13 votes

Apple executive on adoption of USB-C under EU law

27 comments

  1. [22]
    hamstergeddon
    Link
    I'll defend Apple's use of Lightning cable over the former standard of micro-USB any day. Just a vastly superior cable over micro-USB. But USB-C solves the exact same issues that Lightning did and...

    I'll defend Apple's use of Lightning cable over the former standard of micro-USB any day. Just a vastly superior cable over micro-USB. But USB-C solves the exact same issues that Lightning did and it's more ubiquitous and can be used with substantially more devices than Apple's. Shame on Apple for pulling the "but the environment" argument out of their ass like that when none of their devices have replaceable batteries. There's no way that's not insanely more dangerous to the environment than the copper and plastic found in charging cables.

    11 votes
    1. [21]
      NaraVara
      Link Parent
      It also introduces a fair number of issues, like the complete lack of clarity as to whether your cable supports both power AND data transfer, or which specific version of the USB-C spec it's...

      But USB-C solves the exact same issues that Lightning did and it's more ubiquitous and can be used with substantially more devices than Apple's.

      It also introduces a fair number of issues, like the complete lack of clarity as to whether your cable supports both power AND data transfer, or which specific version of the USB-C spec it's running. It's not nearly as backwards compatible as people like to pretend it is.

      If all you care about is a cable for charging then it's fine, but it's not really great at that either because actual charging speeds can vary a decent amount from cable to cable. But there's a decent amount of use cases around data transfer and syncing for which it's about as frustration-free as HDMI (which is, also, very frustrating).

      This article is a decent summary of the issues with it.

      7 votes
      1. [18]
        hungariantoast
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        It's just as easy to buy shitty "Lightning" cables on Amazon that do power only. Even when you do get a proper and certified Lightning cable though, the data transfer speed will almost certainly...

        It's just as easy to buy shitty "Lightning" cables on Amazon that do power only. Even when you do get a proper and certified Lightning cable though, the data transfer speed will almost certainly still be limited to USB 2.0. Some iPad Pro models supported USB 3.0 data transfer (5Gbps). However, that only worked with certain accessories. Now all iPads use USB-C. There was a rumor the iPhone 14 Pro would support USB 3.0 over its Lightning port, but as far as I can tell that didn't turn out to be true.

        So for iPhones, the best version of a Lightning cable you can buy is equivalent to the worst version of USB-C, and USB-C obviously has a much higher ceiling for features.

        It's not nearly as backwards compatible as people like to pretend it is.

        How is it not backwards compatible? I can plug my USB4 cable into any USB-C port and the cable will do everything the port supports. Is that not backwards compatibility?

        10 votes
        1. [17]
          NaraVara
          Link Parent
          Yeah but in the case of USB-C stuff being inconsistent it's reputable, certified cables too. This is because the issue isn't lack of adherence to the spec it's that the spec itself is not well...

          It's just as easy to buy shitty "Lightning" cables on Amazon that do power only.

          Yeah but in the case of USB-C stuff being inconsistent it's reputable, certified cables too. This is because the issue isn't lack of adherence to the spec it's that the spec itself is not well designed for communicating this stuff, like HDMI.

          So for iPhones, the best version of a Lightning cable you can buy is equivalent to the worst version of USB-C, and USB-C obviously has a much higher ceiling for features.

          There's a lot of value in predictability, even if the thing itself is functionally less useful knowing what it will do when you plug it in is worth a lot to most casual users.

          5 votes
          1. [16]
            hungariantoast
            Link Parent
            The specification is a mess, but that doesn't mean it's difficult to go to Amazon and find a USB-C cable that will charge and transfer data from your phone faster than a Lightning cable will. It's...

            The specification is a mess, but that doesn't mean it's difficult to go to Amazon and find a USB-C cable that will charge and transfer data from your phone faster than a Lightning cable will. It's quite difficult to not buy a USB-C cable that supports at least USB 3.0 speeds unless you're looking for something specific, like a 16ft 100W charging cable (ask me how I know).

