In the 2024 Christmas shopping season, European consumers will 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 for almost all devices sold in the EU.
The newly adopted rules – which have been discussed for almost a decade and were formally introduced last September – will amend the EU radio equipment directive to prescribe a single charging solution for devices such as mobile phones, tablets, e-readers , earbuds, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, portable video game consoles, and portable speakers.
Laptop manufacturers will also have to adapt the USB-C standard within 40 months after the legislation comes into effect.
The new rules set a standard for fast charging to ensure devices can be charged at the same speed regardless of which charger is used.
The new rules, adopted last week by the EU’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Commission, are expected to save consumers up to $375 million (€250 million) a year by avoiding having to buy often incompatible chargers for every electronic device. that they own.
Many of those chargers go unused, with consumers throwing away an estimated 11,000 tons of e-waste every year.
“For every three chargers we receive, we don’t even take one out of the box,” explains parliament rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba.
“It’s not a matter of imposing just one common charger,” he said. “It’s about giving information to our consumers and giving them the option to buy a device with or without a charger… and not be penalized for doing so. If a device becomes obsolete, you can still use the charger and don’t have to throw it away.”
To this end, the new rules also require clear labeling on devices about charging options and whether the package includes a charger.
Exceptions to the rule apply to devices that are too small to have a USB-C port, such as smartwatches, health trackers and other sports equipment.
By 2026, EU parliamentarians also want to see a strategy to provide “minimum 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
While many device manufacturers 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, introduced in 2012 as a sleek alternative to the 30-pin connector launched in 2003.
Lightning is designed as a “modern connector for the next decade,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of global marketing, looking ahead at the introduction of the new design, noting that its 80 percent reduction is “a huge difference made into the world’s thinnest smartphone.”
A decade later, the EU’s decision will force Apple to integrate USB-C ports — which, as a comparison showed, require more space than Lightning connectors.
Within the tight confines of iPhone microelectronics, fitting slightly larger ports may be more difficult than it seems, although recent reports suggest Apple is already testing new USB-C equipped devices for launch in 2023 or 2024.
Whether the company will also maintain 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 at CCS Insight, said the EU decision is “a victory for common sense, with the EU really trying to do something that is more environmentally friendly…. The benefits will outweigh the drawbacks.”
The EU decision is part of a broader ‘ecodesign’ mandate that has also seen the union impose new standards for external power supplies, which will come into effect in 2020 and are expected to save 10 TWh of energy annually – cutting CO2 emissions. is reduced2 emissions by nearly 4 million tons and save users $3 billion (€2 billion).