The iPhone 15 Pro has a weird USB-C charging problem

Tried charging your new iPhone 15 from a power bank but came back to a dead iPhone? You're not alone! Here's what's going on.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
Reviewed by Min Shin
Picture of iPhone 15 Pro Max's new USB-C port
Jason Hiner/ZDNET

It seems Apple's switch from the proprietary Lightning port to USB-C is not as smooth as it could be, as some owners are finding problems with charging.

The issue

Over on Reddit, an iPhone 15 Pro user connected their handset to an Anker power bank to charge. Instead of the phone's battery charging, the iPhone charged the power bank.

Also: iPhone 15 Pro review: Coming from iPhone 12 Pro or earlier? This upgrade will wow you

This is not how it should work. According to Anker, the remedy is to charge the iPhone via the USB-A port on the power bank.

How can this possibly happen?

The iPhone 15 series of smartphones come with the ability to reverse charge other smaller Apple devices, such as the Apple Watch, Apple AirPods, or another iPhone when using the USB-C charging cable.

That's how it should work, but something is triggering this unexpected behavior. There's also a report of an iPhone trying to charge an iPad Pro connected via USB-C cable. Swapping the cable around allowed the iPad Pro to charge the iPhone.

What could be causing it?

It's easy to point the finger at Apple here, but the reason for the mess is much more subtle. You may think that USB-C is a standard, and that the standard is clear and followed by all manufacturers.

Also: The best USB-C cables for the iPhone 15: What the experts recommend

The connectors on the ends of the cables might fit into the ports. But beyond that, USB-C, as seen in the consumer space, is a hellstew of old and new standards. It is made up of a whole bunch of cables, chargers, power banks, and other accessories that "work" with USB-C but whose compliance with the standards is, shall we say, erratic.

I have to say, I'm not surprised. Apple's gone from using a tightly managed proprietary connector to one that, in theory, has stringent standards, but in reality is far from the case.

What's the solution here?

Apple either needs to improve the way the iPhone 15 detects items to charge or add a software toggle that controls which direction charge flows.

I expect Apple to patch this issue soon.

Also: iPhone 15 Pro overheating resolved: Thermal photos before and after iOS 17.0.3

In the meantime, if you're affected by this, you could try different combinations of power banks and cables or maybe try flipping the cable around. I know it sounds weird, but while this is new to iPhone users, I have come across this in the past with some Android devices and certain combinations of charging hardware.

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