New EU rules for USB-C charging could force iPhone redesign

Legislators in the The European Union has chosen one charging port to rule them all. And that charging port is USB-C.

On Tuesday, EU officials ruled that all mobile electronic devices sold within the EU must come with a: USB-C charging port by the fall of 2024. The new mandate applies to rechargeable mobile devices such as phones, tablets, laptops, handheld game consoles, headphones and cameras. This move to standardize charging ports was done as a way to limit e-waste — consumers can buy devices without a charger in the box if they want — but also to make it easier for people to meet the energy needs of their many devices.

“This is a bit of a common sense win,” said Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight. “Consumers are tired of having many different chargers and many different ports.”

Standardization around USB-C as the tech industry’s main connection interface has been a long time coming, with many manufacturers making the switch years ago. After all, USB-C generally offers faster charging and transfer speeds than competing standards, and the cables are easy to find and use.

Yet there is one major player that is really going to feel this statement: Apple. All current iPhones and the base model iPad use the proprietary Lighting port, which is exclusive to Apple devices. There are over 1 billion iPhones in the world, and every iPhone model that Apple has released since 2012 has a Lightning port.

The most likely course of action for Apple is to simply switch to USB-C on all of its devices. It’s not that the company didn’t see this coming. It already uses USB-C connectors on MacBooks and most iPad models. Last month, Bloomberg reported that Apple has already been testing new iPhones with USB-C ports.

So now that the EU is forcing Apple’s hand, there’s a chance after years of speculation we’ll see a USB-C iPhone soon. However, a more radical scenario is just as likely.

“Then there’s the nuclear option for Apple,” says Wood, “which would sort of pay tribute to Jony Ive’s obsession with minimalism and remove a charging port altogether and go completely wireless.”

Wireless charging is already supported across the iPhone range. And while countless accessories and dongles attach to iPhones via the Lightning connector, Apple has proven not to be afraid to make major design changes that break the compatibility of those devices; the company faced a huge backlash when it removed the iPhone’s headphone jack, but went ahead anyway.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

This is also not the first time in recent history that an EU ruling has led to major changes in consumer technology companies. The GDPR, EU’s sweeping data privacy law, triggered what amounted to a global redesign of the web user experience. A law passed last year in France requiring device manufacturers to include repairability ratings on their products has led Apple and Samsung to set up their own consumer repair programs.

“What’s interesting is that EU lawmakers are able to almost shape global technology trends,” Wood says. “Whether it’s the right to repair, safety and environmental regulations they enforce, or anything like that with the universal connector, the sheer size of the European Union as a market of 500 million consumers means no major consumer electronics company can do this. can ignore.”

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