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Hey Apple: Get your accessories act together

Apple is rumored to be removing the charger as an included accessory for the iPhone 12. But it was an awful charger anyway.

The rumor mill is in full swing. Apple reportedly plans to remove the included wall charger -- and possibly even a Lightning cable and the usual earbuds -- from the upcoming iPhone 12, which is expected to be announced early this fall. 

Why would Apple do this? Margins are dropping in the consumer electronics industry, and it is thought that, like the recently released iPhone SE, the price of the base iPhone 12 may be dropping to squeeze out competition from Samsung and other Android players. With those margins becoming thinner, Apple may be wanting to shave a few dollars off every shipping unit.

The replacement to the puny 5W charger in the base iPhone 11 is said to be a new 20W USB-C charger, but it -- and potentially the USB-C to Lightning cable to go with it -- will cost extra. We also hear rumors the AirPower, which was canceled in the late product engineering stages in 2018, may have a new lease on life as a high-end accessory coming later this year. Based on recent spy reports of observed late production samples, Cupertino appears to have solved the myriad of technical issues that kept it from being released. But AirPower is bound to be expensive, probably around $150 to $200.

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Apple's accessories line needs a makeover

The original, unreleased AirPower was a dud. And the 5W charger that's been shipping with entry-level iPhones for the last several years has been woefully inadequate in terms of their ability to charge the device rapidly. Nobody should have relied on them. But this brings to light an entirely different issue, which is the entire Apple accessories line -- for power and charging and compatible cases -- need a complete makeover.

While I am sure everyone would love to see an official Apple wireless charger that works with all their products, there are more modest, less higher-tech things the company can release to improve the end-user experience.

Chargers

Let's start with wall chargers. Except for the new (and rather overpriced and anemic) 18W USB-C charger, which comes with iPad Pro and the iPhone 11 Pro/Pro Max, the original OEM Apple chargers for the base iPhone models (iPhone SE, iPhone 11) are meager USB-A 5W chargers. 

They cannot fast charge, so you either have to buy the new 18W module or the more expensive 30W, 61W, or 96W equivalents designed for iPad Pro or MacBook to take advantage of the fast charging feature that the iPad and iPhone have had since the 2015 iPad Pro 12.9.

But wait, there's more: Current-generation iPhone and iPad models are capable of doing fast-charge, but because your iPhone does not come with the expensive USB-C to Lightning cable, you have to buy that as well. The newer iPad Pro models released in 2018 have USB-C ports, which is excellent, so you can use a standard USB-C-to-USB-C cable. But the 18W base charger is puny when used with the monster-sized iPad Pro 12.9. 

Fortunately, third-party replacement USB-C to Lightning cables finally became available from OEMs in early 2019. They have the native fast-charge capability with USB PD. 

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(Image: RAVPower GaN 45W USB-C PD wall charger by RavPower)

Also, Apple doesn't use Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology, which its accessories partners like RAVPower and Anker are now pioneering. So, that results in the higher capacity OEM Apple 30W, 61W, and 96W chargers being bulky and chunky. 

I've had the GaN third-party chargers for a while now, and I'm very impressed with them. They occupy little space in my small shoulder bag, and take up virtually no room on a 110V receptacle, leaving plenty of space next to it on power strips for other bulky bricks.

Sure, the AirPower would be nice if it ever shows up. But I'd much rather have a multi-port USB-C travel charger, built with GaN technology, which I know is fully certified and supported by the company. Right now, I use stuff from Anker and other vendors like RAVPower, and I suspect I will have to continue to do so. I want to standardize on USB-C connector cables entirely.

Dongles

Then, there is the issue of dongles. Oh my. Apple has so many dongles for adapting different connector types for the Lightning port that it's out of control. Companies like Satechi have had to address the lack of OEM connectivity options for the 2018 and 2020 iPad Pro with its USB-C mobile hub. Why couldn't Apple make one of these?

Cases

And let's get past chargers and cables for a moment and look at things like cases. Yes, I realize that companies like Otter Products have made a fortune on the accessories biz, and I love using the stuff. But, really, Apple should have better protective cases for its products in-house, even if it means using a company like Otter as an OEM and doing private labeling. 

There is another issue. I have seen many of the third-party charging pads out there (for the lack of Apple having its own) that -- even the premium ones from Belkin, Mophie, RAVPower, and Anker (Apple's top accessory partners) -- do not always work correctly with thick cases from Otter (an important Apple partner) and other vendors. 

For example, I use the OtterBox Defender with my iPhone 11 Pro Max, and the only way it charges on any number of Qi pads and stands is upside down, which sort of defeats the purpose of using it to display the time and other data. Up until recently, when Otterbox itself released an Apple Watch case (which I highly recommend), none of the thicker style sports cases for my Apple Watch Series 4 could work with any charger other than the OEM Apple Watch magnetic charger cable. Not even the ridiculously overpriced OEM Apple Watch charging dock.

Apple needs to fill the gaps

Is there a reason why Apple could not create its own super protective sports band, which works with its stuff and certified third-party partners? That sounds like a great accessory to me.

I don't think it's necessarily Apple's fault that accessory incompatibility issues occur. Still, it needs to put measures and procedures in place to make sure there is better compatibility between these things and Apple OEM accessories and products. Or it needs to fill the gaps with its own.

Does Apple need to re-think its accessories strategy for its mobile products? Talk Back and Let Me Know.