How Apple's worst value in a product will be a bestseller in 2023

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in iPhone
Apple's 20W USB-C charger hasn't been updated since its 2020 debut, yet the company expects to sell tens of millions of new ones on the heels of its iPhone 15 launch. Though, probably not for the reason you think.

Apple's 20W charger could benefit from the USB-C MFi program
Apple's 20W charger could benefit from the USB-C MFi program


The entire iPhone 15 lineup is expected to move to USB-C to comply with regulatory pressure. This move will require upgraders to rethink their charging setups, and Apple is counting on it.

A supply chain report from Ming-Chi Kuo shows Apple has increased orders for its 20W USB-C charger by 120% through the second and third quarter of 2023. This increase coincides with the September iPhone launch and an approximate 70 million unit charger shipment during the fourth quarter.

Apple sells the 20W USB-C charger in its stores and through various retailers. It costs $19 and is bulky when compared to Gallium Nitride units. If you can completely ignore the value of good and safe engineering, it is among the worst values per port on the market.

There are several reasons why Apple would expect a surge in sales of its USB-C charger. Rumors suggest the company may entice customers to adopt specific accessories via its Made For iPhone (MFi) program, but we're not so sure.

Let's examine what Kuo's report suggests and why Apple would expect such a surge in sales when the 20W charger has existed since 2020.

iPhone 15 and the MFi problem

The MFi program has evolved over the years to be more than a simple Lightning accessory licensing program. It is used for AirPlay, CarPlay, Find My, Homekit, and more.

{"@context":"https://schema.org/","@type":"VideoObject","name":"iPhone 15 Will Have a NEW Proprietary Port!","description":"Multiple sources have corroborated rumors that Apple plans to move USB-C with the iPhone 15 lineup and in doing so, introduce a new proprietary port that will limit charging speeds if not using a certified cable. Here's how this could work and whether I think it will be a good or bad idea!","thumbnailUrl":"https://i.ytimg.com/vi/OCXV734WXDk/sddefault.jpg","uploadDate":"2023-03-21T20:15:22Z","duration":"PT5M39S","embedUrl":""}allegedly.

Multiple reports from reliable sources like Ming-Chi Kuo and ShrimpApplePro suggest Apple will have an MFi program for iPhone 15's USB-C port. What isn't known, however, is how it will be implemented or enforced.

So far, it seems Apple will limit the iPhone's USB-C port charging speed and data transfer rates if it isn't connected to MFi equipment. This doesn't seem limited to cables like Lightning, but chargers too.

To be clear, Apple has had USB-C ports on iPad and Mac for years without an MFi program specific to those ports. However, bringing MFi to USB-C seems to be related to the fact it is iPhone, which has always had an MFi program for its port.

We won't dive into whether or not the iPhone 15 Pro will use Thunderbolt. These MFi rules will apply across all models and supposedly will limit charging capabilities for non-certified equipment.

That brings us to Apple's 20W charger.

Not the worst you can buy, but close

Apple sells a 20W USB-C charger that was introduced alongside the iPhone 12 in 2020. It uses older charging technology, so it is bulkier than competitors' sleek GaN chargers, and it is only 20W for $20 -- acceptable in 2020 but expensive and underpowered for 2023.

For reference, you can purchase a two-pack of 20W Anker chargers for $15.99 on Amazon. They are tiny square chargers and have foldable plugs.

Apple's 20W charger isn't technically bad. It's well engineered -- but just based on older technology and hasn't been changed in years. And as is always the problem with Apple and aging products, the price hasn't budged.

Apple's 20W charger is bulky and expensive compared to other chargers
Apple's 20W charger is bulky and expensive compared to other chargers


The strange part is Apple's charger isn't technically MFi certified. Apple doesn't provide MFi certification to the charger that plugs into the wall, just the cable that connects to the iPhone.

