Apple has its Lightning connector and everyone else has USB. But EU regulators are considering whether they need to force a common standard for phone chargers.
The idea is to cut down on the 51,000 tons of old chargers and cables thrown away each year.
Way back in 2009, the European Commission pressured Apple and 13 other companies to work toward a common charging standard by 2011. All the other signatories gave up their proprietary plugs and switched to USB.
Apple’s response was to introduce adapters that allow micro-USB cables to fit into its proprietary ports. And that’s pretty much it.
That doesn’t satisfy that EU Commissioner of Competition. “Given the unsatisfactory progress with this voluntary approach, the Commission will shortly launch an impact assessment study to evaluate costs and benefits of different other options,” said Margrethe Vestager, according to Reuters.
The most likely of those “other options” is making Apple switch from Lightning to USB. That’s the standard all of its competitors use.
iPhone and USB not Lightning
The statement from the EU competition chief will surely make Apple take notice. Vestager swings a big stick. Her office recently levied a $5 billion fine against Google.
But Apple is still likely to hold out as long as it can. One of the primary reasons the iPhone-maker sticks with Lightning is that it collects licensing fees. The manufacturer of any accessory with the MFi logo has paid a fee, which could be as high as $4 per connector. By switching its phones and tablets to USB-C, Apple would have to forgo this extra cash.
The EU may force Apple to make the change anyway. That’s actually something many iPhone and iPad users would applaud.