            So predictability, at least when it comes to the baseline expectations, is not an issue, even for "casual users".

            7 votes
            1. [15]
              NaraVara
              Link Parent
              That's not the issue though. The issue is "I got a new thing -> I plug one of the USB-C cables in my drawer into the thing -> thing doesn't work what gives?" I have this issue with HDMI all the...

              that doesn't mean it's difficult to go to Amazon and find a USB-C cable that will charge and transfer data from your phone faster than a Lightning cable will.

              That's not the issue though. The issue is "I got a new thing -> I plug one of the USB-C cables in my drawer into the thing -> thing doesn't work what gives?" I have this issue with HDMI all the time where there's at least 3 different versions of the spec that are indistinguishable from each other but the older ones won't work for 4k or won't work with ARC. The upshot is people basically need a new HDMI cable any time they buy a new thing because who knows if whatever they have at home will work.

              2 votes
              1. [12]
                hungariantoast
                Link Parent
                I mean, yeah, older cables designed according to one specification will likely not support bandwidth rates of a newer specification that no one had even conceived of when the cable was...

                I mean, yeah, older cables designed according to one specification will likely not support bandwidth rates of a newer specification that no one had even conceived of when the cable was manufactured.

                So if I have a 1080p television, and I replace it with a 4K television, then the cable for the old unit will almost certainly not support the higher resolution of the newer unit. The television might not work at all until I get a sufficient cable.

                USB-C does not have that issue though. If my new iPhone has a magical USB4 port, capable of 40Gbps data transfer and 250W power delivery, and I plug into the phone a $5 USB-C cable I bought at a shopping mall in 2016, the iPhone will still charge. I will still be able to use that cable to transfer data from the phone. It might not transfer as fast, or charge as fast, as the USB4 port on the phone allows, because the cable will be the bottleneck, but the cable will work.

                I am using my iPad Air with some el-cheapo cable I got back in 2016. Works fine.

                (Also, just to be clear, if the iPhone gets a USB-C port, it almost certainly will not be USB4. I doubt it'll be any faster than the bog-standard 10Gbps that's basically the minimum for USB-C cables these days. Still a nice speed upgrade over Lightning though.)

                So, if you're worried that a new USB-C iPhone will require you to get a new USB-C cable just to charge the device at all, or to transfer data at all, that's not going to be the case. Practically any USB-C cable will work.

                If you're worried that you'll have to do a bit of research to find a cable, and charging block, both capable of charging your new USB-C iPhone as fast as possible, or transferring data as fast as possible... that's a fair concern, because the standard is very annoying. However, you already have to do that with Lightning as well. Not all Lightning cables support the same level of power output.

                5 votes
                1. [11]
                  NaraVara
                  Link Parent
                  To be clear, the issue isn't anything any individual has to do, it's what retailers and consumers, writ large, will end up doing as a result of this lack of coordination. If eliminating e-waste is...

                  To be clear, the issue isn't anything any individual has to do, it's what retailers and consumers, writ large, will end up doing as a result of this lack of coordination. If eliminating e-waste is the concern, it's not clear to me that having a mess of a cable/interface standards actually helps that and it doesn't seem like the USB consortium really cares about it either.

                  The regulators are also, basically, obviating the possibility of anyone doing this better. In other words, Apple can't go from lightning to something better than USB-C if they wanted to because whatever they do needs to move at the speed of a consortium and then an incoherent mish-mash of government regulators. Any feature that depends on specific features in the cable are basically written out because there's no real way for end-users to know that this USB-C cable will support it but that USB-C cable won't.

                  It's just bad tech policy to get this nitty gritty with it. It would have worked better to just charge a consumption tax on electronics companies to be earmarked for recollection/recycling programs.

