USB-C vs Lightning: What’s the Difference?

In this article, we will compare the two dominant charging ports on the market: USB-C vs. Lightning.

Last month, the European Commission proposed USB-C as a standard port for all electronic devices. Its aim is to prevent e-waste and consumer inconvenience. But, Apple – which uses the Lightning port on its iPhone – pushed back. Now, the decision is up in the air.

So, which port is better? Let’s talk about the details.

USB-C vs Lightning Cable

Design

Apple introduced the Lightning connector to replace the Micro USB port in 2010. Before that, the Micro USB port had long been considered the universal connector. Then in 2014, the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) developed the USB-C connector.

Unlike the Micro USB port, both USB-C and Lightning ports are reversible. Micro USB connections have an up and down orientation, but USB-C and Lightning connections do not. Moreover, if the cable has two type-C connections the cable is also fully reversible, which is very convenient.

They also have different port sizes, all in all, the USB-C port is bigger than the Lightning port.

Lightning vs USB-C port size

Related article: USB C vs A vs B: Which One Do You Need for Your Product?

Availability

The USB-C port is widely available in devices of different sizes and styles. USB-C enables data transmission and power delivery simultaneously. The USB-C connection can also be used to connect devices with displays if the cable features DP Alt mode, such as USB4 and Thunderbolt 4 connections.

Related article: DisplayPort 101: What It Is And Why It Matters

In contrast, only Apple mobile devices use the Lightning port. So you need to buy the dongle and carry extra cables if you want to use your Lightning port with non-Apple products.

Lightning adapter

Charging Speed

The Lightning cable charging is faster than the old 30-pin cable. And, the newest iPhone 13 supports 20W fast charging, which charges your phone 50% in 30 minutes.

UGREEN 20w fast charger for iPhone

The USB-C cable can support fast charging up to 240W. Moreover, it is compatible with different fast-charging protocols, such as Power Delivery, QC, FCP, VOOC, or PE.

More and more laptops are adopting the USB-C standard instead of other ports. Previously, laptops used AC to DC power adapters because USB-C connections weren’t powerful enough. But, the MacBook Pro with M1 Max chip shows this is no longer the case. 

Apple MacBook

Data Transmission

The Lightning port only supports USB 2.0, which transmits data at a rate of 480Mbps.

The USB-C data transmission is much faster than Lightning. Here is the data speed of USB-C ports from different USB generations:

  • USB 3.1 up to 10Gbps.
  • USB 3.2 up to 20Gbps
  • USB4 up to 40Gbps.

Moreover, USB-C is compatible with Thunderbolt, including full compatibility between USB4 and Thunderbolt 4.

Related article: USB Basics: Types, Speed and Why It Is So Popular

USB 4

Durability

Many people claim that the USB-C cable can last longer. Criticisms of the Lightning connector’s durability arise due to the fact the copper pins are exposed, which may make it easier to damage them. Meanwhile, the manufacturer claims that a USB-C connection can withstand 10,000 connection-disconnection cycles. But, there is no official data from Apple.

USB-C Cable

Some tech reviewers argue that Lightning ports are more durable than USB-C ports. Lightning supporters say the Lightning connection has a tighter fit because the tabs are on the sides of the connection itself. The tight fit reduces wear-and-tear risk over time.

Cost

The Lightning cable is proprietary. Apple controls the supply of Lightning cables through MFi certifications. This ensures that cables have a high production quality, but it also drives up the price.

If you buy a knockoff Lightning cable, with no MFi certificate, it might not work. Or, worse, it could damage your iPhone. To stay safe, check if your Lightning cable is MFi on the Apple website.

Apple MFi page

In contrast, USB-C ports and cables are not proprietary. This makes them less expensive. But, it also means cable quality can sometimes vary by a lot.

Future-Proofing

The USB-C port is backward-compatible. You can connect older USB-C devices to current USB 3.x and USB4 ports.

Apple developed the Lightning port to replace the 30-pin connector on the iPhone. There has been some speculation that Apple is planning to remove all ports on future products, like when the company removed the headphone jack from the iPhone 7. Instead, iPhones might have to charge wirelessly, however, these are just rumors.

Which One Is the Future?

The USB-C port may be better due to its widespread adoption. But, even so, Apple may not switch to USB-C anytime soon. Instead, Apple will continue accelerating wireless charging technology.

The iPhone already features wireless charging and MagSafe. Moreover, the MagSafe port on the MacBook Pro 2021, supports up to 140W fast charging. Let’s check out our MagSafe charger article.

USB-C vs Lightning: What’s the Difference?

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2 Replies to “USB-C vs Lightning: What’s the Difference?

  1. What are differences between Thunderbolt(3-4) and Usb (3, 3.1,3.2 ,4). Are these same cables with revised names?

    1. Hi Muhammad, actually, they are not the same. They all use a Type-C connection but the abilities of the cables are not the same. The transfer speeds are different. Thunderbolt 3 and 4 are very similar to USB4 and these three specifications are all compatible. USB 3.x specifications have slower transfer speeds and are not able to transmit 4K video using DP Alt Mode. This article has information about what is different between Thunderbolt 4 and Thunderbolt 3. They are very similar. There are some improvements but the main difference is Intel’s authentification process.

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