin connector. Before 2003, the iPod also used a FireWire connector, which could only be used in conjunction with a Mac.

Naturally, the iPhone was announced to use the same 30-pin connector as the iPod, so that it could take advantage of the already existing ecosystem of accessories on the market. At first, this won’t be a problem for most users, especially since the iPhone is a niche product.

Then the iPhone developed, and the iPod slowly came to an end. As smartphones get thinner and companies work on better cameras and batteries, something has to change. At this time, Lightning appeared.

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The Lightning connector was announced by Phil Schiller, who was Apple’s marketing chief at the time. Unlike the 30-pin connector, the Lightning is more compact and can be flipped over, making it more intuitive than its predecessor. To make the transition even smoother, Apple even introduced a 30-pin to Lightning adapter.

Since Lightning is 80 percent smaller than a 30-pin connector, this frees up more internal space for the device for other parts, an excuse that Apple also used years later to get rid of the headphone jack.

Lightning was quickly added to other Apple products. A month after the iPhone 5, Apple also released the iPad 4 and the first iPad mini, both with Lightning ports. The seventh- and last-generation iPod nano and fifth-generation iPod touch also feature the Lightning connector. After that, no other Apple product shipped with a 30-pin connector.

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Personally, when I got my iPhone 5, I was pretty excited about the Lightning connector. It feels far better than the old iPod connector. It was also significantly better than the Micro-USB connector, which was the standard for other mobile devices at the time. But time passed and the industry began to change again. But this time, not for iPhone users.

USB-C

Just as smartphones continue to evolve and get thinner, tech companies are trying to do the same with computers — especially laptops. Then, in 2014, the consortium responsible for the USB standard (of which Apple is a member) introduced USB-C. It’s a new, more modern version of the USB standard with an all-new connector that’s faster, smaller, and flips over.

It didn’t take long for Apple to launch its first product with USB-C: the 2015 MacBook. This is Apple’s thinnest laptop, and it has a USB-C port. While the MacBook has been discontinued, its legacy lives on in several other Apple products. And part of that legacy is USB-C.

Apple praised USB-C for its versatility, as it supports previous USB standards, DisplayPort, HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, and even power delivery in a single cable. On its website, Apple proudly states that it has contributed to the development of a “new universal connectivity standard.” But unlike Lightning, Apple took longer to bring USB-C to its other products, despite being sold as a connector of the future.

In 2016, it was time for the MacBook Pro to get USB-C. In 2018, Apple brought the connector to the MacBook Air and iPad Pro. Now, USB-C is present across the entire line of Macs. As for the iPad, entry-level models are still the only ones that rely on the Lightning connector, although our sources suggest that’s about to change.

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Apple also replaced the Lightning to USB-A cable with a Lightning to USB-C cable. However, its accessories and all iPhone models still use the Lightning connector. On the other hand, since USB-C is an open standard, there are a large number of devices using USB-C on the market today. It has become the new standard for computers, tablets, smartphones and accessories.