                  3 votes
                  1. [6]
                    skybrian
                    Link Parent
                    I think that's largely a matter of putting the right icons on the cables and making sure people know what they mean. It can be fixed, eventually, and without changing the connector. Having...

                    I think that's largely a matter of putting the right icons on the cables and making sure people know what they mean. It can be fixed, eventually, and without changing the connector.

                    Having different connectors so they don't work at all just seems bad.

                    4 votes
                    1. [5]
                      NaraVara
                      Link Parent
                      You’re gonna make every manufacturer out there label their connectors properly now? If they were inclined I’d think they’d have made it part of the spec, but it’s pretty clear the consortium does...

                      You’re gonna make every manufacturer out there label their connectors properly now? If they were inclined I’d think they’d have made it part of the spec, but it’s pretty clear the consortium does not care about moving things forward beyond the bare minimum at this point.

                      2 votes
                      1. [4]
                        skybrian
                        Link Parent
                        It seems like you've proven to yourself that any improvement to existing standards is impossible. Not sure where to go with that.

                        It seems like you've proven to yourself that any improvement to existing standards is impossible. Not sure where to go with that.

                        7 votes
                        1. [3]
                          NaraVara
                          Link Parent
                          The opposite. There's plenty of room for improvement to existing standards, but not if regulators mandate the use of standards. That strips such of the incentive away from vendors to innovate.

                          The opposite. There's plenty of room for improvement to existing standards, but not if regulators mandate the use of standards. That strips such of the incentive away from vendors to innovate.

                          1 vote
                          1. [2]
                            skybrian
                            Link Parent
                            I guess that depends on how the regulations are done. If it's more of a functional requirement along the lines of "it works with existing cables and devices and provides at least X data transfer...

                            I guess that depends on how the regulations are done. If it's more of a functional requirement along the lines of "it works with existing cables and devices and provides at least X data transfer speed and Y charging power" then I think that leaves lots of room for innovation?

                            3 votes
                            1. NaraVara
                              Link Parent
                              That would have been a much better way to do it, but what they actually mandated was the specific USB-C spec. (Or a rule defined so narrowly that nothing else fits).

                              That would have been a much better way to do it, but what they actually mandated was the specific USB-C spec. (Or a rule defined so narrowly that nothing else fits).

                              2 votes
                  2. [4]
                    hungariantoast
                    Link Parent
                    If I had to predict the future, I would say there probably won't be "something better than USB-C". For what the connector is supposed to accomplish, and considering how much further we could push...

                    If I had to predict the future, I would say there probably won't be "something better than USB-C". For what the connector is supposed to accomplish, and considering how much further we could push it in terms of power delivery and data transfer, by the time the limits of the connector are reached, it'll largely have been replaced by wireless technologies. I genuinely think USB-C is probably the "peak" of consumer physical connectors. For better or worse.

                    Any feature that depends on specific features in the cable are basically written out because there's no real way for end-users to know that this USB-C cable will support it but that USB-C cable won't.

                    That's already not true though. I'm pretty sure every single Mac in the current lineup has a Thunderbolt port on it, which is just a USB-C port with extra capabilities. Apple has no problem developing features for macOS that require, if not necessarily a Thunderbolt cable, at least "advanced USB-C capabilities".

                    Additionally, the iPad Pros have Thunderbolt ports. The M-equipped iPads support extra features via their Thunderbolt/USB-C ports that require specific USB-C features. Apple is already developing features whose successful use depends on the specifications of the cable plugged into the device.

                    Finally, I don't think Apple would not develop a feature just because you would need, for instance, a $60 Thunderbolt cable attached to your iPad Pro to use that feature. I think they would just use that as an opportunity to sell Thunderbolt cables.

                    3 votes
                    1. [3]
                      NaraVara
                      Link Parent
                      Each of those devices sell in numbers that are a fraction of what the iPhone sells in, and for audiences an order of magnitude more technically savvy. And even then it has a lot of issues with...

