After over a decade of debates and fierce corporate lobbying, the European Union has finally voted in favor of a standardization law that paves the way for a common charger and charging port on smartphones and tablets. The European Parliament, the European Council, and member nations have agreed upon legislation that aims to put a USB-C port on all smartphones and tablets sold in the EU region by 2024.
While this legislation affects all smartphones and tablets in the region, Apple is the brand that will have to have to shoulder the bulk of the policy implementation. The Tim Cook-led company has stuck with the proprietary Lightning port on iPhones for years, but the EU regulation will force it to put a USB-C port on iPhones by 2024 or leave the market. That means Apple smartphones slated to debut late in 2024 will have to ditch the Lightning port in favor of a USB-C outlet for charging and file transfer.
Aside from smartphones and tablets, the amendment to the EU’s Radio Equipment Directive covers a total of 15 categories, including audio wearables, cameras, e-readers, and video game consoles. Manufacturers have until the end of 2024 to adopt the USB-C standard on their devices and also agree to the standard charger policy. The legislation also extends to laptops, but brands have until the next 40 months to acclimatize to the changes prescribed for this category.
We have a deal on the #CommonCharger! 🇪🇺
More savings for EU consumers & less waste for the planet:
🔌 mobile phones, tablets, cameras… will have #USBtypeC
🔌 harmonised fast-charging technology
🔌 unbundling of sale of chargers
The EU general interest has prevailed! pic.twitter.com/i2UAE7kzyI
— Thierry Breton (@ThierryBreton) June 7, 2022
Citing the European Commission’s own research, European Parliament Rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba claimed that one in three chargers bundled with electronic gadgets that are sold in the area remained unopened. The European markets hope that the policy will save consumers about 250 million euros each year that would otherwise be spent on buying different types of chargers.
Aside from standardizing the USB-C as the standard port for charging smartphones, the proposal also paves the way for a single charger for all devices under the legislation’s aegis. Another notable aspect is that buyers will get to choose if they want to buy a device with or without a charger in the retail package. There is already some precedent for that.
Chinese electronics giant Xiaomi sold its flagship Mi 11 series smartphone in China in two packaging options: One with a charger and the other one without an included charging brick (both at the same price). The EU’s landmark decision, however, is going to affect Apple more than any other brand.
One might assume that the EU rule directly targets Apple, but that’s not the case. “This is not a piece of legislation which is targeted for Apple only,” Saliba said, answering a reporter’s question if the legislation is squarely targeted at Apple during a press conference. “In two years’ time, if Apple wants to market their products, sell their products, within our internal market, they will have to abide by our rules. And their receptacle device has to be USB-C.”
"The proposed legislation can achieve important objectives on consumer choice, reduction of costs to consumers and reduction of e-waste."
🗣️ MEP @alexagiussaliba on the deal about the common charger for portable electronic devices
— European Parliament Audiovisual (@europarlAV) June 7, 2022
However, Saliba pointed out that Apple has skirted around the proposal for years, while other manufacturers on the Android and Windows side of the ecosystem embraced the USB-C standard. Apple has repeatedly stressed that standardizing the USB-C port would stifle innovation, but that isn’t entirely true. While Apple has stuck to the Lightning port, charging speeds on iPhones haven’t picked up the pace and are limited to around 20W. Meanwhile, Android phones with USB-C chargers are hitting charge speeds of 150W.
While the idea of a USB-C iPhone sounds ludicrous, it appears that the transition isn’t too far-fetched. Bloomberg recently reported that Apple is experimenting with a USB-C port for its future iPhones. The iPads have already adopted the USB-C port, and it won’t be shocking to see the same happen to iPhones in the coming years.
In the near future, Apple will also have to abide by a similar regulation for wireless charging standardization, a proposal that is already on the discussion table for devices sold in the EU market. It’s currently unclear how this would impact Apple’s MagSafe accessory system for the iPhone. It seems unlikely Apple would need to abandon MagSafe since it uses standard Qi tech for wireless charging, but right now, it’s difficult to say either way.
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