The iPhone 15 range is widely expected to launch with USB-C. This transition has been welcomed by many, but now a surprising new leak claims it won’t be USB-C as you know it.
According to iPhone leak hub Weibo (via MacRumors), Apple plans to integrate a Lightning-like authenticator chip into the USB-C ports of all iPhone 15 models. And if the company follows the playbook it used for Lighting, expect this to add significant cost to all iPhone 15 accessories and potentially even restrict performance and functionality.
First introduced with Lightning in 2012, the authenticator chip confirms accessories connected to the port have been licensed by Apple’s in-house ‘MFi’ (Made for iPhone/iPad) Program. Royalties associated with MFi certification are not disclosed but were previously reported as $4 per connector. Failure to obtain certification can result in reduced performance and even pop-up warnings on iPhones when accessories are connected — not a good look for the manufacturer.
Industry opinion has long argued that the control and financial benefits of the MFi Program meant Apple would never adopt USB-C on the iPhone. But integrating an authenticator chip into the port changes that, allowing Apple to comply with international law while maintaining an iron grip on accessory makers and licensing fees.
Moreover, Apple would have a strong argument for all this financial and functional control. Despite launching in 2014, poor USB-C cables can still be dangerous, so Apple can market the chip as protecting both you and your shiny new iPhone 15. Subsequently, any manufacturer without an MFi license would look like they have something to hide.
It is worth noting that Apple didn’t add an authenticator chip to the iPad or MacBook ranges when those lines transitioned to USB-C. Then again, those ranges don’t come close to generating the same revenue as iPhones, and they can always follow after the iPhone — arguably its most sticky product — breaks the ground.
If the leak is correct, this will be another monetization masterstroke from Apple. Daring to be bolder than its rivals, while likely receiving praise for protecting users. Well played, Apple, well played.
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