What the USB-C iPhone 15 Means for CarPlay, Drivers, and Their Cars

iPhone 15 comes with USB-C 38 photos
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution/Apple
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Apple launched the iPhone 15 lineup with much fanfare earlier this week alongside the not-so-exciting Apple Watch Series 9 and the subtly refreshed Apple Watch Ultra 2.
While the new iPhone generation comes with several notable upgrades, the change that's getting the most attention is the transition to USB-C.

iPhone 15 no longer uses Apple's proprietary port called Lightning. The company has switched to USB-C, the universal port widely adopted in the Android ecosystem. Most phones running Google's mobile operating system come with USB-C, as do headphones, tablets, speakers, and other devices.

The transition to USB-C should make charging the iPhone more convenient, as users no longer need a dedicated cable just for their smartphone. They can use the same cable as for other devices, as the idea powering the change is to reduce the number of cords and adapters used and carried by users.

Apple's move to USB-C wasn't voluntary

Apple iPhone 15 Pro
Photo: Apple
While the Cupertino-based iPhone maker might seem like the good guy in this new charging port saga, transitioning from Lightning to USB-C was not voluntary.

The European Union enforced the switch to USB-C for all companies selling smartphones and tablets in Europe. The new regulations come into effect in 2024, but Apple decided to comply with the demands on the iPhone 15, one year before the new regulations become mandatory.

USB-C is now available across the entire iPhone 15 lineup. The tech giant has included a USB-C cable in the box, though you won't get a power adapter. However, previous iPhone models came with adapters that used USB-C on their end, so if you already own an Apple smartphone, you can use it with the brand-new USB-C cable in the iPhone 15 box.

What USB-C means for CarPlay and drivers

The new USB\-C cable that ships with the iPhone 15
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution/Apple
Many people believe that the transition to USB-C makes using CarPlay a nightmare, especially because their cars do not come with the same port.

This is not true.

Apple changed the port on the iPhone, so it does not affect the connector in your car in any way. The only thing that'll be different is how you connect the iPhone to the head unit in the vehicle.

Most cars, except new-generation models, come with USB-A ports. USB-A is the traditional USB connector we all know, and most cars on the market come with one for running the wired version of CarPlay.

Before the iPhone 15, drivers who wanted to run CarPlay wired needed a USB-A to Lightning cable. The USB-A connector was aimed at the vehicle, while the Lightning end was designed for the iPhone.

Now that the iPhone 15 has replaced Lightning with USB-A, you'll need a USB-A to USB-C cable to run CarPlay wired. This is the only thing that changes and the only problem that could stem from the fact that your brand-new iPhone has a new charging port.

The more frustrating part is that Apple does not include a USB-A to USB-C cable in the box, so you'll have to purchase one separately. You can find one on Amazon for just a few bucks, but Apple doesn't sell such a cable. Fortunately, with USB-C becoming widely adopted on most devices, you might already have a USB-A to USB-C cable at home, especially if you use non-Apple devices. Older-generation Android devices shipped with such cords in the box.

Apple iPhone 15 Pro
Photo: Apple
If your car comes with a USB-C port for running CarPlay wired, you won't even need to purchase a new cable. The one shipping in the box of the iPhone 15 does its job, though you'll probably want to buy a secondary cable because we all know it's a matter of time until the original iPhone cable gets damaged due to nothing else than regular use.

If you use CarPlay wireless, the iPhone 15 doesn't change anything, as you won't need a cable to activate the car-optimized experience. You can still connect the iPhone 15 to the head unit wirelessly, similar to the iPhone 14 and the previous models.

The last option, and probably the least recommended, is using an adapter to connect USB-C to USB-A and continue using the original cable that ships in the box of the iPhone 15. If your car has USB-A, you can use this adapter to plug the USB-A cable into the head unit.

However, based on my experience with these adapters, they are incredibly unreliable, as they are typically very loose and can cause all kinds of issues, from random disconnects to overheating and cable frying. As a result, you should only use such an adapter as a last resort and only for a very limited time.

If you're looking for a reliable USB-A to USB-C cable to run CarPlay with an iPhone 15 in a vehicle with the old port, Anker has a great set of braided cords at just $17.99. They're very durable and should run CarPlay flawlessly without you worrying about damaging the cables in the long term. Belkin also sells a similar cable for $7.19, while a set of two genuine Samsung cables costs $15.76 today.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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