                      Each of those devices sell in numbers that are a fraction of what the iPhone sells in, and for audiences an order of magnitude more technically savvy. And even then it has a lot of issues with outputting to displays properly with the right color settings, having automatic input switching work, knowing which device is charging/discharging which when you plug two together. (It’s supposed to be the first one plugged in should discharge but I’ve had plenty of cables where it doesn’t work that way).

                      To say it’s the peak of connectors boggles the mind considering how bad it is at the margins. It’s like Bill Gates saying nobody will need more than 250MB of memory. There’s plenty of room for better and consumers should be able to make the trade off if they want. Wireless is not going to ever truly replace a wired connection for everything. In addition to inefficiency in charging, there are some volumes of data transfer that just won’t work wirelessly. The iPhone already shoots 8k video and there is no good way to get that amount of data off the phone. Even with USB-C it would be a bit slow.

                      My analogy to HDMI cables is specifically because that’s another example of a connector that is really bad at it’s job largely due to being bad at communicating what it does.

                      1 vote
                      1. [2]
                        hungariantoast
                        Link Parent
                        Macs and iPads together sell about half as many units as iPhones, as far as I can tell (thankfully Apple just released brand new information). I also seriously doubt the average Mac or iPad...

                        Each of those devices sell in numbers that are a fraction of what the iPhone sells in, and for audiences an order of magnitude more technically savvy.

                        Macs and iPads together sell about half as many units as iPhones, as far as I can tell (thankfully Apple just released brand new information). I also seriously doubt the average Mac or iPad customer is more "technically savvy" than the average iPhone customer, but if you have a way to demonstrate that, I would love to see it.

                        That really isn't relevant though? Like I said earlier, the USB-C port in the iPhone will probably just support a basic set of features, namely 10Gbps data transfer and some amount of power delivery. I doubt it will have DisplayPort Alternate Mode or other features. Because of that, almost any USB-C cable should work fine for using with the iPhone.

                        To say it’s the peak of connectors boggles the mind considering how bad it is at the margins.

                        You think that because you're focusing on edge cases where the specification fails. I am not talking about the specification. I am talking about the physical connector. The hardware. The actual wires, lanes, and pieces of metal and what, within the constraints of physics, can be pushed through it.

                        A decent comparison would be ethernet cables. The original ethernet cable standard supported what? 1Mbps data transfer? Now ethernet cables can support over 40Gbps data transfer, and remain largely backwards compatible. Ethernet is over forty years old.

                        When I say USB-C is the peak of physical connector design, I am not saying it is the best, or that it will always be the best. I am saying that the physical connector has so much headroom for so much bandwidth, so much power delivery, that I doubt the industry will be adopting another standard connector to replace it before everything moves to wireless technologies, because the USB-C connector is "good enough" to also last forty years. The specification might be kind of trash. Half the USB standard might be in desperate need of deprecation. The hardware is pretty great though, and the specification can also be updated (even if right now it's updated in more of a "the beatings will continue until morale improves" kind of sense 😅).

                        Finally, you might say, "well wireless technologies are bad and they'll never be as good as wired", but again, I'm thinking in decades here, so if you're going to say that... I'm gonna have to ask to borrow your crystal ball.

                        4 votes
                        1. NaraVara
                          Link Parent
                          It's almost tautological. The iPhone is a simpler device with a simpler interface. Almost everyone has one or an Android. Many people don't even have primary computers and use the iPhone as one....

                          I also seriously doubt the average Mac or iPad customer is more "technically savvy" than the average iPhone customer, but if you have a way to demonstrate that, I would love to see it.

                          It's almost tautological. The iPhone is a simpler device with a simpler interface. Almost everyone has one or an Android. Many people don't even have primary computers and use the iPhone as one. You need to know much less about how computers work, what a file system is, etc. to operate it. It inherently appeals to less technically savvy people.

