The European Commission, the branch of the European Union responsible for proposing and enforcing legislation, announced on 23 September plans to require all electronic devices to adopt USB-C charging ports.
The proposal was made in a bid to reduce e-waste and consumer inconvenience, allowing device owners to re-use the chargers and cables they already own across all their devices.
The proposal states that devices like tablets, headphones, cameras, portable speakers and handheld videogame consoles will be required to comply as well. In addition, chargers will be sold separately from the devices. This, the Commission says, will lessen the environmental footprint associated with the production and disposal of chargers.
Also, under the new proposal, manufacturers will have to harmonise their fast-charging standards, ensuring that charging speeds remain the same while using any compatible charger. In line with this, they must provide information to customers about charging performance, including the device’s power requirements and whether or not it supports fast charging.
According to The Verge, for the proposal to become law, it will have to pass a vote in the European Parliament. And if it does pass, manufacturers will reportedly be given 24 months to comply with the new rules. For context, the parliament voted in favour of new rules on a common charger last year, so the new proposal is expected to have the support of the majority of legislators.
For a lot of Android manufacturers, the proposal’s requirements don’t really involve that big of an adjustment, given how USB-C has almost entirely replaced MicroUSB as the new standard in the last few years.
For Apple, however, it’s a different story. The California-based firm still ships most of its devices with its Lightning Connector, including all four models of its recently launched iPhone 13 line. There are Apple devices out there with USB-C ports like the new iPad Mini 6, but these are far and few in between, with the firm seemingly unwavering on sticking to its proprietary tech.
Apple expressed its displeasure with the proposal, saying in a statement to Reuters, "We remain concerned that strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world."
The company previously said that implementing USB-C as the universal standard would force consumers to throw away their existing Lightning accessories, which only creates more e-waste.
The Verge notes that as of 2018, about 29% of phone chargers sold in the EU used USB-C, 21% used Lightning, while MicroUSB accounted for the remaining half.
As an alternative, Apple could turn to wireless charging, with rumours hinting that it is working on a portless iPhone that can be charged without the need for chargers and cables. If the law does indeed pass, we could perhaps see this rumoured iPhone as early as the iPhone 15 launch.
Unlike wired charging, device makers largely support and adopt only one wireless charging standard, Qi. This is likely the reason why the proposal only covers wired charging and not wireless charging.
To ultimately have a common charger, the Commission says that it will also look into the interoperability of the external power supply in the next review.
"Chargers power all our most essential electronic devices. With more and more devices, more and more chargers are sold that are not interchangeable or not necessary. We are putting an end to that," said commissioner Thierry Breton.
"With our proposal, European consumers will be able to use a single charger for all their portable electronics – an important step to increase convenience and reduce waste," he added.
Written by Kyle Chua
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