The European Union’s legislators have chosen one charging port to rule them all. And it has a USB-C charging port.
EU officials ruled on Tuesday that all mobile electronic devices sold in the EU must have a USB-C charging port by the fall of 2024. The new rule applies to rechargeable mobile devices such as phones, tablets, laptop computers, handheld game consoles, headphones, and cameras. This move to standardize charging ports was made to reduce e-waste—consumers will be able to buy devices without a charger in the box if they prefer—but also to make it easier for people to manage the energy needs of their numerous devices.
“This is a bit of a common-sense victory,” says Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight. “Consumers are fed up with having so many different chargers and ports.”
Standardization of USB-C as the primary connection interface in the tech industry has taken a long time, with many manufacturers making the switch years ago. After all, USB-C has faster charging and transfer speeds than competing standards, and the cables are simple to find and use.
Nonetheless, one major player will bear the brunt of this decision: Apple. The proprietary Lighting port, which is exclusive to Apple devices, is used by all current iPhones and the base model iPad. There are over 1 billion iPhones in the world, and every model of iPhone released by Apple since 2012 has included a Lightning port.
Apple’s most likely course of action is to simply switch to USB-C across all of its devices. It’s not like the company hadn’t anticipated this. MacBooks and most iPad models already have USB-C connectors. According to Bloomberg, Apple has already begun testing new iPhones with USB-C ports.
So, with the EU pressuring Apple, we may soon see a USB-C iPhone after years of speculation. However, a more extreme scenario is also possible.
“Then there’s Apple’s nuclear option,” Wood says, “which would be to pay homage to Jony Iobsession ve’s with minimalism by getting rid of a charging port entirely and going completely wireless.”
Wireless charging is already available on all iPhone models. Although a plethora of accessories and dongles connect to iPhones via the Lightning connector, Apple has demonstrated that it isn’t afraid to make major design changes that break device compatibility; the company faced a massive backlash when it removed the iPhone’s headphone jack, but forged ahead anyway.
Apple has yet to respond to a comment request.
This is also not the first time in recent history that an EU ruling has resulted in significant changes at consumer technology companies. The GDPR, the EU’s comprehensive online data privacy legislation, resulted in a global redesign of the web’s user experience. Following the passage of a law in France last year requiring device manufacturers to include repairability ratings on their products, Apple and Samsung established their own consumer repair programs.
“What’s interesting is that European legislators can almost shape global technology trends,” Wood says. “Whether it’s right to repair, safety and environmental guidelines, or something like this with the universal connector, the sheer size of the European Union as a market of 500 million consumers means that no major consumer electronics company can ignore this.”
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