EU could ban iPhone Lightning in favor of USB-C standard

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The European Commission wants to make USB-C the standard charging port for portable devices in the European Union as part of an anti-waste initiative that could in particular anger US tech giant Apple.

As part of a long-awaited legal commission proposal unveiled on Thursday, the already widespread USB-C is said to be the benchmark for all smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and portable video game consoles.

However, Apple is unlikely to include a USB-C port in future iPhones, as they embrace wireless charging technologies faster than the EU’s bureaucratic machine can produce regulations, commentators suggest.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the move was “an important victory for our consumers and the environment”.

“European consumers have been frustrated long enough with incompatible chargers piling up in their drawers. We have given the industry a lot of time to find its own solutions, now is the time for legislative action. “

EU members and the European Parliament must also approve the rules, which could take years.

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Breton said on Thursday the rules could be imposed in 2024 at the earliest, with some suggesting it could be years later before companies are forced to comply.

So don’t expect the iPhone 14, 15 or 18 to include a USB-C port.

And some Apple devices that currently use the Lightning connector aren’t covered by this week’s proposal, like their Magic Mouse, trackpads, or AirPods.

In addition, Apple currently charges a license fee for the sale of third-party cables or accessories that use the Lightning connector, making the technology profitable for the US company.

However, industry commentators have suggested that once the rules took effect, Apple would have switched from the lighting connector to portless iPhones with exclusively wireless charging.

All of Apple’s new iPhones include MagSafe charging capabilities, which is Apple’s proprietary wireless charging technology.

They have also been backward compatible with industry standard Qi wireless charging for years.

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“Don’t worry, your Lightning cables and accessories aren’t going anywhere,” US tech journalist Michael Simon wrote in MacWorld.

“And when Apple moves on, it won’t be because it’s forced, it will be because it’s ready.”

Apple has consistently argued that mandatory rules would hamper innovation and potentially lead to the unnecessary scrapping of many existing products.

Breton denied on Thursday that the new rules would slow innovation.

“If Apple wants to continue to have its own outlet, they will have the option to do so. It’s not against innovation, it’s just to make the lives of our fellow citizens a little easier, ”Breton said at the press conference, adding that device makers could always put two different ports. on their phones if they wish.

On Thursday, the California-based company said in a written statement it looked forward to working with the commission and other stakeholders on the proposal.

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However, Apple “remains concerned that strict regulations requiring only one type of connector stifle innovation rather than encourage it, which in turn will hurt consumers in Europe and around the world.”

The EU executive branch has been pushing for more than a decade for companies like Apple, Samsung and Sony to develop interoperable chargers for mobile phones and other portable devices.

Momentum built soon after Ursula von der Leyen took office as chair of the committee at the end of 2019, but the coronavirus pandemic pushed the topic off the agenda.

In 2009, 14 major manufacturers signed a voluntary agreement to this effect.

Despite the progress, the market has remained very fragmented.

About 12.3 million tonnes of e-waste – 16.6 kilograms per capita – were produced in Europe in 2016, the European Parliament said last year in a resolution calling on the committee to take action on chargers.

-with AAP