That's what makes Ming-Chi Kuo's report so odd and perhaps gives us a hint about Apple's future MFi program. How strict Apple is in its choices will determine a lot, including how much it will cost customers and how much waste it will generate.

It isn't clear what Apple will prioritize with its MFi for USB-C program.

MFi for USB-C could be firmware, not hardware

Apple's confidence in selling so many units could indicate an extreme tactic. Basically, if you're not using an MFi-certified cable, you won't get fast charging speeds -- similar to how MagSafe works today.

MagSafe, for example, is 15W when charging with a certified puck. Third-party options without MFi certification can only achieve 7.5 watts, no matter how powerful the charger is.

Since a USB-C cable will have the same connector on both ends, it is theoretically possible for the MFi handshake to occur at both ends, meaning the cable will have to tell the phone that not only is it MFi certified, but so is the object it is connected to.

Since Apple's 20W charger hasn't changed since 2020, and Kuo implies the charger manufacturers are building is the same one, that might tell us how this certification might work.

One option is a firmware update.

iPhone 15 is expected to have a USB-C port
iPhone 15 is expected to have a USB-C port


Inside Apple's charger is a main control chip with a tiny CPU controlling charging output and connection handshakes. Apple could update the firmware of this chip to tell the cable and iPhone that it is MFi certified.

If that's the case, then other chargers may be able to obtain similar MFi certification via updates. It wouldn't require a complicated process, as a database of accepted MFi chargers could be included within iOS, and the iPhone could perform a firmware update without user input.

This method would be the least intrusive, enabling users to keep their old USB-C Power Delivery certified chargers. However, that doesn't explain why Apple would expect such a surge in sales of its 20W charger -- more on that in a moment.

The most extreme possibility is that Apple will rate limit every charger on the market to date. That would be the case since none would have Apple's proprietary MFi certification chip within them, except maybe Apple's.

A lot of chargers would be obsolete with a restrictive MFi program
A lot of chargers would be obsolete with a restrictive MFi program


We're not sure this would be the case, as it would be incredibly bad for the brand and the environment. Although, most users probably wouldn't care because if the charger fits, they will plug it in and wait, even if it takes hours.

If Apple's new MFi system makes all non-MFi chargers and cables less effective for charging or data transfers, it would be a significant PR problem. Not that Apple hasn't done this before, just not on this scale.

For the firmware option, Apple could still charge for MFi certification, as manufacturers would still need to be added to a database. A proprietary chip was used for Lightning, but as Apple learned with HomeKit, a hardware requirement might not be the best move.

We'll have to wait and see what Apple does. In the meantime, we have a clearer picture of Apple's confidence in selling chargers.

Four types of customers

Putting the MFi concerns aside, Apple obviously believes it can sell around 70 million chargers in a quarter. If we examine who would buy such an outdated charger, it is clear Apple will easily meet its goal.

We expect there are at least four kinds of customers who will buy Apple's 20W charger:

  1. The person upgrading to iPhone 15 from an older iPhone still uses the 5W USB-A adapter. No choice but to buy a USB-C one, since it isn't in the box, and get Apple's since it's the safest bet.

  2. The person who buys the cheapest chargers and cables and still relies on USB-A in some fashion. The $20 price tag for one charger won't seem too high since the cable is already in the box.

  3. The person who doesn't know about USB-C and wants what is best for their iPhone. Maybe they heard of MFi and are worried about not getting the best speeds.

  4. Anyone the customer service representative can convince. Apple Stores and other retailers will undoubtedly be told to push the charger as the "best option for iPhone 15."

All of these sales will happen alongside the iPhone. The company could easily sell multiple chargers to some customers as they hope to fill in multiple charging locations.

With that in mind, it isn't entirely out of the question for Apple to sell 70 million chargers in a quarter or 240 million in a year. And some could be backstock inventory, so Apple doesn't have to sell them all to be satisfied.

