The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, has revealed proposals to require a smartphone and other electronics makers to have a standard USB-C charging connector. Apple, which continues to utilize its proprietary Lightning connector rather than the USB-C connector embraced by most of its competitors, is expected to be the most affected by the suggestion. The regulations aim to reduce electronic waste by allowing people to reuse old chargers and cords when purchasing new equipment.
The laws will apply to tablets, headphones, portable speakers, gaming consoles, and cameras, in addition to phones. Manufacturers will also be required to make their fast-charging standards interoperable, as well as educate users about the charging standards that their device supports. Customers will be able to purchase new gadgets without a charger as part of the idea.
In a press conference, EU commissioner Thierry Breton stated that the plans only apply to devices that use wired charges, not wireless chargers, and that “there is plenty of room for innovation on wireless.”
The new Radio Equipment Directive proposal will need to pass a vote in the European Parliament in order to become law. Manufacturers will have 24 months to comply with the new requirements if they are enacted. In early 2020, the parliament voted in favor of new rules on a common charger, signaling that today’s proposal should receive widespread approval.
“Chargers provide electricity to all of our most important electrical devices. As the number of devices on the market grows, so does the number of chargers available, many of which are either non-interchangeable or unnecessary. Thierry Breton, the commissioner, stated, “We are putting an end to that.” “With our plan, European consumers will be able to charge all of their portable electronics with a single charger, which is a significant step toward increasing convenience and reducing waste.”
“European consumers had had enough of mismatched chargers stacking up in their drawers for a long time. We gave industry plenty of time to develop their own solutions, and now the time is right for legislative action on a common charger,” said Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president of the European Commission.
Today’s proposal focuses on the device’s charging port, but the Commission says it intends to achieve “complete interoperability” on both ends of the cable in the future. A review will be launched later this year that will focus on the power supply end.
The measures are in response to a vote in the European Parliament in January 2020 on new rules for uniform chargers. Electronic garbage created across the EU amounts to roughly 12.3 million metric tons as of 2016.
Apple, which continues to ship phones with a Lightning connector rather than the increasingly common USB-C port, is expected to be the most affected by the new standards. According to a Reuters analysis, roughly 29% of phone chargers sold in the EU in 2018 utilized USB-C, 21% used Lightning, and 50% used the older Micro USB standard. As USB-C has replaced Micro USB on all Android phones except the cheapest, these proportions are likely to have moved significantly.
Efforts to encourage smartphone makers in the EU to use the same charging standard stretch back to 2009, when Apple, Samsung, Huawei, and Nokia signed a voluntary agreement to do so. The industry eventually adopted Micro USB and, more recently, USB-C as a common charging connector in the following years. Despite the fact that the number of charging standards has been reduced from over 30 to just three (Micro USB, USB-C, and Lightning), regulators have stated that this voluntary approach has fallen short of its goals.
Apple was a significant outlier in that its phones never directly incorporated a Micro USB port. Instead, a Micro USB to 30-pin converter was available. It’s also spoken out against the latest round of efforts to establish a common charging standard. Apple stated in a statement last year that new restrictions could lead to e-waste because customers may be forced to discard old Lightning accessories if they aren’t compatible with the universal standard, and that legislation could inhibit innovation by requiring companies to stick to existing ports.
Apple has taken its own attempts to limit charger e-waste, despite continuing to use Lightning. It stopped including charging bricks or earbuds in new iPhone boxes last year, instead of providing merely a Lightning to USB-C cord. The move, however, elicited conflicting reactions, with some claiming that it benefited Apple’s financial line more than the environment.
Wireless charging is becoming increasingly popular across smartphones and has largely converged on a single cross-platform standard: Qi. While European lawmakers are primarily concerned with wired chargers, wireless charging is becoming increasingly popular across smartphones and has largely converged on a single cross-platform standard: Qi. According to reports, Apple may release an iPhone without a Lightning port, relying solely on wireless charging for power.