What the EU’s ruling on USB-C chargers could mean for devices everywhere

What the EU’s ruling on USB-C chargers could mean for devices everywhere thumbnail

The European Union has just decreed that all new smartphones and other similar electronic devices sold within its 27 member countries must have a USB-C charging port by fall of 2024. This is to allow customers the ability to charge all of their devices with one charger type. It effectively bans Apple’s Lightning port for any new models that are released in the timeframe. The ruling is only applicable in the EU but it will likely affect all devices worldwide.

While this decision is being presented as the EU regulating smartphones ,, the new ruling covers a wider range of “small- and medium-sized electronic devices.” All cell phones, tablets, e-readers, earbuds or headphones that charge over a wire (rather that a dedicated charging dock, wirelessly, or over a wire) will need a USB-C port regardless of manufacturer. The ruling also applies to laptops, though manufacturers have an additional 40 months to meet the requirements.

Technically, Apple doesn’t have to remove the Lightning port from forthcoming iPhones–it just has to add a USB-C port to any that are released after 2024. The chance that Apple will add a second port is virtually zero. It is more likely that Apple will go completely wireless with the iPhone, as has been called for . It doesn’t require a USB-C port if it isn’t charged via a cable.

[Related: The EU wants everyone to use USB-C chargers—including Apple]

Bloomberg reported recently that Apple has been testing USB-C iPhones, though similar rumors have also been floating around for a few years. It’s worth noting that the iPhone is an outlier in Apple’s lineup: the iPads Pro, Air, and Mini, MacBooks Air and Pro, and even some Beats headphones are all charged over USB-C. (Apple boasts of its versatility on the iPad Mini marketing page!) Apple even had a hand in designing USB-C as part of the USB Implementers Forum, so it isn’t as if the company has entirely avoided the connector. The EU is only forcing it to embrace it fully.

The EU has a history of regulating this area. In 2009, it similarly tried to force manufacturers to use the Micro-USB connector. However, because of the way the law was written, Apple was able to meet the requirements by offering a Micro-USB-to-30-pin adapter for around $15. This time, there is no loophole.

The law will not apply to products that are introduced to the market after it goes into effect. Apple will find this useful considering the way they deal with previous year’s models. They discount them and sell them as their mid-tier and entry level options. Right now, you can buy the iPhone 13 and 13 Pro (released in 2021), the iPhone 12 (released in 2020), and the iPhone 11 (released in 2019). If we presume the first iPhone released under this law will be the iPhone 16 (assuming that’s indeed what it’s called), the iPhone 15 and 14 can still be sold with Lightning ports.

The EU is using this as a huge win for consumers. Alex Agius Saliba, the EU Parliament’s rapporteur, said: “Today we have made the common charger a reality in Europe! European consumers were frustrated [sic] with multiple charging cables for every new device.

USB-C standards are widely regarded as a “total mess.” Although all devices use the same ports, they don’t always allow for the same power or data transfer speeds. In terms of those data transfer speeds, some USB-C cables offer 5 Gbps while others offer 20 Gbps. The only way to tell the difference is to check the packaging and see what the so-called SuperSpeed USB rating is. Different USB-C wall plugs have different power ratings. The 10W plug for a smartphone might technically connect to a 16″ MacBook Pro (which ships with a 140W charger), but it often can’t provide enough power to keep the battery charged while it’s in use.

The EU also stated that “the charging speed for devices that support quick charging is also aligned,” so consumers may end up with a drawer full of similar-looking chargers. And devices that don’t charge as fast.

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