What Europe’s push to simplify chargers means for you – Texarkana Gazette
y phone uses a different charging cable than my laptop, which uses a different cable than my PC’s keyboard, which – for some reason – uses the same charging cable as my toothbrush.
In other words, my life is maddeningly full of cords. And I’m not the only one.
Last week, the European Union came to a provisional agreement requiring products like those (except maybe the toothbrush) sold within its borders use the same USB-C charging port. That means companies using proprietary technology – like Apple – will need to make some big changes.
The whole point, according to a European Parliament statement, is to “make products in the E.U. more sustainable, to reduce electronic waste, and make consumers’ lives easier.”
Here’s our brief guide to what the E.U. plan calls for and what it might mean for all of us outside Europe’s borders.
Q: What is actually happening?
A: The E.U. wants to make sure people can use one kind of charger to power lots of different portable electronic devices. That list includes smartphones, tablets, headphones, cameras, e-readers, handheld game consoles, Bluetooth speakers, keyboards, computer mice and other gadgets you charge by plugging a cable into it.
Assuming both the European Parliament and European Council sign off on this decision after their summer recess, hardware makers and tech companies will have until fall 2024 to make sure specified products have USB-C ports.
The situation for laptops is slightly different – the companies that produce them will have 40 months from the time European lawmakers approve the agreement to make sure their computers support USB-C charging.
Apart from mandating a “common” charger, the E.U. also hopes to standardize charging speeds for gadgets – like smartphones – that support faster charging.
Q: What about iPhones?
A: Much of the conversation around the E.U.’s decision has focused on Apple, and for good reason: The company’s iPhones have used the proprietary Lightning charging system for almost a decade, and it doesn’t appear to have many options apart from replacing it entirely.
It probably can’t stick a Lightning-to-USB-C dongle in iPhone boxes and call it a day because the proposal says the USB-C connector “should remain accessible and operational at all times.” And Alex Agius Saliba, lead negotiator for the European Parliament, said during a news conference that “if Apple wants to market their products, sell their products within our internal market, they have to abide by our rules” about building a USB-C connector into their devices.
To no one’s surprise, that’s a transition the company has reportedly been testing behind closed doors. After all, it’s not like the company isn’t fan of the connector – it already uses USB-C charging across its laptops and in a handful of iPad models, though its cheaper tablets continue to use Lightning ports.
But could Apple build separate, USB-C versions of the iPhone for use in Europe while the rest of us get models with Lightning ports? That thought has crossed some industry observers’ minds – though they don’t really expect Apple to make that call.
“I think the most likely outcome here is that Apple will shift the iPhone to USB-C globally rather than manufacture two slightly different designs,” said Aaron Perzanowski, law processor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Carolina Milanesi, president at tech analyst firm Creative Strategies, doesn’t expect Apple to maintain different iPhone models for …….