The standardization of charging cables in Europe has been on the EU’s agenda for many years, but has not yet been implemented. Internal documents now suggest that a new draft law will be published later this year.
Micro-USB, USB-C and Lightning: If you have a smartphone, it is almost certainly charged via one of these three ports. USB-C has now become the standard for newer Android smartphones, while older, or current, but inexpensive models, still rely on micro-USB. Apple, in turn, relies on the proprietary Lightning connector, which is still used in all iPhones and most iPads to this day. The European Union would like to prevent this confusion of connections in the future and enforce standardization in the European area. Netzpolitik.org reports.
Debates about such a measure have been going on for several years amid resistance from the industry. Apple is also resisting such a law, after all the Cupertino-based company earns a lot of money selling adapters and charging cables.
For a long time Lightning also had many technical arguments on its side, as it offered some advantages over the older micro-USB standard. That changed with USB-C – a more modern standard with a higher data rate that is faster and more powerful than Apple’s Lightning. In addition, USB-C has now become widely accepted and tablets and laptops also rely on the standard. Even Apple’s own MacBooks now only come with USB-C ports.
This mess of chargers is set to change in the future though. Netzpolitik.org has received internal documents and emails from the Directorate General for the Internal Market. These suggest that a new draft law to standardise the connections could be presented this year. The project is part of the “Circular Electronics Initiative” and should also include other devices with similar power requirements, such as headphones and cameras.
An initiative based on voluntary agreements with the industry in 2009 was able to persuade many manufacturers to install USB ports in their devices, but Apple did not agree and continued to rely on proprietary solutions.
Then in 2013 we wrote about how the European Parliament had voted to standardize smartphone connectors in a move to reduce waste.
Back in January 2020 we reported on initiatives within the EU to standardise charging cables. The EU Parliament then voted with a large majority for the proposed resolution and paved the way for future bills.
The disadvantages of proprietary connections
The EU is primarily concerned with the variety of smartphone connections for two reasons. On the one hand, there are the resulting disadvantages for consumers who, in the worst case, need three different types of cables to charge their devices. On the other hand, the impact on the environment.
As Netzpolitik.org reports, 13,300 tonnes of electronic waste are created every year across Europe from old cell phone chargers, less than half of which is currently being recycled. In the future, buyers of a new smartphone should be able to continue using their old charger instead of getting a new one with every purchase. A procedure that Apple has with the iPhone 12, which still comes with a cable, but no longer a power supply unit. Other smartphone manufacturers are also following this approach, including Samsung with its new flagship, the Galaxy S21.
Incidentally, there was a rumour in 2020 that Apple will ditch the Lightning port on the iPhone 13.
Wireless charging under review
But it’s not only wired charging options that are an issue in the EU: the development of wireless charging is also causing a need for discussion. So far the Qi standard has been used almost exclusively, but many alternatives are about to be launched on the market.
In order to prevent a situation similar to that for wired solutions in this area, the EU would like to create a uniform rule here as well. To this end, the EU Commission has commissioned a study to examine the options for action.
The EU is fundamentally critical of wireless charging. It has been proven that the power consumption is higher and a British study suggests that the durability of rechargeable batteries also suffers from inductive charging.
Related: Will there be an iPhone with USB-C?
This article originally appeared on Macwelt. Translation by Karen Haslam.