The new USB-C is a blow to Apple

One charger to rule them all – USB-C. Photo: Shutterstock

The 2024 Christmas shopping season will see European consumers buy Apple iPhones and other devices with USB-C charging ports, after the European Union (EU) agreed to force electronics companies to standardize the format of almost all devices sold in the EU.

The newly approved rules – which have been under discussion for almost a decade and have been officially presented last September – will be edit the EU Radio Equipment Directive to mandate a single charging solution for devices including mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, headphones, digital cameras, earphones and headphones, portable video game consoles and portable speakers.

Laptop manufacturers will also be forced to adapt the USB-C standard within 40 months of the legislation taking effect.

The new rules impose a fast charging standard, to ensure that devices can be charged at the same speed regardless of the charger used.

Past last week by the EU’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, the new rules are should save consumers up to $375 million (€250 million) per year by saving them from having to buy often incompatible chargers for every electronic device they own.

Many of these chargers sit unused, consumers valued get rid of 11,000 tonnes of electronic waste per year.

“With three chargers that we receive at home, we don’t even take one out of the packaging,” said Parliament’s rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba. Explain.

“It’s not about imposing a single common charger,” he said. “It’s about informing our consumers and giving them the option of buying a device with or without a charger… and not being penalized for it. If a device becomes obsolete, you can still use the charger and you won’t need to throw it away.

To that end, the new rules also mandate clear labeling on devices regarding charging options and whether the package includes a charger.

Exceptions to the rule apply to devices too small to have a USB-C port, such as smartwatches, health trackers, and other sports equipment.

By 2026, MEPs also want to see a strategy to provide “minimal interoperability” of new wireless charging solutions, which can vary in power and often use proprietary standards that prevent them from charging any device. .

A redesign for Apple

Although many device makers have already switched to using USB-C ports, the new rules have been closely watched for their impact on Apple – which has long argued that a single connector standard would stifle innovation.

More than a billion iPhones and iPads use the company’s 8-pin Lightning connector, which has been introduced in 2012 as a slim alternative to the 30-pin connector launched in 2003.

Lightning was designed as a “modern connector for the next decade,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, in presentation the new design, noting that its 80% size reduction has made “a huge difference in the world’s thinnest smartphone”.

A decade later, the EU decision will force Apple to integrate USB-C ports – which, as a comparison shown, require more space than Lightning connectors.

Within the cramped confines of the iPhone’s microelectronics, accommodating slightly larger ports may be harder than it looks, although recent reports suggest that Apple is already test new USB-C equipped devices for launch in 2023 or 2024.

Whether the company will also preserve backwards compatibility by releasing a USB-C to Lightning adapter – as it did when it moved to Lightning connectors – remains to be seen.

Anyway, Ben Wood, Chief Analyst of CCS Insight said the EU decision “is a victory for common sense, with the EU genuinely trying to do something that is more environmentally friendly…. The advantages will outweigh the disadvantages. »

The EU decision is part of a wider ‘eco-design’ mandate which has also seen the Union impose new standards for external power supplies, which came into force in 2020 and are expected to save 10 TWh of energy per year – thus reducing CO emissions2 emissions of almost 4 million tons and allowing users to save 3 billion dollars (2 billion euros).

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