Apple could sell 70 million 20W chargers in Q4
Apple could sell 70 million 20W chargers in Q4


Kuo's report seemed to suggest that customers will be worried about the MFi program. We're not sure that is necessary as a sales point. If the MFi program is too strict, it could be a PR nightmare.

For those who are already deeply invested in USB-C chargers and cables, we hope Apple gives us some kind of reprieve. If not for financial reasons, environmental ones.

Apple was a smaller company when it moved from the 30-pin connector to Lightning. Sure, the iPhone was a blockbuster hit, and 30-pin connectors were everywhere, but the company has grown exponentially since.

Given Apple's commitment to "leaving the planet better than we found it," it seems irresponsible not to provide customers a path to using their old USB-C devices on the new iPhone without rate limiting them. MFi will be there to push new and future devices, but we find it difficult to fathom Apple abandoning the incredible amount of products already in use.

The accessory story around iPhone 15 will be incredibly important for Apple, the environment, and consumer satisfaction. Apple won't need to take an aggressive stance to sell more 20W chargers, so we're hopeful that MFi will do more good than bad during this port transition.

Read on AppleInsider
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 34
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 3,210member
    USB-C PD not good enough for iPhone 15?
    I use Anker's amazing 30w GaN chargers with folding plugs. Only 1.4 ounces IIRC and they charge my MBP while sleeping, too.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 34
    omasouomasou Posts: 601member
    Good job EU. That certainly helped cure the landfill issues.

    Would love to see some numbers on just how a many old chargers and USB A cords get trashed and that are specifically related to the USB C change.
    williamlondonbaconstangmattinozkiehtantwokatmewpscooter63Alex1Njust cruisinwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 34
    Anilu_777Anilu_777 Posts: 552member
    I prefer slow charging overnight so don’t plan on looking for extreme charging speeds. My Anker USB-C brick I bought two years ago will do fine. 
    twokatmewjamnapAlex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 34
    omasou said:
    Good job EU. That certainly helped cure the landfill issues.

    Would love to see some numbers on just how a many old chargers and USB A cords get trashed and that are specifically related to the USB C change.
    Why would that be the EU’s fault? If Apple intentionally cripples older chargers by artificially limiting how fast the iPhone can charge using them that is Apple’s decision.
    williamlondonAlex1N
  • Reply 5 of 34
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,799member
    omasou said:
    Good job EU. That certainly helped cure the landfill issues.

    Would love to see some numbers on just how a many old chargers and USB A cords get trashed and that are specifically related to the USB C change.
    EU directives are only applicable in the EU. 

    Nothing is stopping Apple from shipping Lightning phones outside the EU. 

    That said, there are plenty of other tech related directives that are very old now as they came into force years ago. WEEE and RoHS are two examples.

    What do they mean? 

    Less hazardous materials in the finished product and 'free' recycling. It is even illegal to dump e-waste into landfill.

    I say 'free' because in reality it isn't free at all. Every time you purchase an electrical or electronic product, the cost of recycling (including transport to the relevant sites) is already factored into the price. 

    As for reducing e-waste as a result of the common charging directive, that is the case as per the impact assessments. 
    muthuk_vanalingamtwokatmewAlex1N
  • Reply 6 of 34
    mike1mike1 Posts: 3,313member
    1. The person upgrading to iPhone 15 from an older iPhone still uses the 5W USB-A adapter. No choice but to buy a USB-C one, since it isn't in the box, and get Apple's since it's the safest bet.

