As someone who has written about the joys of USB-C for nearly a decade (for instance, in “USBefuddled: Untangling the Rat’s Nest of USB-C Standards and Cables,” 3 December 2021), it has been a delight to watch the 180°-reversible, high-speed, high-wattage cable standard march inexorably across the tech landscape, culminating with the iPhone 15 series.
The USB-C cable’s reversible orientation has always been a plus compared to USB Type-A (which apparently could have been reversible) and the wonky near-trapezoid of USB Micro Type-B. USB-C is also more robust—it’s less likely to snap or bend. Couple that with the ability to handle at least 60 watts and now up to 240W with the latest standards, and what’s not to like? (Thunderbolt 4, which uses the USB-C connector, demands a minimum cable wattage capability of 100W.)
If you buy one of the iPhone 15 models, you may find yourself digging around for the right cable or adapter to replace or complement the Lightning options you used in the past. (At least you won’t be stuck with unusable 30-pin-connected speaker systems orphaned in the Lightning transition a decade ago.) Avoid Apple’s $29 USB-C to Lightning adapter. It’s more expensive than most 2-foot-long cables with USB-C plugs on both ends rated for Thunderbolt 4/USB4 speeds of 40 Gbps and 100W.
Instead, I recommend upgrading cables instead of adding adapters. Why keep using a USB Type-A to Lightning cable for charging when you could get a USB Type-A to USB-C replacement for under $10? Or, if adapters still appeal, I encourage you to pick up a well-reviewed six-pack of Lightning, Type-A, and USB-C nubbin adapters for under $10. Carefully read reviews for third-party USB cables and adapters for comments about quality and overheating because not all meet the kind of standards Apple requires of Lightning-based products using the MFi branding and certification program.
Watch out for data transfer speeds: some Lightning adapters are designed solely to pass power, and then only at normal (not fast) charging speeds—that’s right: they pass no data whatsoever. Only somewhat better are the many charging-oriented USB-C cables that transfer data at only USB 2.0 rates of 480 Mbps. They include Apple’s new 240W USB-C Charge Cable and the USB-C cable that comes with every model of iPhone 15. If you buy an iPhone 15 or iPhone 15 Plus, the USB-C connection maxes out at the USB 2.0 rate of 480 Mbps, so a cheaper cable will suit.
However, with an iPhone 15 Pro or iPhone 15 Pro Max, Apple provides 10 Gbps USB 3 support (technically, USB 3.2 Gen 2), which requires a cable that says it includes USB 3 support (all USB-C USB 3 cables start at 10 Gbps) or a Thunderbolt 4/USB4 cable, which are backward compatible with Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3. For help identifying USB cable capabilities, see “USB Simplifies Branding but Reintroduces Active Cables” (29 September 2022). I recommend OWC’s lineup of Thunderbolt 4/USB4 cables, which are well-made and affordable at every length. (If you’re dying to know more about the ins and outs of USB and Thunderbolt, particularly matching an appropriate cable, speed, and power, consult my book Take Control of Untangling Connections.)
You may find the greatest variability when it comes to chargers. Depending on the devices you want to power with a single charger, you may be well served with one that’s at least 20W, the minimum required for fast-charging an iPhone. I’ve long been fond of Anker’s chargers and USB batteries, and the $19.99 foldable-plug Nano 3 30W charger is powerful enough to charge an iPhone, iPad, or MacBook Air. The company also offers more expensive, high-wattage chargers, some with multiple ports, that rely on GaN (gallium nitride) semiconductors that perform well at high temperatures, enabling higher-powered chargers in compact form factors.
The joy of moving entirely to USB-C comes in packing just a single charger and a cable or two when you leave your home or office with power-hungry tech gear in your bag.