EU forces Apple to switch to USB-C by September 2024

Edwin Chabuka Avatar
usb-c cable

Apple has been using Lightning since the iPhone 5 which is quite a long while back. During that time, most Android and even Blackberry devices were using MicroUSB and later migrated to USB-C. Apple has been nothing but lightning. This is something that the EU is not happy with saying it’s inconveniencing consumers and contributing to e-waste.

These new obligations will lead to more re-use of chargers and will help consumers save up to 250 million euro a year on unnecessary charger purchases. Disposed of and unused chargers are estimated to represent about 11,000 tonnes of e-waste annually.

European Commission

European Commission’s reasoning

They are focusing on 2 subject matters: E-waste and convenience. With e-waste, it is said that each new device purchase is coming in with the need for a new charger leading to the old one getting tossed. I do not think this is the biggest reason why old chargers a tossed. My thinking is it’s mostly worn out and dead cables as well as the variety of charging standards that exist. Bringing me to the convenience side.

Almost every manufacturer has a charging standard that only provides maximum charging speed if the device is using a specific charger and cable combination. This does pose some inconvenience for some users. An example is that a Huawei Mate 40 Pro can charge rapidly at 66W if you use the specific Huawei charger and cable. If you use any other charger and cable it will default to 10W which is considered basic to slow charge speed. In some cases, it may even refuse to charge.

Another reverse case is when I tried using a OnePlus DashCharge USB-C cable with a Samsung fast charger on an LG G6. It actually didn’t even charge. It would charge in pulses which didn’t add any juice to the battery. Pretty inconvenient even amongst fellow Android devices. So they are on to something on convenience. Even though it looks like Apple has the most to lose here, it’s a piece of legislation that will impact the whole portable electronics industry.

Breaking down the USB-C directive

Basically, the EU commission wishes to achieve 2 things. Ensure all portable consumer electronic devices that support wired charging will use a USB-C connector and that they will support USB-PD (USB-PowerDelivery) as the charging protocol.

The first requirement is pretty simple. Let’s all use the USB-C port for charging and data transfer. It’s not a big deal because a majority of electronics manufacturers had already switched to the USB-C port apart from the iPhone and a number of Digital Cameras. The list of devices expected to switch to USB-C looks like this.

  • Smartphones
  • Rechargeable headsets (Headphones, earphones, buds)
  • Tablets
  • Digital cameras
  • Portable Speakers
  • Portable gaming consoles

As for the second requirement, we are looking at the charging protocol/standard. On top of USB-C ports, all these devices should support the USB-C PowerDelivery standard. What this will help with is ensuring that any charger and cable can adequately deliver power to any of the USB-C devices for charging. This will apply to all devices that meet or exceed these specifications. Charging voltage of 5V, Charging current of 3A, or charging power of 15W or more.

The charging speed is also harmonised for devices that support fast charging, allowing users to charge their devices at the same speed with any compatible charger.

European Commission

Right now we have a cocktail of charging standards that are not interoperable across different manufacturers.

  • Qualcomm QuickCharge
  • Oppo VOOC/OnePlus DashCharge
  • Huawei SuperCharge
  • Xiaomi HyperCharge
  • USB Power Delivery
  • RealMe UltraDart charge
  • Tecno Super Charge

So almost every manufacturer has some proprietary tech for fast charging meaning if you switch brands you will most likely need a new charger. The EU Commission is pushing for all of them to support Power Delivery. But they are being flexible in that they are not restricting any manufacturer to the USB Power Delivery standard so innovation in ridiculously fast charging tech can remain as it were.

Interesting though that some OEMs already switched to USB-PD a while back. Sony and Google in particular.

Chargers will be absent in a lot more boxes

Let’s look at the elements of the matter. All portable electronic devices will be using:

  • The same port (USB-C)
  • The same charging standard (USB PowerDelivery)
  • The same charging speed (Universal protocol and standard)

All this means is that these devices will use the exact charger. And because they will be using the same charger, they will work with any device. Once this becomes the case then smartphones are not going to be the only devices sold without chargers. Everything else on the list of devices forced to switch to USB-C will come with nothing but the device you bought.

The transition is going to be painful. I mean in Africa, some consumers are still livid at the fact that some smartphones are no longer coming with earphones in the box and are utterly enraged that on top of that some smartphones don’t even come with a charger in the box! In Brazil, the government even stepped in telling apple that it is not allowed to sell a single smartphone until it puts the charger back in the box.

Not everyone is convinced of the e-waste issue, especially on chargers and cables. I honestly think a majority of charger-specific e-waste is more of a result of cables and chargers dying than it is of people binning their old chargers when they buy a new gadget. If these new set of regulations also included durability specifications of charging bricks and cables I think that could provide a much bigger impact on e-waste.

How bad is this for Apple?