    Not true at all. Every USB-A charger a person owns will still work just fine. They only may need to buy a USB-A to USB-C cable.


    nrg2chutzpahmuthuk_vanalingamtwokatmewpscooter63Alex1Nbluefire1watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 34
    neilmneilm Posts: 989member
    @AI: Who do you think your readers are? The switch to USB-C is exactly the reason we'd expect demand for that charger to rise.
    williamlondonJapheypscooter63Alex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 34
    kmareikmarei Posts: 193member
    Doesn't this mfi for usb-c charger violate the open source nature of usb-c standard ?
    it's a standard, and as long as you abide by the standard, everything should work fine
    doesnt matter if it's a laptop, tablet, or phone
    without having to pay money to apple, usb-c is NOT an apple creation

    if iPhones only work with an mfi cable, that by definition means they are inferior
    because other phones work just fine with any usb-c charger 
     I've used an HP usb-c charger to charge an iPad Pro, Microsoft phone, Microsoft surface laptop, and portable car tire inflator just fine
    no errors or issues or anything 
    williamlondonMplsPAlex1N
  • Reply 9 of 34
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,963member
    This whole usb c mfi rumor is confusing and doesn’t make a lot of sense. If it’s true it’ll be a shit move by Apple. I’d like to see what additional capabilities or benefits such a program would give consumers beyond the USB C spec. 

    The article is correct about Apple’s USB C charger - too bulky for its capabilities. Non- foldable plug, prongs positioned so it blocks adjacent outlets - I can get a similarly sized charger that has two outlets in a better configuration. 


    twokatmewJapheyAlex1N
  • Reply 10 of 34
    citpekscitpeks Posts: 247member
    kmarei said:
    Doesn't this mfi for usb-c charger violate the open source nature of usb-c standard ?
    it's a standard, and as long as you abide by the standard, everything should work fine
    doesnt matter if it's a laptop, tablet, or phone
    without having to pay money to apple, usb-c is NOT an apple creation

    if iPhones only work with an mfi cable, that by definition means they are inferior
    because other phones work just fine with any usb-c charger 
     I've used an HP usb-c charger to charge an iPad Pro, Microsoft phone, Microsoft surface laptop, and portable car tire inflator just fine
    no errors or issues or anything 
    No, it doesn't the spec.  Type-C Authentication was being mooted as far back as 2016, and the first version of the spec was published in 2019.

    Section 2.2 of the spec cites as an example just what is being rumored:

    "USB Authentication allows a USB Host or PD Product to authenticate an attached Product and, by Policy, choose how to interact with that Product. For example, a PD Sink may choose not to use the full advertised capabilities of an unauthenticated PD Source. Authentication can be initiated by either a PD Sink, PD Source, or USB Host."

    If Apple chooses to prevent their devices from drawing full power from an unauthenticated source, that does not break any rule.

    That said, the authentication capability was included by the USB IF as a security measure, to mitigate the risk of plugging your phone into a random port, such as a quick charge at the airport, resulting in some sort of malware, or other unintended consequences, given that Type-C has become a catchall in terms of connectivity.

    I doubt the intent was to have it used as part of a business strategy, or part of a marketing ploy to encourage users to buy "approved" or name-branded cables, or whatever.

    That would seem to violate the spirit, if not the letter of the law, and open up a can of worms that might encourage others to adopt similar tactics, though to be fair, that kind of thing is nothing new in the USB charging game, even before Type-C, though not to the extent that could develop, since earlier standards lacked any type of authentication or DRM-like schemes.

    But it is important to point out that this is all speculation for now, and until we see what Apple actually does, it's just a theoretical debate, and good only for some clicks.

