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Apple may have to ditch lightning cables if European regulators have their way

Members of the European Parliament are proposing that mobile phone chargers should be standardized, with calls for the European Commission to bring in regulation to control what chargers are used by phones and tablets. This could oblige Apple to ditch its lightning chargers and switch to a standard format instead.

If Apple were forced to drop the lightning cable in Europe, it would most likely be replaced with USB-C, the standard used on modern Android devices. Some older devices still use the Micro USB standard, but this has fallen out of fashion now as USB-C allows for the transfer of more power and is better for charging large items like laptops. Apple has already dropped the lightning cable on the 2019 iPad Pro, replacing it with a USB-C port.

Another option is that Apple could chose to do away with charging cables altogether and use wireless charging for its future devices instead. Apple has a history of doing away with standard inputs like headphone jacks, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility it would choose to eliminate charging cables altogether.

However, if and when the EU will actually make a ruling on this issue is still an open question. European regulators will vote on the matter at some point in the future, but a date has not yet been set.

This isn’t the first time the EU has called for mobile chargers to be standardized. In 2018, the EU commissioner for competition began an impact assessment study to see if it should introduce rules around mobile chargers. The concern is not only about whether customers are harmed by the use of non-standard charging cables, but also about the amount of e-waste caused by people having to throw out old chargers. With an estimated 51,000 tons of e-waste caused by chargers per year in Europe alone, this issue could have a serious impact on the environment.

Going back even further, the EU has been lobbying for the industry to adopt standard chargers since 2009. Apple did agree to a 2009 memorandum of understanding and pledged, along with other manufactures, to use  standard Micro USB chargers for its products. However, it continued to use its own chargers as a loophole in the regulations allows manufacturers to use their own charging cables as long as adapters to the standard are available.

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