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Apple's Lightning-to-USB-C conversion and 2023 holiday season gift-giving
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You or a loved one switched to an iPhone 15? The right and wrong chargers

OK, honesty time: I bought the new iPhone 15 Pro Max. I opened up my fancy $1,600 smartphone to realize … it was the same as the iPhone 14 Pro Max I was already using.

The big (only?) change I can spot is the charging port on the bottom. After all these years, Apple is ditching its Lightning cable for the one every other tech company uses for charging and data transfer: USB-C. Some new AirPod models are getting the same treatment.

The switch to a USB-C port spells a headache for the holidays if you have Apple fans on your list. If you want to gift someone a new charger, how do you know their iPhone will work with it? What kind of AirPods are the “right” ones now? What does “USB-C” even mean? I’ll help make your list and check it twice.

Don’t be a drain: Buy the right chargers!

While USB-C may be the sexy, new standard for the iPhone, everyone else has been using it for years, so your charging options abound.

With that said, I recommend sticking with Apple’s chargers or another very reliable brand when buying. This is also good to keep in mind if you plan to upgrade to an iPhone 15 soon. Yep, you’ll need a full charger refresh.

All iPhone 15 models (including the 15 Plus, 15 Pro, 15 Pro Max, etc.)

  • A new iPhone 15 has a USB-C cable but does not come with a charger. If you’re buying additional iPhone 15 cables, they’ve got to be USB-C.
  • It requires a USB-C charger with at least 20W for the best results. USB-C is smaller and rounder than USB-A, which is blockish.
  • Qi-standard wireless chargers will work with the iPhone 15 just fine, no matter their connections.
  • If you see a lightning-bolt icon, that represents Thunderbolt compatibility, a different kind of data standard that works with USB-C (and is not super important in this case).

All iPhone 14 models and earlier models

  • All older iPhones require Lightning cables, which typically end in a USB connector for a compatible charger, which can be USB-A or USB-C.
  • Lightning cable connectors are smaller and thinner than USB-C, and don’t have any icons.
  • Lightning cable connectors are easy to spot because they have clear pin markings on the outside of the connector.
  • Only Apple makes legitimate Lightning cables and chargers, no other brands.
  • Again, Qi-standard wireless chargers work fine with all these phones as long as they support wireless charging.

The good news is that USB-C has already come to iPad Pros, MacBooks and other devices, so it should be pretty familiar territory for your gift recipient if you just want to ask them for a handy Christmas list.

Don’t be that person …

… who waits till Dec. 22 and ends up with lame gifts to put under the tree. I found a few sweet accessories for that Apple person in your life — even if that’s you. Treat yourself!

‘Ears’ how AirPods work now

AirPods got the ol’ USB-C switcheroo, too, which is even more confusing (but fun to say), because there are so many AirPod models. Neither you nor Santa deserves this headache, so I’m going to give you a few rules to follow for AirPods gifts:

  • AirPods Pro (2nd-gen) sold by Apple after September 2023 will have a USB-C charging case and need a USB-C charger to work. If you’re getting a new pair of AirPods for someone, you should get them a USB-C charger, too.
  • All other AirPods (including 2nd-gen AirPods Pro sold before September 2023) use a Lightning cable charging case. It looks the same but uses different cables. If you’re replacing the charging case for someone’s older AirPods, you should get a Lightning cable case.

Phew! Now you’re ready to find the perfect gift for the Apple fan in your holiday circle — without running into nasty compatibility surprises.

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