EU regulators move closer to banning Lightning cable

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The bottom of the XR: The Lightning port isn't perfectly aligned with the speaker holes, and of course, there's no speaker jack.
The days every iPhone has a Lightning port may well be numbered.
Photo: Kristal Chan/Cult of Mac

In a move that seems squarely aimed at killing Apple’s Lightning port, a large majority of the European Parliament voted in favor of establishing a common charger standard for mobile devices.

This is only a step in a process that is likely to see the Lightning connector banned from devices sold in Europe, but it’s a significant one.

The EU Parliament voted 582-40 in favor of a resolution that tells the European Commission to create a common charger standard, according to Reuters.

The resolution passed today doesn’t specify what that standard should be. However, it’s surely not going to be Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector. It’s more likely to be USB-C, an open standard used in many iPhone competitors. Apple already uses this type of connector in MacBooks and iPad Pro, and reportedly even invented it.

Apple defends the Lightning port

The EU’s argument for reducing the types of chargers used centers on cutting electronic waste. “The amount of cables and chargers produced and thrown away each year is simply unacceptable,” said Roza Thun und Hohenstein, vice chair of the European Parliament’s internal market committee, in a parliamentary debate earlier this month.

The EU tried for more than a decade to get companies to voluntarily switch to a common standard. But Apple held on to the Lightning port. And it still defends it.

“Apple stands for innovation and deeply cares about the customer experience,” Apple said in a statement to Cult of Mac. “We believe regulation that forces conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, and would harm consumers in Europe and the economy as a whole.”

And the company’s response also warns of an environmental impact from banning the Lightning port. “Legislation would have a direct negative impact by disrupting the hundreds of millions of active devices and accessories used by our European customers and even more Apple customers worldwide, creating an unprecedented volume of electronic waste and greatly inconveniencing users.”

Apple’s next move

The resolution passed by the EU Parliament today instructs the European Commission to decide on the new charging standard by July. Even so, there will almost certainly be a grace period to give all phone makers time to implement whichever standard is chosen.

Banning the sale of devices with a Lightning port in Europe wouldn’t automatically force Apple to it give up, but the alternatives come with obvious challenges. The company could make a special version of its iOS handset just for the EU. It could add a second charging port to future iPhones. Or it could withdraw the iPhone from the continent entirely.

And the EU resolution also mentions tablets, so eventually no future iPad models with Lightning ports can’t be sold in Europe.

This future EU regulation is also likely to force Apple to stop including wall chargers that use USB-A with every iPhone. The new rules will probably require all such accessories to use the same connector — again, USB-C is the most probable choice.