It’s actually not that bad. The iPhone and AirPods are the only devices that still make do with their proprietary lighting port. iPads and MacBooks already use the USB-C port. So they are familiar with working with it. The biggest problem is that lightning is such an old standard and for 2022 the data transfer speeds are now falling behind the competition. Not that it matters to those in the Apple ecosystem because of Airdrop.

Which seems to be Apple’s focus right now. They have been working on removing ports and any sort of holes on their smartphones for a while now. They never used SDcards and so they never had a memory card slot. On the iPhone 7, they eliminated the headphone jack, and just this year they eliminated the sim tray altogether making all US iPhone 14s e-sim only.

So it won’t be a surprise if the iPhone 16 comes without any ports and exclusively uses MagSafe wireless charging. Since they already have a very efficient wireless data transfer system in the form of Airdrop, as well as a wireless charging solution that performs just as well as their wired option, it’s not a future that is that far off for them. But the EU is also coming for wireless charging standards.

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  1. Wonder

    A charger is an accessory which does not last forever. My chargers always last as long as my phone , so this directive is useless!

  2. Chao

    Ok. I like this. But not everyone can afford a phone that uses c type chargers. Some of us still use those android phones that have removable batteries. We actually need to remove the battery to put the simcard inside. The problem of being poor is that you’ll always stay behind in terms of tech. I’m awake right now cooking beans with this electricity for the whole week

    1. The Empress

      Removeble batteries, sim cards have nothing to do with USB type C or each other for that matter.

  3. Cheek Lu Fin

    Ok. I like this. But not everyone can afford a phone that uses c type chargers. Some of us still use those android phones that have removable batteries. We actually need to remove the battery to put the simcard inside. The problem of being poor is that you’ll always stay behind in terms of tech. I’m awake right now cooking beans with this electricity for the whole week

  4. Study Harder

    Those two are different branches of tech

  5. The Empress

    It’s a good piece of legislation. A common core standard is in the long run quite beneficial to the comsumer and the enviroment.
    A lot of this legislation is Apple’s fault to be honest. iPhone users are known (notorious?) for replacing their iPhone’s every 2 or so cycles And Apple had this nice habit of advertising that their new phones were capable of charging at 15W+ but then in the box they would only include a 5W charger with a short lightning cable ,knowing that the consumer would then visit the Apple store to buy a longer lightning cable and 15W charger so that they could take advantage of the faster charging available on the new phone. And that barely used charger and cable that came with the new phone? Well they would be thrown into a drawer never to be used again and eventually thrown into the bin. How wasteful and bad for the environment was that? And then when people finally caught on and called out Apple for their bad behaviour and started asking for legislation against this sort of thing. Apple “BRAVELY” stopped including chargers with new phones and claimed it was them doing their part to preserve the enviroment. The cynical amongst us thought it was more about preserving their profit margins than the environment after all Apple had recently started including 5G and OLED screens (OLED is much more expensive than LCD) on their phones and something had to be cut in order to maintain profit margins.
    The lightning cable was now just a part of the wall making up the Apple ecosystems walled garden. It didn’t really offer any specific advantages over USB C but it provides a lock in effect on iPhone users because changing from iPhone to android would also require that you also replace a peripherals that used the lighting connector cable and that could be quite expensive if you are fully integrated into the Apple ecosystem so most never really tried to change, which suited Apple just fine.

  6. Nezvirikuita Zesa nowadays I think everyone needs a C-type USB charger.

  7. Command Technology Aint It

    I think I’m 60% on the side that thinks this is a bit dictatorial. Sure, legislate minimum specifications, set goals for the industry to work towards but forcing a specific piece of tech with future progress locked into political whims is a bit much. But on the 40% side of things, I think Apple poked the bear 1 too many times. They played stupid games and the entire industry got to share their stupid prizes!

  8. EU just want to flex their power on everyone including social media companies…this has nothing to do with E-waste or saving money..this is also the same thing with their renewable energy bs forcing countries to shut down their thermal power plants and coal mines coz they had reliable supply of natural gas….but now they’re busy buying up coal from Africa reopening their thermal power plants

    1. The Empress

      Governments are supposed to look out for their people and make decisions based on the public good. Whereas companies are all about profit don’t be fooled about how in the advertisements they talk about how they care for you, it’s all about earning your trust in order to get you to give them your money the more the better. But companies also don’t want to share so they’ll if possible put in place hidden barriers to stop customers from buying the competition (see my previous comment above)
      EU decided that having multiple connection types was inefficient so they passed legislation.
      What the EU did isn’t something new all governments worldwide since the very first government was created, have done it at one point or another, whilst some do it from scratch others just adopt rules already set up by other governments. So usually if the big players in a certain segment of an industry can’t or won’t decide by themselves on a set standard, government will come in and impose one. The power to do this at times depends on the size of the market Apple is free to ignore the EU ruling and stop selling iPhone’s there but they would be in effect leaving a billion $ market. Never going to happen.
      EU is regulating social media, because of they collect massive amounts of data about their users and that represents a risk for their citizens if that data is sold or given to entities that might not have their best interests in mind. (Facebook/TikTok/Instagram/WhatsApp knows you better than your mother or spouse for that matter)
      It’s about short term pain versus long term plan. EU had a plan for climate change which involved a pivot to renewable energy. The plan hinged on gas from Russia until Putin went mad and invaded Ukraine so they imposed sanctions. But they did not abandon their renewable energy plan by reopening their closed mines they decided to buy coal from wherever they could get it.
      I don’t have any problem with them buying coal it wasn’t doing us any good stuck underground so sell it! In Zimbabwe ZESA doesn’t have working power stations to burn the coal in anyway saka what’s the problem?