                          You think that because you're focusing on edge cases where the specification fails. I am not talking about the specification. I am talking about the physical connector. The hardware. The actual wires, lanes, and pieces of metal and what, within the constraints of physics, can be pushed through it.

                          They're both important though. The specification is what's being mandated, not just the physical elements. I also think the main reason ethernet persists is because most of its regular uses among normal people have been obviated by the use of wireless networking or USB-C based data transfer. Aside from plugging into the router I don't know how many people even realize ethernet can connect devices too anymore. Judging by the absolute dogshit levels of latency coming from seemingly everyone I match against in SFV, I think just about everyone is running their PlayStations off WiFi nowadays despite the wired connection being much cleaner.

                          I also think the iPhone, over the long term, has a lot of potential beyond just being a phone that you need to charge. I think it's eventually going to evolve into people's primary computing device once Apple cracks AR/VR interface conventions. I have no idea what kinds of demands on a connector it will need when that happens and I'm certain the EU regulators don't either.

                          Finally, you might say, "well wireless technologies are bad and they'll never be as good as wired", but again, I'm thinking in decades here, so if you're going to say that... I'm gonna have to ask to borrow your crystal ball.

                          I mean, in this case it's just physics. There's no technology on the horizon that will significantly mitigate the challenges with wireless, I'd be more confident that we're going to shift away from lithium ion batteries over the next few decades than I would be in wireless being usable for power delivery without huge trade-offs in speed and efficiency. I kind of love wireless charging, but I have to admit that it is objectively kind of bad for the environment to be taking a 30%+ efficiency penalty assuming you've lined it up properly.

              2. [2]
                skybrian
                Link Parent
                This attitude of buying new stuff just because you can't be bothered to try the old stuff you already have seems very wasteful. I think you don't get to complain about e-waste if you do that.

                This attitude of buying new stuff just because you can't be bothered to try the old stuff you already have seems very wasteful. I think you don't get to complain about e-waste if you do that.

                3 votes
                1. NaraVara
                  Link Parent
                  And yet it is what people and manufacturers will end up doing in response to the constraint. On an individual level most people don't really care about e-waste, it's a problem that only becomes a...

                  I think you don't get to complain about e-waste if you do that.

                  And yet it is what people and manufacturers will end up doing in response to the constraint. On an individual level most people don't really care about e-waste, it's a problem that only becomes a problem at the level of aggregate behavior.

                  3 votes
      2. [2]
        NoblePath
        Link Parent
        Interesting article. More information than I can ever usefully use, but I'm a nerd and read these things for entertainment purposes. @hungariantoast compatibility, whether backwards, forwards, or...

        Interesting article. More information than I can ever usefully use, but I'm a nerd and read these things for entertainment purposes.

        @hungariantoast compatibility, whether backwards, forwards, or cross, depends on the port and the cable, at least according to the article. It does appear than in most cases any usb-c connection, up to a certain cable length, can support all the features of usb 3, which would make it backward compatible in my book. You do have to have a c to a adapter in there somewhere, though.

        I will add my anecdote: Most of my lightning cables fail after a fairly short period of time. I have never had a usb c or magsafe cable fail (although a couple magsafe cables frayed). I have had usb a (usb-2) ports fail.

        It would seem the only way to alleviate the problems, is to make sure every usb-c cable and port does everything, which gets darn expensive and wasteful. Note that this is a problem with USB-A cables too.

        Still, I think the EU made the right move. I suspect Apple has a next-gen connector it wanted to introduce once it had extracted all value from lightning it could, and now may lose the chance. Or they want 100% wireless phones.

        2 votes
        1. NaraVara
          Link Parent
          I doubt it. Their real issue is that no matter when people switch they will complain about the switch. I guarantee you the moaning that will follow a switch to USB-C from lightning will make the...

          Still, I think the EU made the right move. I suspect Apple has a next-gen connector it wanted to introduce once it had extracted all value from lightning it could, and now may lose the chance. Or they want 100% wireless phones.