    The MFi program was originally conceived for the iPod in 2005, so it's not like Apple users have be unaware, or have chosen to shy away in droves because the company has chosen to have licensed accessories, and make it a revenue stream.  IIRC, iOS 7 in 2014 was the first to throw up active complaints about non-certified cables.  If there is more of the same, people will just carry on, as they've been doing, even if they're moaning in forums like this, but still buying Apple products.
    Fidonet127twokatmewAlex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 34
    thedbathedba Posts: 769member
    Dooofus said:
    I seriously doubt there will be a stampede for USB-C chargers. This article ignores the obvious. If someone has to buy a new iPhone charger, it's most likely going to be wireless. As well, a significant number of Apple customers who are iPad Pro owners, already have the USB-C charger/cable that has come in the box for years now. To save money and stick it to overzealous regulators, they should simply remove the charging port. 
    That would be sticking it to its customers too.
    Magsafe charging cable: $39
    USBC cable: $19
    twokatmewAlex1N
  • Reply 12 of 34
    thedbathedba Posts: 769member
    JP234 said:
    What's the big fuss? I haven't plugged my iPhone into a charger for 3-4 years. I use a Belkin wireless charger, and will continue to do so.
    Well good for you.
    Tell me something, can you pick the phone up from your “wireless” charger and walk about your house while it continues to charge?
    If you answered no, then Qi (inductive not wireless) chargers are no different than your standard USBC or lightning cable chargers. Just more expensive.
    MplsPtwokatmewelijahgJapheyAlex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 34
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,963member
    thedba said:
    JP234 said:
    What's the big fuss? I haven't plugged my iPhone into a charger for 3-4 years. I use a Belkin wireless charger, and will continue to do so.
    Well good for you.
    Tell me something, can you pick the phone up from your “wireless” charger and walk about your house while it continues to charge?
    If you answered no, then Qi (inductive not wireless) chargers are no different than your standard USBC or lightning cable chargers. Just more expensive.
    well, they do differ in a couple of other ways - they're slower, waste more power and are less reliable, too.
    muthuk_vanalingamtwokatmewAlex1Nwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 34
    chutzpahchutzpah Posts: 392member
    JP234 said:
    What's the big fuss? I haven't plugged my iPhone into a charger for 3-4 years. I use a Belkin wireless charger, and will continue to do so.
    You do understand that other people exist right?  The world thankfully isn't populated with clones of you.
    elijahgJapheymike1
  • Reply 15 of 34
    AppleishAppleish Posts: 696member
    JP234 said:
    What's the big fuss? I haven't plugged my iPhone into a charger for 3-4 years. I use a Belkin wireless charger, and will continue to do so.
    Same, but with Apple wireless charging. We may be outliers, but personally I am 100% ready for the inevitable portless iPhone.
  • Reply 16 of 34
    nealc5nealc5 Posts: 44member
    How would Apple explain why a USB-C iPhone needs a certification program, while the current USB-C iPads do not? Doesn’t seem to make sense to me. I can plug my 2020 iPad Pro into any USB-C cable and it charges. I’m not sure that rumor is going to come true. People think Apple needs the revenue from a MFi program. It does not.
    williamlondonAlex1N
  • Reply 17 of 34
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 1,770member
    I, for one, would like to see Apple chase the high end of the accessory market by releasing only GaN chargers and braided cables going forward. It’s ludicrous that the company that makes the most advanced consumer electronic devices in the world is content with the mediocrity of their current offerings. 
    Alex1Nbluefire1
  • Reply 18 of 34
    chutzpahchutzpah Posts: 392member
    JP234 said:
    chutzpah said:
    JP234 said:
    What's the big fuss? I haven't plugged my iPhone into a charger for 3-4 years. I use a Belkin wireless charger, and will continue to do so.
    You do understand that other people exist right?  The world thankfully isn't populated with clones of you.
    Ditto.
    Wow, I'll need a skin graft for that super sick burn.
  • Reply 19 of 34
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 1,770member
    chutzpah said:
    JP234 said:
    chutzpah said:
    JP234 said:
    What's the big fuss? I haven't plugged my iPhone into a charger for 3-4 years. I use a Belkin wireless charger, and will continue to do so.
    You do understand that other people exist right?  The world thankfully isn't populated with clones of you.
    Ditto.
    Wow, I'll need a skin graft for that super sick burn.
    Haha. I’ve gotten a few of those JP burns myself. Always good for a laugh. 
  • Reply 20 of 34
    The whole point if the EU descision was to limit waste, so I surely hope Apple doesn’t decide to limit transfer and charger speed on ”none Mfi” cables and chargers and make all my USB-C equipment obsolete. That would be a waste. 
    Alex1N
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