After more than a decade of debate and fierce corporate lobbying, the European Union finally has 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 the member nations have agreed on a legislation which aims to put a port USB-C 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 shoulder the lion’s share of implementing the policy. The Tim Cook-led company has stuck with the proprietary Lightning port in iPhones for years, but EU regulation will force it to put a USB-C port in iPhones by 2024 or leave the market. That means Apple smartphones scheduled to debut in late 2024 will have to ditch the Lightning port in favor of a USB-C socket for charging and file transfers.
In addition to smartphones and tablets, the amendment to the EU Radio Equipment Directive covers a total of 15 categories, including portable audio devices, cameras, e-readers and game consoles. Manufacturers have until the end of 2024 to adopt the USB-C standard in their devices and also accept the standard charger policy. The legislation also extends to laptops, but brands have until the next 40 months to acclimate 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
🔌 harmonized fast-charging technology
🔌 unbundling of sale of chargers
The EU general interest has prevailed! pic.twitter.com/i2UAE7kzyI
— Thierry Breton (@ThierryBreton) June 7, 2022
As well as standardizing USB-C as the standard port for charging smartphones, the proposal also paves the way for a single charger for all devices under the aegis of the legislation. Another noteworthy aspect is that buyers will be able to choose whether 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 without a charging brick included (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 is not the case. “This is not legislation that is aimed only at Apple,” Saliba said, responding to a reporter’s question if the legislation is aimed directly at Apple during a press conference. “Two years from now, if Apple wants to market their products, sell their products, within our home market, they will have to comply with our rules. And your 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 sidestepped the proposal for years, while other manufacturers on the Android and Windows side of the ecosystem have adopted the USB-C standard. Apple has repeatedly emphasized that standardizing the USB-C port would stifle innovation, but that’s not entirely true. While Apple has stuck with 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 150W charging speeds.
While the idea of a USB-C iPhone sounds ridiculous, it sounds like the transition isn’t too far-fetched. Bloomberg It was recently reported that Apple is experimenting with a USB-C port for its future iPhones. iPads have already embraced the USB-C port, and it won’t be surprising to see the same thing happen to iPhones in the coming years.
In the near future, Apple will also have to comply with a similar regulation for the standardization of wireless charging, a proposal that is already on the discussion table for devices sold in the EU market. It’s currently unclear how this would affect Apple’s MagSafe accessory system for the iPhone. It seems unlikely that Apple will have to ditch MagSafe as it uses standard Qi technology for wireless charging, but right now, it’s hard to say either way.