Apple needs to radically redesign the iPhone – and the clock is ticking

Apple has to make this change before the end of 2024, and it might bring it in well before then

Apple iPhone 13
(Image credit: Future)

Get ready to say goodbye to the Lightning adapter in the iPhone 16, and possibly even the iPhone 14 or 15. New EU regulations, if approved, will mean that all smartphones sold in the European Union must have USB-C charging ports by the end of 2024, and that includes iPhones.

What's more, Apple can't dodge the rules with a dongle, either: if the regulations are approved by the European Council and European Parliament, which is very likely, any phone with a wired charger must be USB-C. The goal is to reduce electronic waste from unnecessary chargers and cables.

Apple's already working on it. Well connected industry analysts Ming-Chi Kuo and Mark Gurman have both reported on Apple testing USB-C iPhones, and current rumours suggest we'll see the devices in 2023 with the launch of the iPhone 15. That's assuming the iPhone 15 has a charging port at all. 

Apple USB-C Lightning cable

(Image credit: Apple)

Why this EU regulation affects everyone everywhere all of the time

The EU can't compel companies to change the way they do things if they're not based in the European Union. But it can compel them to change the products they sell in the EU – so if Apple wants to continue selling iPhones in Europe, it'll need to have USB-C for wired charging. And Apple does want to continue selling iPhones in Europe, because it's a huge market. 

Although the UK won't be following the EU's lead – the BBC reports that our politicians appear to be taking a brave stand against the tyranny of sensible chargers because it'll "stifle innovation", apparently – it will apply in Northern Ireland, and any changes Apple makes are likely to be global anyway. So we'll be getting USB-C whether the UK government likes it or not.

It'll be interesting to see what Apple does here, because it's possible that Apple might do to the wired charger what it did to the headphone jack in the iPhone 7 and go all-in on wireless everything. I don't think it will, not least because there's a lot of wired CarPlay vehicles and wired iPhone accessories out there, but with Apple anything's possible – and with earbuds and headphones such as AirPods, AirPods Pro and AirPods Max already connecting wirelessly, it's hardly an outlandish idea. I can't remember the last time I plugged the lightning cable into my MagSafe-enabled iPhone 13. While Apple has already embraced USB-C for its MacBooks and recent iPads, it might decide to cut the cables completely when it comes to iPhone.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).