Does wireless charging excuse Apple not using USB-C?

For almost as long as Apple has been making mobile devices — whether it’s iPods, iPhones, or iPads — the company has clung to its own charging ports, dating back to the introduction of the 30-pin dock connector in 2003 with the third-generation iPod. But for the first time this year, Apple has embraced a universal charging standard on its latest devices. (No, the iPhone X and iPhone 8 aren’t switching to USB-C. They still use Lightning ports.) But by adding wireless Qi charging to its latest devices, Apple may have done the next best thing.

Until now, Apple hasn’t offered wireless charging for its devices, with the limited exception of the Apple Watch, which requires a proprietary cable, and AirPods, which require a proprietary case. But with the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, Apple has finally caught up with the rest of the mobile phone industry in adding a standardized wireless charging method to its flagship devices.

The ramifications of that are kind of big. Because almost every company in the mobile industry uses Qi, you can now use the same charger on your iPhone 8 or iPhone X as you do on your Samsung Galaxy Note 8 or LG V30. Have a friend who needs to recharge their phone? As long as their phone supports wireless charging, your “iPhone charger” will work now. It’s the kind of cross-compatibility that we rarely get to see between Apple’s products and the rest of the industry. Plus, since Qi charging has been around for so long, there’s a whole ecosystem of devices that support it at low prices. You can get a good Qi-compatible wireless charger for less than the cost of a Lightning cable brought from Apple. And unlike that pricey cable, it can charge most major flagship phones.

It’s still frustrating that Apple is sticking to Lightning cables for all of its phones, especially when the future of charging and connectivity increasingly looks like USB-C. And after the taste of universal support that wireless charging is bringing, it’s nice to imagine a future where you can also use the same cables to charge your new iPhone as you do your laptop (like, say, Apple’s MacBook or MacBook Pro, both of which already use USB-C) or other mobile devices.

Sadly, that still seems unlikely, seeing as Apple makes money off of every Lightning cable and accessory sold by way of licensing fees from the MFi accessory program. So unless the company decides that it suddenly hates money, chances are we won’t see a USB-C iPhone or iPad anytime soon.

On the flip side, Apple could easily have tried to force its own charging spec on the world, limiting iPhone users to its own proprietary charging pads and licensing its tech through the same MFi program that it uses for Lightning.

Even though it’s not the universal standard we might have hoped for, wireless Qi charging marks the first time that you can share a charger between an Android phone and an iPhone. And that’s at least a step in the right direction, even if we’re still stuck with Lightning.