Kuo: Standard ‌iPhone 15‌ models limited to USB 2.0 speeds, the same as Lightning

Only the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max will offer high-speed data transfer over the USB-C protocol, with non-Pro models limited to USB 2.0 speeds.

A photograph focused on Apple's Lightning to USB-C cable being held in front of the camera, with an iPhone laid on a table blurred out in the background
  • What’s happening? The next iPhone will ditch Lightning and adopt USB-C but only the iPhone 15 Pros will support much higher transfer speeds.
  • Why care? Would-be buyers of non-Pro iPhones should be aware that they won’t feel any marked difference in transfer speeds despite having a USB-C port.
  • What to do? Continue keeping tabs on the Apple rumor mill.

Data transfer speeds of the iPhone 15 Pros using a wired connection may be significantly improved if reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is correct.

Kuo on Twitter shared his latest prediction for Apple’s 2023 iPhone lineup. According to his sources in Apple’s supply chain, all 2023 iPhones will ditch Lightning and adopt USB-C but only the Pro-branded models will support the high transfer speeds afforded by USB-C. Read: How to share Wi-Fi passwords from iPhone to Android

Regular (non-Pro) iPhone 15 models, he said, will be limited to USB 2.0 speeds.

In other words, you’ll need to opt for an iPhone 15 Pro or iPhone 15 Pro Max model to transfer files over the wire much faster than you’ve been able with Lightning. We have no reasons to challenge Kuo’s prediction on this because the tenth-generation iPad is also restricted to USB 2.0 data speeds despite adopting USB-C.

Transfer speeds: Lightning vs. USB 3.2 vs. Thunderbolt 3

“I predict that iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max will support at least USB 3.2 or Thunderbolt 3,” Kuo writes. If true, expect a significantly improved wired transmission and video output. “This spec upgrade means the wired transfer and video output user experience will significantly improve,” he explains.

All Lightning iPhones are limited to USB 2.0 transfer speeds of up to 480Mb/s, which works out to sixty megabytes per second. You can test this be connecting your iPhone to a computer and transferring a one-gigabyte file to the phone over the wired connection—it will take up to twenty seconds for the transfer to finish.

By comparison, USB 3.2 maxes out at 20GB/s or up to 2.5 gigabytes per second. The same one-gigabyte file would take less than a second to transfer via USB 3.2. Thunderbolt 3 doubles the transfer speed to 40Gb/s or five gigabytes per second. In other words: Thunderbolt 3 could transfer five one-gigabyte files in just one second.

As you can clearly see for yourself, switching to the high-speed USB 3.2 or even Thunderbolt 3 protocol should give the iPhone 15 Pros an edge over competing devices—in the Android world, almost all devices only support USB 2.0.

Why is Apple ditching Lightning?

Apple introduced the proprietary Lightning connector more than a decade ago. As part of Apple’s Made for iOS certification, accessory makers pay Apple a fee to use Lightning in their products, so Lighting has been profitable in that regard.

It’s in Apple’s interest to hold on to Lightning for as long as possible, which it has been doing. Apple would have continued to drag its feet with USB-C adoption for years were it not for new regulations in the European Union.

Under the new rules, makers of consumer electronics selling their products in Europe must adopt a common charging standard (USB-C) by the end of 2024 to simplify life for the consumer and help reduce the amount of electronic waste.

Apple is unlikely to get smart and start selling USB-C iPhones in Europe and Lightning ones in the rest of the world. Lightning had a good run, but USB-C is the industry standard that will make iPhones compatible with most chargers.