In a setback for Apple, the European Union announced plans to standardize chargers for smartphones and other small electronics, giving manufacturers a two-year transition period to align.
The phones are currently served by three main chargers; Apple’s “Lightning” connector, the micro-B USB ports widely used on Android mobile phones, and the modern USB-C ports that the EU proposal promotes.
Implementing a universal charging cable would help tackle the problem of e-waste, by allowing people to use their existing chargers when switching to a new device, the European Commission argued.
“European consumers have been frustrated for quite a long time by incompatible chargers that accumulate in their drawers”, EU Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
Apple – whose products typically use custom charging ports – has long argued that such mandates would hamper innovation and cause even more pollution. The tech giant, however, has already made the switch to USB-C charging ports on newer models of iPads and laptops.
“Strict regulations requiring only one type of connector stifle innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will hurt consumers in Europe and globally. Apple responded.
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The EU rejected this argument, however. “It’s not against innovation. It’s for European consumers, it’s not against anyone ”, Thierry Breton, Internal Market Commissioner, said.
According to a 2019 EC impact study, around half of chargers sold with cellphones in the EU in 2018 had a micro-B USB connector, while 29% had a USB-C connector, the Lightning connector. representing 21%.
The proposed rules will apply to smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld video game consoles, while other products such as headphones, smartwatches and fitness trackers would not have been taken into account for technical reasons.
The proposal will also cover fast charging speeds, meaning that manufacturers offering fast charging features on their products will be required to ensure that battery power recovery rates remain consistent across all devices.
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For more than a decade, the EC has entered into a voluntary agreement on cables with manufacturers, but says the current situation is too “inconvenient” because European consumers spend around 2.4 billion euros ($ 2.8 billion) per year on stand-alone chargers that do not come with their devices.
“We have given the industry all the time necessary to find its own solutions, the time has now come to take legislative measures for a common charger”, Vestager said.
The proposal has yet to be debated by the European Parliament and Member States before entering into force, giving businesses “ample time” to comply with the new rules. But Apple said the 24-month transition period could affect current sales.
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