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Apple is set to unveil its new iPhone 15 lineup next Tuesday, which will herald the final end for the proprietary Lightning port that has graced the bottom of the iPhone for the past ten years.
While nothing is certain until Apple takes the stage, every leaker, analyst, and other part of the rumor mill concur that this will be the year that Apple switches the iPhone to using a USB-C port. With the European Union mandating a common charging standard by the end of 2024, Apple has no choice but to bow to the inevitable, and it may as well get ahead of the game.
While the Lightning port is still present in a handful of Apple accessories, once the iPhone makes the switch to USB-C, it won’t make nearly as much sense for companion devices like AirPods to continue to use that port. Analysts have long predicted that Apple will be all-in on USB-C by 2024, and recent reports have suggested that Apple’s AirPods will be the first to make the switch.
Since Apple’s standard AirPods are due for a refresh, it’s likely we’ll see a new set of “AirPods 4” announced alongside the iPhone family next week. The current “AirPods 3” were released in 2021 and lack Apple’s latest H2 chip necessary to power most of the fun new AirPods-related features coming in iOS 17.
However, the AirPods Pro are a different matter. The current second-generation model came out last fall alongside the iPhone 14 lineup — and they’re fully supported by iOS 17. In fact, they’re the only AirPods that are right now. In a sense, AirPods Pro users will get a significant upgrade from the software, which means there’s even less of a reason to update the hardware.
So, it’s not reasonable to assume we’ll be seeing a significantly refreshed version of these. While sources suggest the AirPods Pro will get the USB-C treatment, there’s a good chance that’s all they’ll get, and Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman concurs.
In his latest Power On newsletter, Gurman points out how Apple plans to position the switch to USB-C as a win — not at all surprising for a company that prefers to operate from a position of strength and likely a big part of why it’s making the change now rather than next year. It’s doubtful that Apple likes the idea, but it’s certainly not going to admit that it was forced to make such a change.
As part of Apple’s sunny optimism about stepping into the brave new world of USB-C, Gurman says it will refresh the AirPods Pro with a USB-C charging case in the package. However, the new case will be the only change, with the AirPods Pro earbuds remaining identical to the ones that are on the market now.
That’s not surprising when you remember that Apple did this when it added MagSafe charging to the AirPods family two years ago. When Apple released the AirPods 3 with MagSafe compatibility, it wasn’t about to leave the more premium AirPods Pro out of the party, so it changed up the case in the package to include a magnetic version that could attach to a MagSafe charger. However, the first-generation AirPods Pro inside the case remained the same, and even the new MagSafe case didn’t offer any faster charging capabilities.
So, Apple will likely do the same with the AirPods Pro 2 this year. In the next few weeks, Apple Stores will likely quietly begin selling the same AirPods Pro, at the same price, with a USB-C case inside the box instead of a Lightning one. Whether the case will be sold separately for existing AirPods Pro users is another question; Apple never did that with the MagSafe case, but that was arguably a far less necessary upgrade. With the iPhone 15 switching to USB-C, it would be a shame if folks still needed to carry a Lightning cable around just to charge their AirPods.
[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]