EU proposes forcing iPhone to switch to USB-C

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Anker PowerLine II USB-C Cable with Lightning Connector
If the European Commission has its way, the iPhone Lightning port will be replaced by a USB-C one.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The European Commission put forward legislation Thursday that would make USB-C the standard port for all smartphones and tablets. The move seems aimed directly at Apple and the Lightning port used in iPhone and the budget iPad. But it also would affect super-cheap Android handsets that still use micro-USB.

The proposal also would unbundle the sale of chargers from the sale of electronic devices.

EC wants USB-C to replace Lightning in iPhone and iPad

The EC has been trying to get device-makers to voluntarily choose a single charging standard since 2009. Apple and others signed an agreement to move in that direction that year. The result was a reduction in the number of charger types on the market from 30 to just three: USB-C, Lightning and micro-USB.

Now the commission wants to make the change less voluntary. “We gave industry plenty of time to come up with their own solutions, now time is ripe for legislative action for a common charger,” said Margrethe Vestager, the VP of the committee that made the proposal. “This is an important win for our consumers and environment and in line with our green and digital ambitions.”

What this means for Apple

The legislation will go to the European Parliament to be voted on. If it’s approved, Apple and other device-makers will have two years from the date of adoption to make the switch to USB-C.

Banning the sale of devices without this standard in Europe wouldn’t automatically force Apple to give up the Lightning port, but the alternatives come with obvious challenges. Apple could make a special version of its iOS handset just for the European Union. It could add a second charging port to future iPhones. Or it could withdraw the iPhone from the continent entirely.

Others will be in the same boat. USB-C is now the standard for high-end handsets, but many budget devices still use the older micro-USB port, as noted. And the proposed legislation also covers cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld videogame consoles.

Separating chargers from devices

The EC proposes a USB-C port on every handset. And that devices stop being bundled with chargers
The EC proposes a USB-C port on every handset. And that devices stop being bundled with chargers.
Graphic: European Commission

The European Commission’s legislation also would require companies to sell new devices without a new charger. The goal is to reduce the number of unwanted chargers. By the commission’s estimates, this move to reducing production and disposal of new chargers would reduce the amount of electronic waste by almost a thousand tons a year.

This part of the legislation would have less effect on Apple because the company stopped including chargers with new iPhones in 2020. One does come with each iPad, though.

Source: European Commission