USB-C is the Biggest Improvement the iPhone Has Ever Seen

Ah, that new iPhone smell is in the air, which means two things. Autumn, probably the best season for photography, is just around the corner. And two, Apple has stoked its hype train’s engine and sent it roaring down the tracks, spewing buzzwords and fancy graphics at everyone it passes.

I don’t intend to get in the hype train’s way; I have already prepared my iPhone Upgrade Program account and will order an iPhone 15 Pro Max in natural titanium (LINK) on Friday morning. However, I do think that Apple is hyping the wrong stuff.

While I have been a fully committed (“indoctrinated”) Apple user since the Mac OS 9 days, I often criticize the company and its decisions. Arguably, because I am so heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, I am especially harsh regarding Apple.

USB-C is the biggest improvement ever to iPhone

Apple’s Troubled Relationship With Professionals is Back on Track

The company’s numerous “form over function” design decisions have caused me significant irritation over the years.

USB-C is the biggest improvement ever to iPhone
The Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pro generation was a low point for Apple. A stupid feature that looks cool and does nothing? Check. A keyboard so over-engineered that it is actually miserable to use? Check. Fancy chassis so thin that the computer gets too hot to perform work? You betcha. Thankfully, Apple’s latest MacBook Pro generation is superb, and the Touch Bar is just a distant, painful memory.

My Touch Bar MacBook Pro is the worst computer I have ever owned. My “trash can” Mac Pro avoids this unfortunate position only because it has worked for many years, something my poor MacBook Pro couldn’t achieve.

However, I criticize Apple because the company can — and often does — make superb products that make my life easier and more enjoyable. When Apple is at its best, its products look good and work well.

There was a spell where Apple seemingly ignored its power users in favor of sleek form-forward products that were far more “cool” than useful.

Fortunately, in the last few years, especially with its Apple Silicon computers, Apple has returned to its former glory of easy-to-use, powerful products with relatively outstanding build quality and design. Apple has returned the Mac to addressing a professional audience, which is fantastic.

USB-C is the biggest improvement ever to iPhone
iPhone 15 Pro

Hello, USB-C: iPhone Pro Finally Gets Pro-Level Connection

Now, it is time for the iPhone to do the same.

With yesterday’s Apple Event, Apple did what it does every September and unveiled new iPhones.

Throughout the roughly 90-minute pre-recorded press event, Apple showed off its sleek new Apple Watch, colorful iPhone 15 with its new 48-megapixel main camera, and the titanium iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max.

USB-C is the biggest improvement ever to iPhone

Among the numerous design changes featured in the iPhone 15 family of smartphones, the most significant is the move to USB-C.

iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max

Apple was dragged to this “new” port, kicking and screaming, but it got there. It’s about time, too, because the iPad Pro has been on team USB-C for years. The Mac lineup, many non-Apple headphones, probably every Windows device, the Nintendo Switch, and nearly all mirrorless cameras released in the last few years, are entirely on board with USB-C too.

On the one hand, USB-C is obviously better because anytime a company moves away from proprietary technology, customers win. Looking at you, Sony Memory Stick.

USB-C is the biggest improvement ever to iPhone

On the other hand, at least for the iPhone 15 Pro Max, the move to USB-C enables photographers and videographers to take full advantage of their smartphone’s impressive capabilities. For years, many of the features that Apple has touted on its flagship “Pro” phones have been hamstrung, at least in part, by the Lightning port. Lightning connectors are not that fast.

The iPhone 14 Pro, Apple’s first phone to sport a 48-megapixel sensor and shoot Apple ProRAW photos, is limited to USB 2.0 speeds via its Lightning connector. That means the iPhone 14 Pro offloads files at rates up to 480 Mbps. Unfortunately, the vanilla iPhone 15 smartphone still transfers at these speeds because its USB-C port is USB 2.

While some Lightning connectors, such as the one on the original iPad Pro in 2015, supported USB 3.0 standards and could transfer at rates up to 5 Gbps, the iPhone family has been stuck in the (distant) past regarding cable speeds.

USB-C is the biggest improvement ever to iPhone

20x Faster Connection

iPhone 15 Pro, on the other hand, supports USB 3 via its new USB-C port for speeds up to 10 Gbps, which is more than 20 times faster than the iPhone 14 Pro achieved via its Lightning connector.

20 times. That sort of performance gain, generation over generation, is practically unheard of in technology.

To put it into perspective, the iPhone 15 Pro’s powerful new 3-nanometer process A17 Pro chip has a CPU about 10% faster than the iPhone 14 Pro’s A16 chip.

Thanks to its production process, the new A17 Pro is a big deal in the chip-making industry. And even with that chip being a relatively huge achievement, its performance gains are incremental.

You must also scroll pretty far down on Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro product page to see any mention of USB-C and improved transfer performance. You must go beyond the titanium, the action button, the processor, the video gaming performance, and the cameras to even see the new USB-C port at all. I get it, but the marketing material undercuts just how big of a deal USB-C is.

The staggering performance gains made possible by the iPhone 15 Pro’s USB-C port have flown under the radar. Sure, people are talking about USB-C, but mostly because everyone loves needing fewer cables and hates proprietary connections.

But, at least with the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max, USB-C means much more than cable convenience.

USB-C is the biggest improvement ever to iPhone
The black USB 3-capable Thunderbolt 4 cable seen here is not included with the iPhone 15 Pro. Apple will sell you one for $69.

What Does USB-C Mean for Photographers and Videographers?

The fast USB-C port means that photographers can shoot tethered with Capture One. It means that videographers can record 4K/60p ProRes video directly to an external recorder connected to their phone. USB-C means that people can transfer hefty Apple ProRAW files and huge video clips back and forth from smartphone to computer so much faster. All without annoying adapters and dongles.

For pro users, especially those who take full advantage of the impressive and sophisticated photo and video features in the iPhone 15 Pro, the mobile workflow is so much better than it was a year ago with the iPhone 14 Pro. Of course, in somewhat typical Apple fashion, TechCrunch notes that the cable that you need for 10Gbps speeds is not included with the iPhone, but Apple will sell it to you for $69. Fortunately, most power users should have a fast USB-C cable rated for 10Gbps transfer speeds kicking around.

USB-C is the biggest improvement ever to iPhone
Tethered shooting with an iPhone and Capture One? Yes, please.

For enthusiasts and pros alike, USB-C is perhaps the most meaningful upgrade that Apple has ever introduced in its iPhone lineup. It will empower creators in vital ways.

Image credits: Apple