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EU Gives Apple Two Years to Ditch Lightning Cables

A cable plugged into a smartphone
Alan Pekrul/Shutterstock.com

Legislators within the European Union say they’ve reached an agreement on the “common charger” mandate that was proposed last year. By the end of 2024, all battery-powered portable devices sold in the EU must have a USB-C port or rely entirely on wireless charging. And yes, this applies to Apple’s iPhone.

Update, 12/8/22: In a new directive, the EU states that all smartphones must use USB-C by December 28th of 2024. This clarifies the “deadline” set for Apple and other companies.

Note that Apple plans to comply with the EU’s rules.

The reasoning behind this decision is quite simple—it could reduce consumer spending and e-waste. Legislators within the EU believe that people burn €250 million on “unnecessary” cable purchases each year. And while e-waste is difficult to measure, the EU estimates that a “common charger” could reduce the annual load of e-waste by 11,000 tons.

Most electronics manufacturers are wholly unaffected by this change. If anything, they can lower prices (or stiff customers for more revenue) by selling products without chargers. But companies that are notorious for proprietary charging systems, particularly Apple, are in a bit of a pinch.

Apple has repeatedly argued against this legislation, essentially stating that regulatory action stifles innovation. It’s an understandable but ironic concern, given that the Lighting cable falls far below USB-C specs and was replaced by USB-C in the iPad Pro several years ago.

If I had to make an educated guess, Apple wants to avoid major changes to the iPhone until it can develop a next-gen wireless charging system, which has been rumored for some time. Switching the iPhone to USB-C won’t ruffle too many feathers, but if the iPhone goes port-less just a year or two later, customers will be pissed.

So, Apple has two years to fully embrace USB-C or launch a port-less iPhone. And I sincerely doubt that the latter option is possible, at least, not until the tail end of the decade. Tim Cook would need to shoot down a UFO to make a good port-less phone by 2024, as today’s wireless charging systems are slow, short-range, and outrageously wasteful.

It seems that Apple is already aware of this predicament. Recent leaks suggest that it’s working on a USB-C iPhone for 2023, though of course, we hear such rumors every year.

For what it’s worth, Review Geek has a few concerns about this legislation. The USB-C standard is full of wildly different products with different features, such as Power Delivery or DisplayPort functionality.  Customers will still be confused and wasteful when shopping for chargers, and although the EU says that it will continue to develop the “common charger” rule to keep up with changing trends, lawmakers aren’t exactly known for working quickly.

Source: European Parliament

Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is the News Editor for Review Geek, where he covers breaking stories and manages the news team. He joined Life Savvy Media as a freelance writer in 2018 and has experience in a number of topics, including mobile hardware, audio, and IoT. Read Full Bio »