The European Commission is set to propose legal measures that would force phone manufacturers to use a common charging standard like USB-C, which is ostensibly bad news for Apple. For several years now it’s been in the news that the EC’s attempts to legislate against Apple’s proprietary smartphone charging standard, which is known as Lightning. The EU simply wants smartphone manufacturers to “harmonize the charging points on devices,” using a USB-C charging port. The legislative body also wants manufacturers to ensure every phone uses the same fast-charging software protocol. That way, a USB-C charger or charging cable you bought for your Samsung Galaxy would also work for your iPhone.
Now those efforts appear set to enter a new phase of intensity. According to the report, the European Commission will present a legislative proposal on Thursday that would force manufacturers to use a common charging standard by the middle of 2024. Of course, almost all phone manufacturers do use a common charging standard in the form of USB-C. Only Apple doesn’t, so it’s clear who this legislation is primarily aimed at.
The EC’s proposal would require a harmonized charging standard, which would also include all manufacturers making their individual fast-charging protocols interoperable between brands. It would also require that manufacturers stop providing a charging brick as standard with every new smartphone, in a bid to cut down on e-waste. Current estimates say the proposal will reduce the amount of e-waste produced in the EU by 980 tons per year. Adopting a common charger for every smartphone to the European Commission also means manufacturers will stop selling the accessories with every new smartphone. Instead, the legislation directs manufacturers to provide consumers the choice to use their old chargers. Last year, the European Parliament offered its support of this measure.
Apple, of course, has long resisted these European attempts at enforced homogeneity, claiming that the resulting legislation would stifle innovation. Ironically enough, it was also the first manufacturer to electively remove the charging brick from its iPhone boxes. Apple has already adopted USB-C chargers for other devices. For example, the iPad Pro, iPad Air, and the new model of the iPad mini all use USB-C for their charging. Thus far, the iPhone and several accessories remain the only devices using Lightning.
The Commission plans to adopt the proposal in 2022. Member countries will have a year to transpose it into domestic law. Then, manufacturers will have one more year to transition to a common charging protocol. All of that means that by mid-2024, the new law would take full effect and manufacturers would be required to use USB-C for their smartphone charging. Of course, none of this affects wireless chargers. Apple could easily skirt the law by removing the charging port altogether and instead relying only on MagSafe wireless charging.