The iPhone 15 can charge your AirPods - but there may be a catch

Apple's move to USB-C in the iPhone finally brings a feature that Android users have enjoyed for ages

Apple iPhone 15 Pro
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple's move to USB-C in the new iPhone 15 range has caused much amusement in Android land, with Apple doing the Apple thing of acting like it invented technology everybody else has been using for years: USB-C has been around since 2014, which Apple failed to mention in its keynote. But while it's fun to be snarky about Apple's marketing, it does mean that Apple users can finally get features that the best Android phones have been delivering for years now – such as reverse charging.

Now that the iPhone 15 has USB-C, you can use it to charge your AirPods earbuds or your Apple Watch. There is a catch, but it's a relatively small one.

How do you charge AirPods or Apple Watch from the iPhone 15?

All you need is a USB-C cable with either a USB-C connector on the other end (to charge your new USB-C AirPods Pro) or Apple's wireless charging puck (for Apple Watch). Plug one end into your iPhone and then connect or place your earbuds or Watch and your phone will start charging them.

As for the catch, it's currently unclear whether you can use a USB-C to Lightning cable to charge existing AirPods. Lightning transfers power, of course, so there's no obvious technical reason why you shouldn't be able to; unless Apple has deliberately turned that option off, you should be able to charge your AirPods with a USB-C to Lightning cable. However, until Apple clarifies that or people get the iPhone 15 in their hands and try it, we won't know for sure.

Even if Apple isn't playing nice, that doesn't mean you need to rush out to buy the revamped USB-C AirPods Pro 2. The wireless charging case of the Lightning version supports wireless charging via the Apple Watch puck, so you can use that to top up your earbuds.

As with the iPad, the move to USB-C is about more than just charging: it enables you to connect all kinds of devices, and in the case of the Pro and Pro Max to get USB 3 data transfer speeds too. That's going to be a boon for video recording, especially if you don't shell out for the iPhones with the most storage: being able to connect a fast external drive will be enormously handy for hi-res video and other storage intensive tasks.

Carrie Marshall

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 more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series; her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, was shortlisted for the British Book Awards. When she’s not scribbling, Carrie is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind (unquietmindmusic).