EU Will Mandate a Common Phone Charger by 2024

Image Credit: iStock, Pinkypills

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One port to charge them all, one port to combine them.

On Tuesday, the European Union announced it will force smartphone manufacturers to use a standard USB-C charging port, ending the ritual of asking around at the office until you find someone with the right charger after forgetting yours at home. Now there’s only the resistance from a $2.4 trillion megacorporation.

Singled Out

The “common charger” rule is the EU’s attempt to kill two birds with one cord. First, bloc says consumers will save €250 million ($267 million) per year on “unnecessary charger purchases” due to standardization, which will also be required for tablets, digital cameras, headphones, portable game consoles, and e-readers. Second, it will be good for the environment by cutting down on 11,000 tons of annual waste.

Once, as expected, the rule is passed by the European Parliament, manufacturers will have 24 months to upgrade their devices — laptops will fall under the rules at a later date. Apple — which sold 56 million iPhones last year in Europe, out of 241 million total — says the EU failed to account for what could be lost in technological advancement:

  • “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,” Apple, the only major smartphone manufacturer that hasn’t adopted USB-C, told Reuters. Still, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said the company is already testing iPhones with USB-C ports in place of its proprietary Lightning charger.
  • “My job is to kill off these sea snakes whenever I can,” retorted EU industry commissioner Thierry Breton. “Every time we put a proposal forward, they start to say ‘oh, it will be against innovation.’ No, it’s not against innovation, it’s not against anyone.” Breton said the EU will develop a standard to allow for the development of new charging technologies.

The Invisible Path: The EU’s new rules will not prohibit wireless charging, already gaining a foothold in China thanks to Huawei, OnePlus, and Xiaomi — the iPhone 12 is also capable of (relatively slow) wireless charging with Apple’s Magsafe charger. Kuo previously said Apple could proceed straight to a portless iPhone, in a move that could be described as USB-C-U-L8R.