The EU’s USB-C mandate means for Apple – and for users

The European Union (EU) announced this week that most consumer electronics device manufacturers must adopt USB Type-C charging standards by 2024.

The unprecedented mandate is expected to greatly affect Apple, whose products – including the popular iPhone series – use the company-owned Lightning Connector protocol. The move means that iPhones and AirPods sold in the EU will have to switch to more ubiquitous USB-C ports and cable connectors.

The regulations require devices to be charged at the same speed and address the issue of “consumers who are unable to charge their devices because they do not have a compatible charger at their disposal”.

The European Parliament said in a statement that “consumers will be able to choose whether or not to purchase new electronic equipment with or without charging devices.”

USB-C iPhone

The ability for a consumer to purchase a device with or without cable can save users money in the short term, but it may give Apple the same choice: not sending chargers and cables with its devices, according to Ryan Reth, vice president of research at IDC, a global mobile device. Trackers

This does not mean that Apple will move all of its devices worldwide to USB-C, although some analysts and industry observers believe that Apple is preparing to do just that.

“Apple makes a lot of money [proprietary] Accessories, and so do its partners who make lightning cables, “said Reith.” So I don’t think this instruction means they will move their entire portfolio to USB-C outside the gate – unless they are forced to. “

Jack Gold, chief analyst at Jay Gold Associates, said he hoped Apple could step in to bring USB-C to the iPhone and AirPods in the US market.

“It will depend on whether it sees the two connectors as less convenient from a manufacturing standpoint than the increased maintenance revenue it can provide.” “But in the end I doubt they will transfer all their products to the USB-C connector. And I think that would be a good thing for consumers. “

The guidelines of the European Parliament’s Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection apply to all “small and medium-sized” portable electronic devices. These include mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, earbuds, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, hand-held videogame consoles and portable speakers that can be recharged via a wired cable.

The committee said the laptops would have to be adapted to the requirements within 40 months of taking effect.

“Today, we’ve made the ordinary charger a reality in Europe!” Parliamentaric reporter Alex Agius Saliba said in a statement. “European consumers have long been frustrated with the addition of multiple chargers to each new device. Now they will be able to use a single charger for all their portable electronics. ”

The EU Committee has added provisions for wireless charging as “the subsequent evolution of charging technology and advanced information and labeling for consumers”.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment, but the company is already working on a USB-C mobile device, according to Reth.

“There are iPads that have been USB-C compatible for years. They don’t need to move their iPad line to USB-C. They knew it was coming, “said Reith.

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes Apple’s iPhone 15 USB-C compatibility will be included When it will launch in the second half of 2023. The iPhone 14 line-up, expected in September, is almost certain to use a Lightning connector.

USB C Twitter Graphic Twitter

The EU’s guideline seeks to bring technical clarity to customers who will have clear information about the charging features of the new device, making it easier for them to see if their existing chargers are compatible.

For example, the quality and capacity of USB-C chargers vary greatly depending on the manufacturer. Some aftermarket cable manufacturers, such as in China, claim to be able to provide users with an all-in-one USB-C, micro-USB-C and lightning cable. In reality, these products do not support fast charging capabilities.

“These Chinese companies label these chargers as something they really are,” Reth said. “A perfect example: go to Amazon and buy one of those chargers for $ 5 and try plugging any one of them into your charger and see how slowly it charges.”

The new rule will also reduce electronic waste, the EU Parliament argued, as it would lead to further reuse of chargers for various devices. And it can help customers save up to $ 268 million a year on unnecessary charger purchases.

“Disposed and unused chargers are estimated to represent about 11,000 [tons] Annual e-waste, ”the committee said.

USB-C is capable of supporting USB4, the latest and fastest USB specification, which allows data transfer speeds up to 40Gbps. By comparison, Lightning transfers data at a USB 2.0 rate of 480Mbps. USB-C is supported by most modern devices, including Android phones, Windows PCs, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, as well as used by the iPad Pro (third generation and later).

The latest version of USB-C supports native power up to 100W / 3A and 240W / 5A; It supports USB power delivery for fast charging. By comparison, Lightning has native power support for 12W / 2.4A.

According to Lifeware, fast charging requires a lightning cable from USB-C and a power adapter of 20W or higher.

For the most part, according to Gold, Apple’s use of proprietary connectors is more than the need for peripherals to be more innovative than Apple’s control.

“I’m sure Apple would prefer to have a proprietary connector instead of standardizing USB-C,” he said. “Apple makes a lot of money on its Lightning connector peripherals, as well as third party licensing fees. But from a consumer perspective, why would I need a special connector for my iPhone when every electronic device I have could use any USB-C connector?”

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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