Why the iPhone Pro Desperately Needs Faster USB Transfer Speeds
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Why the iPhone Pro Desperately Needs Faster USB Transfer Speeds

Jun 02, 2023

And why the regular iPhone probably doesn't

Solen Feyissa / Unsplash

The iPhone 15 Pro might finally get USB 3 transfer speeds. Yes, the iPhone—even the Pro models—still use USB 2.0.

Apple pushes the video capabilities of its top-end iPhones, and they're indeed impressive, capable of capturing great-looking 4K videos at high frame rates. But if you want to transfer that video to a Mac, PC, or iPad for editing, then you'll be doing it over a legacy USB 2.0 connection. According to reports from supply-chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, next year's iPhone Pro will finally fix this. The kicker? The regular iPhone 15 will stay just as it is.

"The iPhone Pro is a powerhouse of a phone, but its lack of USB 3.0 port means transferring videos and photos off the device can be painfully slow," Jeroen van Gils, managing director at networking tech company Lifi.co, told Lifewire via email.

The iPhone can shoot ProRes video recording up to 4K at 30 fps. Open up your phone's camera settings and see that "A minute of 10-bit HDR ProRes is approximately 1.7GB for HD and 6GB for 4K."

That's 6GB for one minute of video. Next, let's see how fast USB can transfer that data from the phone. USB 2.0 can manage 480 Mbps, which is, if my math is correct, just 60MB per second. That means over a minute and a half to transfer, ideally, but if you ever tried to transfer big files over USB 2.0, you'll know it would take way longer than that. Long enough that making a coffee is probably a good idea.

...its lack of USB 3.0 port means transferring videos and photos off the device can be painfully slow.

USB 3 (the latest version) tops out at 10 Gbps, which is 1.25 GB per second. In this case, your minute of 4K ProRes video would be done before you could even think about getting up to make that aforementioned cup of coffee.

"Currently, the iPhone Pro only has a USB 2 connection, which means that transferring large video files can take quite a while. This is especially problematic when you consider the fact that the iPhone Pro is capable of creating huge video files," technology writer James Calderon told Lifewire via email. "USB 3.0 is much faster than USB 2.0, and it can transfer data up to 10 times faster. That means transferring a video file off the iPhone Pro would be a lot faster."

Which is all to say that USB 2 is pathetic as a data-transfer method in 2022. It's still fine for connecting music devices (very low data rates required) and charging low-power devices, but that's about it.

For the iPhone 15 Pro, then, the change to USB 3 will almost certainly coincide with the EU-mandated switch from a Lighting to a USB-C connector. The plain iPhone 15 will also presumably switch, although with deadlines being what they are, Apple might squeeze in another generation of Lightning iPhones.

Either way, does the plain iPhone even need USB 3?

Maybe not. After all, how many complaints have you heard about transfer speed from iPhone users? Most people use their cables for charging or connecting to wired headphones or speakers.

The easiest and fastest way for an iPhone user to send big files is to use AirDrop, which creates a direct device-to-device Wi-Fi connection. This peer-to-peer connection means it doesn't rely on an existing Wi-Fi network, which keeps things fast, and lets you use it outside, in the wilderness, anywhere.

Apple doesn't publish specs for AirDrop speeds, perhaps because it depends so much on external factors. If both devices have the latest versions of Wi-Fi and are close together in a place without lots of wireless interference, it's going to be a lot quicker than trying to send media to an iPhone 6 across a sports hall filled with running microwave ovens, for example.

Anecdotally, though, AirDrop is, for some, faster than USB 2.0 and also way more convenient because you just send the file from the standard share sheet, and recipients show up ready to receive it.

So, yes, when the iPhone Pro is used as a pro-level video camera, it needs a faster wired connection for sustained, reliable file transfers. But for everyone else? It seems fine as it is.

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