Europeans will soon be able to have one charger for all of their gadgets, in a world first that may spread elsewhere. The standardization follows EU agreement on a single charging port for phones, tablets, e-readers, cameras, videogame consoles and speakers under legislation that will take effect by fall 2024.
USB-C connectors won out as the shared feature across those devices, with the ports already supported by a network of over 700 companies and most Android-based platforms.
Bigger picture: Brussels said the move will save consumers around €250M per year and a whole lot of added stress. It will prevent “more than 1,000 tons of electronic waste per year, in addition to an annual reduction of 200 kilos of CO2, which is the equivalent of 10M smartphones,” Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton declared. “It will also allow new technologies, such as wireless charging, to emerge and to mature without letting innovation become a source of market fragmentation and consumer inconvenience.”
Still using Lightning charging cables, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is not likely to be happy about the ruling, arguing in the past that the standardized move will stifle innovation. However, there could be a silver lining, with the decision potentially persuading consumers to upgrade to a new phone sooner. “Existing consumers can still use the Lightning cable, but maybe there would be less purchases of older products on third-party platforms,” explained CFRA Research analyst Angelo Zino.
Some history: Apple switched from a 30-pin charging connector to its compact Lightning in 2012, which was a groundbreaking technology at the time (USB-C was only finalized in 2014). However, Apple did embrace some USB-C technology starting in 2015, when it began including the ports on its iPads and Macs, but kept Lightning on other devices and more importantly its iPhone. As it tries to maintain control over its revenue streams and design, will Apple create a specialized iPhone for Europe or change all of its smartphones globally? Wireless charging?