Recent Market Developments in Cable Tech
In 2009, there were over 30 different types of chargers being used by the average consumer. The most popular of which were the Micro USB (micro-B), Lightning, Mini USB and the USB A. The most commonly used for devices was the Micro USB, Apple users operated their devices with the lightning cable (which is effectively the invert of what we now call USB C).
Tech Giants Against the Environment
Despite transparent efforts to appear environmentally responsible, it’s widely understood that tech giants – Google, Amazon, Meta, Apple, and Microsoft – strive to reach maximum capital within cable tech. This appears to be the case with Apple in particular, who make a substantial profit with overpriced accessories through the introduction of products that necessitate their own individual cables. In 2020 Q4, Apple sold 81.8 million iPhones – if just 1% of those customers required new charging cables (costing £20 each) Apple would generate £16.3M in cable tech sales alone.
Microsoft Moves Against the Tide
At the time, when other tech giants were adding USB C to their products, Microsoft conversely refused to add the cable to their new Surface devices. As a result of this refusal, 2015 saw new Microsoft products without a USB C port. Their argument was that consumers tried to use USB ports to charge their phones and were left unimpressed by the charging capabilities. In reaction to this, Microsoft added USB A port to the transformer on the laptop charger for the phone devices. Whilst consumers expected phones to be charged more quickly, the technology was unable to provide this. These years in particular saw resistance on the side of Microsoft, whose priorities of user expectations and security should have been met before add on’s were included in the port.
A Maze of Cable Tech
One of the main problems with USB Cables (before USB C was on the horizon), was that one end must always be inserted into the computer (USB A). The other end would meet a wide range of different ports, depending on the device. In 2014, USB C was finalised. In 2015, Microsoft launched this Lumia which used a USB Cable, which meant access to either end of the cable and the ability to transfer video or sound over the cable. With regard to user experience, as it could be used on both ends, the USB cable was proven to have great advantages. Another advantage of the cable is that can be used for video; increasingly monitors are now replacing the traditional connections (HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort, and Mini Display port) to just using USB C.
The lightning cable, developed by Apple, was more advanced than the previous USB’s. Despite being a particularly innovative move by Apple, the tech giant still refused to apply its use to all their devices. Their argument against moving towards one cable – despite being the environmentally responsible choice – claimed its consequent limitations would run the risk of stifling innovation within cable tech.
The Future of Cohesion within Cable Tech
Motivated primarily by profit, Apple has created a brand around doing it differently. Their marketing campaigns for their unique, and ultimately environmentally problematic, iPhone chargers have been so successful within the world of cable tech that “does any have an iPhone cable?” is an ingrained part of the rhetoric inside any modern-day office. It’s no secret that Apple has developed an incredible cult-like following, the appetite for their new releases leaves queues of tech-heads and creatives alike snaking around the block of each store. This appetite leaves automatic demand for Apple cable tech. Great for Apple, bad for the planet.
A harmonious collaboration between tech companies on the creation of a “one size fits all” cable would certainly provide a more sustainable solution to the current discrepancies within cable tech. The solution would result in a USB element being integrated at both ends. Whilst this may seem the most cohesive, environmentally conscious answer for the future of cable tech, one cable could unrealistically fulfill the needs of each individual device. One further, and perhaps more realistic, the solution to the current state of cable tech would be to simply reduce the number of USB versions with each cable. As it stands, the number of variations that exist within cable tech ultimately prioritise the technology provider, not the user or the planet.
– By Eliza Edwards