          I doubt it. Their real issue is that no matter when people switch they will complain about the switch. I guarantee you the moaning that will follow a switch to USB-C from lightning will make the complaints from USB-C advocates sound like nothing once the normies who don't pay attention to tech news buy their first non-lightning phone and get it home. I'm thinking they were going to transition it to something based on USB-C, but not specifically USB-C the way the AirPods support Bluetooth. They'll work on anything using Bluetooth, but when connected to an Apple device they can do additional cool things.

          2 votes
  2. [5]
    Grzmot
    Link
    TL;DW: They're not happy about it and claiming that it's not gonna be great for the environment if we switch to a standardized port because we use detachable cables for this reason and they are...

    TL;DW: They're not happy about it and claiming that it's not gonna be great for the environment if we switch to a standardized port because we use detachable cables for this reason and they are all already out there. They also said that they prefer if lawmakers tell them what needs to be accomplished and letting the companies figure that out, which is how they got to detachable cables from the charger, which according to the SVP of marketing at Apple, fixes this issue. Somehow. Don't ask me how.

    Interesting take. And they carefully avoided giving an answer about if they were gonna do it and when. Which makes sense. The justification does not, but here we are.

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      Weldawadyathink
      Link Parent
      Ummm… isn’t that what they did? As I understand it, the law is not “make usb c standard”, it is “have a standard that the industry all agrees to”. And as the only industry group making a standard...

      they prefer if lawmakers tell them what needs to be accomplished and letting the companies figure that out

      Ummm… isn’t that what they did? As I understand it, the law is not “make usb c standard”, it is “have a standard that the industry all agrees to”. And as the only industry group making a standard connector that could fit the bill, the USB consortium was given control of the project. So they did tell the industry what needs to happen and let the industry figure itself out. It’s just that the industry figured itself out a long time ago and apple hasn’t gotten on the train yet.

      Also, apple is a member of the USB consortium, and helped design usb c and thunderbolt. Apple has used usb c to the exclusion of other ports for years on their laptops. They are rolling them out to the entire iPad lineup. I would say this is enough evidence to count as apple giving tacit approval of the switch to usb c, despite what bullshit they say.

      9 votes
      1. Adys
        Link Parent
        And not just that … this was a very very long time coming. The EU gave years of heads up to apple that if they don’t use standard ports, a law will make them do it. Ridiculously arrogant statement.

        And not just that … this was a very very long time coming. The EU gave years of heads up to apple that if they don’t use standard ports, a law will make them do it.

        Ridiculously arrogant statement.

        5 votes
    2. [2]
      vord
      Link Parent
      If the issue was purely "cable connector goes bad and renders brick useless," I guess that counts. But thanks to USB-C, I 'm still using the charger that came with my wife's Pixel 2, long after...

      Somehow. Don't ask me how.

      If the issue was purely "cable connector goes bad and renders brick useless," I guess that counts.

      But thanks to USB-C, I 'm still using the charger that came with my wife's Pixel 2, long after the phone itself. And it has a detachable cable too!

      They also said that they prefer if lawmakers tell them what needs to be accomplished and letting the companies figure that out.

      Here, I'll take a stab: "In effort to reduce needless waste, all charging mechanisms must not be encumbered by patents, and should remain forward and backward compatible for at least 10 years." I like the idea of forcing an additional VAT for all devices sold by company that does not comply.

      3 votes
      1. NoblePath
        Link Parent
        I mean, patent and copyright reform (say, back to the way it was in 1889) would really solve a lot of problems. The current regime is the technology and media equivalent to drug prohibition. Makes...

        I mean, patent and copyright reform (say, back to the way it was in 1889) would really solve a lot of problems. The current regime is the technology and media equivalent to drug prohibition. Makes no real moral sense, causes regular folks a lot of headache, and makes a few unsavory characters really rich.

        4 votes