Why Apple should give older iPhones a USB-C upgrade too

By Microsoft 5 Min Read


There have been so many pieces of evidence to support/definitively confirm Apple’s imminent switch from Lightning to USB-C on the iPhone lately (exhibit A; exhibit B) that readers could be forgiven for growing rather bored of the subject. But a new report suggests the company could be planning something rather more unexpected.

While looking through the code of tvOS 17.0’s fifth beta last week, an eagle-eyed Apple developer (via BGR) spotted references to a total of six unidentified iPhones:


Four of these, needless to say, will be entirely new models set for release this fall. The iPhone 15 and 15 Plus, and the 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max. But the first two models on the list remain a mystery.

A few theories have done the rounds since Aaron made the discovery, with some more plausible than others. These may, rather prosaically, be testing prototypes for internal use only. One more optimistic commenter thinks we’re about to see the iPhone SE 4 (extremely unlikely ahead of spring 2024 at the earliest, and probably not until 2025); while an extreme optimist reckons Apple is about to belatedly launch an iPhone 14 mini… which would be interesting, for sure, but almost certainly isn’t the case.

A more convincing but still intriguing theory is that iPhone14,1 and iPhone14,9 refer to updated versions of existing phones: most likely the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus but with USB-C ports instead of Lightning. That largely fits with past behavior; Apple habitually keeps the cheaper versions of the previous year’s phones on sale after the launch of a new generation, while discontinuing the Pro models. The company currently sells the iPhone 13 mini and 13 from 2021, and the iPhone 12 from 2020. Logically, in other words, at least one of the 14-series will still be on sale even after the launch of the iPhone 16 in 2024, at which point the EU’s new USB-C regulations will have come into effect.

Taking a subtly different line, some pundits have suggested that, rather than the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus, the new codes could refer to the iPhone 14 and the iPhone 13. After all, both generations will still be represented in the Apple Store after the iPhone 15 launch, and the company may wish to keep thing simple for customers. Of course, a USB-C port is unlikely to add any functionality to older iPhones, but it would be nice to be able to say that all iPhones now come with USB-C ports.

But if that’s the plan, what about the iPhone SE from 2022, which we don’t expect to be discontinued for more than a year? There’s no sign of a codename for a USB-C version of that. For that matter, it would still be strange for Apple not to bother making a new code for the USB-C version of the 14 Plus, since Plus and Max models normally get their own designation. The lack of a new designator for the SE is odd, so perhaps it will be refreshed sooner than we thought.

No, the most likely solution to the mystery is that Apple is focusing on the handsets that will still be on sale after the EU regulations kick in, which would include at least some of the 14-series but not the 13-series. This will create a little confusion for the coming year, during which customers will face a choice between older Lightning iPhones and newer USB-C ones, but it’s not like Apple has been scared of confusion in the past; the iPad was split between those two standards for years (and still is, if you include the still-available ninth-gen iPad).

The iPhone 15 is expected to launch on September 12 or 13. For all the latest news and rumors, check our regularly updated iPhone 15 superguide.

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