Legislators in The European Union has chosen one charging port to control them all. And that charging port is USB-C.
On Tuesday, EU officials ruled that all mobile electronic devices sold within the EU must be supplied with a USB-C charging port in the fall of 2024. The new mandate applies to rechargeable mobile devices such as phones, tablets, laptops, handheld game consoles, headphones and cameras. This step to standardize charging ports was carried out as a way to limit e-waste – consumers will be able to buy devices without a charger in the box if they choose – but also to make it easier for people to argue their energy needs . many devices.
“This is a bit of a victory for common sense,” says Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight. “Consumers are tired of having many different chargers, many different ports.”
Standardization around USB-C as the technology industry’s most important connection interface has been a long time coming, with many manufacturers switching many years ago. After all, USB-C generally boasts faster charging and transfer speeds than competing standards, and the cables are easy to find and use.
Still, there is one big player that is really going to feel this judgment: Apple. All current iPhones and the base model iPad use the proprietary Lighting port, which is exclusive to Apple devices. There is more than 1 billion iPhones in the world, and every model of iPhone that Apple has released since 2012 has come with a Lightning port.
The most likely approach for Apple is to just switch to USB-C across all of its devices. It’s not like the company has not seen this coming. It already uses USB-C connectors on MacBooks and most iPad models. Last month, Bloomberg reported that Apple has already been try out new iPhones with USB-C ports.
So when the EU forces Apple’s hand, there’s a chance we’ll soon see a USB-C iPhone after years of speculation. However, a more radical scenario is just as likely.
“Then there’s the nuclear option for Apple,” says Wood, “which would be to pay homage to Jony Ive’s obsession with minimalism and completely get rid of a charging port and become completely wireless.”
Wireless charging is already supported across the entire iPhone series. And while countless accessories and dongles are put on iPhones via the Lightning connector, Apple has proven that it’s not afraid to make major design changes that break the compatibility of this device; the company faced a huge setback when it removed the iPhone’s headphone jack, but went ahead nonetheless.
Apple has not responded to a request for comment.
Nor is it the first time in recent history that an EU ruling has led to major changes in consumer technology companies. GDPR, the EU’s comprehensive online data protection law, caused the equivalent of a global redesign of the Internet user experience. A law passed in France last year requiring device manufacturers to include appraisals of repairs on their products led Apple and Samsung to set up their own consumer repair programs.
“The interesting thing is that EU legislators are almost capable of shaping global technology trends,” says Wood. “Whether it’s right to repair, safety and environmental guidelines that they enforce, or something like that with the universal plug, the large size of the EU as a market of 500 million consumers means that no major consumer electronics company can ignore this.”