Apple’s wildly popular AirPods may finally ditch their proprietary Lightning port in favor of the more universal USB-C connector, according to a new prediction by respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
In a research note obtained by MacRumors, Kuo states that Apple plans to launch the new AirPods Pro with a USB-C charging case either later this year or in early 2024. This long-awaited move would allow AirPods to charge via the same cables used by most Android phones and newer iPads and MacBooks, eliminating the need for a separate Lightning cable just for AirPods.
Since 2016, all AirPods models have been charged via Apple’s Lightning port. But as most electronics gravitate toward USB-C, AirPods have become an increasingly conspicuous holdout. A USB-C AirPods case would enable faster charging, and easier connectivity with Macs and iPads, and bring AirPods up to speed with the rest of the tech world.
Kuo did not indicate whether non-Pro AirPods would also transition to USB-C. And despite the momentum toward USB-C, some reasons remain for Apple to stick with Lightning. AirPods’ huge iPhone user base relies on Lightning cables. Switching AirPods to USB-C would create headaches for iPhone owners wanting to charge both devices from the same cable.
Additionally, Lightning enables Apple to control the AirPods ecosystem through proprietary chips, lucrative licensing fees, and certification processes. Losing Lightning could hurt Apple’s bottom line and give them less oversight over AirPods accessories.
So this rumored USB-C shift is not guaranteed. Apple may continue to offer both options like they currently do with Lightning and MagSafe charging cases. Or, they could leapfrog cables entirely, incorporating wireless charging into AirPods.
Regardless, we should know soon. Apple’s annual September event is reportedly planned for September 12th, where they’ll likely unveil the AirPods Pro 2 alongside the iPhone 15 lineup. Until then, it’s anyone’s guess whether ubiquitous USB-C charging finally comes to Apple’s earbuds. But after years of status quo, AirPods may be going cord-free in more ways than one.