      1. Anonymous

        The problem is EU is selfish..if another country tries to block any social media company they will call it dictatorship but if they do it it’s national security bs..the same thing with energy..EU had multiple pipe lines of gas which is 10 times cheaper than LNG running from Russia and unlimited supply of nuclear fuel coming from that direction and there was no need for them to keep using dirty coal.But this benefit wasn’t for everyone coz most Asian countries and African countries rely on coal. ..but the EU pretended to lead by example and closed their coal mines and trying to force everyone to do the same thing as well but not everyone had access to cheaper Russian gas than the EU…but now everyone doesn’t have access to Russian gas except China let’s see if they keep pushing banning coal.

        1. The Empress

          I know all the words but the way you put them together is confusing me ie….“EU had multiple pipe lines of gas which is 10 times cheaper than LNG running from Russia”
          I have no idea what you are trying to say here… I don’t know if you know this but when people talk about Gas and LNG they’re talking about the same thing. The EU doesn’t have it’s special brand to run their power stations 😉.
          And it’s certainly not 10 times cheaper! 😂 Yes it is cheaper than the price others pay elsewhere but like I learned in my commerce class that’s basically the advantage derived from the source (Russia) being relatively close to the market (EU) and the mode of transportation (pipelines) and nothing beats pipelines on being a cost effective means of transport for liquids. As well discounts for buying in large volumes. Then yes objectively EU does pay less for Gas(LNG) but it does not get close to 10 times less.
          Let’s not try somehow in a convoluted manner blame the lack of electricity on the EU.
          The climate change agreement that most of the world’s countries signed just generally said “….efforts must be made to reduce CO2 emissions by transitioning to cleaner sources of energy” no country was forced to shut down their coal fired power stations!
          The EU shutdown it’s coal fired power stations on a one to one basis they built a new 500 MW gas powered station they shutdown a 300MW old coal fired station see how it was done? They removed but replaced and increased the amount electricity produced! Whereas some various ministers in our country sat on their hands barely maintaining the little that was there, let’s not talk about increasing the amount of electricity produced. 😏

          1. The Empress

            The EU’s plan was quite good but it’s weak point was that the it was too reliant on Russia. Then when Russia invaded Ukraine things started to fall apart. EU principles said that the EU should immediately cut all economic ties with Russia ie stop buying anything from Russia. For most stuff that was easily done but gas was a major obstacle, most of the EU electrical production depends on Russian gas! And I don’t know if you know this but but in many EU countries there is this thing called SNOW apparently it’s what happens when temperatures fall below 0° Celsius and when this happens the chance of freezing to death significantly rises and the EU countries use gas to heat their homes to avoid dying. Which is why we have seen the EU immediately impose heavy sanctions on everything Russian except for gas(LNG) they tried to find alternative sources but most of it was locked up in long term contracts and was also significantly more expensive compared to the the gas supplied Russia since it was being transported by ship instead of pipelines. So EU decided to go back to using coal because unlike gas there’s significantly larger supply that hasn’t been locked up in long-term contracts and in some cases the electricity produced might even be cheaper than the electricity from expensive gas.
            What about the enviroment!? My brother the EU is trying to avoid freezing to death!

        2. The Empress

          I don’t know how we started talking about banning social media 🤔… But the reason why the EU can get away with it is that for a start they already have some sort of law about it in their books so they just start to enforce it more not wake up one morning and without a by your leave or even a statutory statement just etc etc is banned because they allowed people to say bad stuff about etc etc etc even though theoretically whatever was said is OK according to the constitution of said country. Or the EU writes a law saying that all social media companies operating in the EU have to follow certain rules when they operate in their country nothing stops African, Asian, South American countries from doing the same thing except maybe the realisation that they are not that valuable to the social media who pack their bags and go home leaving the country with angry citizens blaming their government.
          It’s sort of how some countries can demand that you have a visa before entering their country whilst others can’t. Some can demand visas because they know they are in demand and people will still keep coming. To get into heaven you have to pray and go to church, be a good person etc etc but to get to hell it’s free but no one really wants to go there

  9. Mk

    I heard this news two weeks ago

    1. WAN Show


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