Goodbye to Lightning port and hello to universal charger, as Apple confirms it will comply with the European Union’s law change
A senior Apple executive has confirmed what many expected – that Apple will comply with a recent European Union law change.
After more than a decade of trying, the European Union has this week finally agreed a common (or universal) charging standard (USB-C) for all mobile devices. This means that from 2024, all electronic devices will need to support USB-C charging.
This in turn means that Apple will have drop its its proprietary lightning connector (at least in the EU). The lightning connector was introduced in September 2012 (with the iPhone 5) to save space on Apple’s previous 30 pin connector design.
“Obviously we’ll have to comply,” Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, was quoted by CNBC as saying at The Wall Street Journal Tech Live conference on Tuesday.
Joswiak did not say when Apple would introduce USB-C to its flagship smartphone but it would need to happen by 2024.
This means there is a chance that the iPhone 15 scheduled to be released in 2023 could be equipped with USB-C charging, and that Apple is likely to introduce the standard globally, not just in the European Union.
Joswiak also took a swipe at the EU for the charging law, admitting the two sides have been in a “little bit of a disagreement.”
“We think the approach would have been better environmentally and better for our customers to not have a government be that prescriptive,” he reportedly said.
Apple does however have a couple of years to implement the change, so it could potential stick with its proprietary lightning connector in 2023 for the iPhone 15.
Or Apple could create an EU-only handset featuring the USB-C port, clumsy as it sounds, as it has already done something similar this year.
With the release of the iPhone 14 in September, Apple created two types of the same iPhone, after it removed the physical SIM tray for American iPhone 14 users.
Outside of the US however, the iPhone 14 still ships with a SIM tray.
Apple moving to USB-C has been expected for a while now, after the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee officially agreed with the Commission’s proposal on the common charger in April this year.
The EU law states by the end of 2024, all mobile phones, tablets and cameras sold in the EU will have to be equiped by a USB Type-C charging port.
And then from the spring of 2026, this obligation will extend to laptops as well.
Under the new rules, consumers will no longer need a different charger every time they purchase a new device, as they will be able to use one single charger for a whole range of small and medium-sized portable electronic devices.
Regardless of the manufacturer, all new mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld videogame consoles and portable speakers, e-readers, keyboards, mice, portable navigation systems, earbuds and laptops that are rechargeable via a wired cable, operating with a power delivery of up to 100 Watts, will have to be equipped with a USB Type-C port.
This issue of a universal (or common) charger has been hanging around for 13 years, after the majority of smartphone manufacturers (including Apple) adopted the voluntary Micro-USB standard back in 2009.
The final micro-USB design charger was officially agreed in 2010 with ten mobile phone makers including Apple, Samsung, Huawei and Nokia (remember them?), so that they could standardise their chargers for new models of smartphones coming into the market in 2011.
But that ambition and timeframe was never achieved, and in 2014 the European Parliament gave its formal support for an universal charger for smartphones, tablets and other portable electronics.
Apple however had already introduced its 8 pin Lightning connector in September 2012, and it took advantage of a loophole in the European Union 2010 agreement (it was only a voluntary memorandum of understanding) to carry on using its Lightning connector.
In September 2021 the European Commission had presented its draft legislation for a common charging port, and in April 2022 the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee backed the proposal for a common (or universal) charger.
Apple has in the past warned that the universal charger would hurt innovation and create a mountain of electronics waste.