When the mobile fever began more than two decades ago, each brand had its own type of charger, and Nokia’s was not like Motorola’s, which in turn was not like Alcatel’s. The arrival of the microUSB standardized the ports and began to use only one. Except in the case of Apple, which has always used Lightning on its iPhones, a closed connector by its own standard.
Lightning / USB C
In 2011, Apple, Samsung, Huawei and Nokia signed a voluntary memorandum of understanding to harmonize the chargers of the new smartphone models released that year, leading to a significant reduction in the number of different chargers and a market convergence towards USB 2.0 micro-B connections.
Half of the chargers sold with mobile phones in the European Union in 2018 had a USB micro-B connector, while 29% had a USB C connector and 21% a Lightning connector, according to a Commission impact assessment study in 2019.
In February 2018, news emerged that the European Commission was considering “use the power it received in 2014 to force mobile phone manufacturers to produce a common charger. “ The reason? Having Apple also unified to impose on manufacturers a single type of charging cable, and therefore a single port for all brands.
One standard to tie them all
This decision was ratified by Elżbieta Bieńkowska, the European Commissioner for the Single Market, who argued that the measures initiated by the mobile phone industry were not adequate to standardize the format, which is why the European Commission wants to take charge of the measure by imposing a single rate on manufacturers charging cable and therefore single port for all terminals.
The industry and the Commission tried to reach a final resolution on the issue in 2018, but failed. Apple warned that EU pressure for a common charger “It would hurt innovation and create a mountain of e-waste if consumers were forced to switch to new chargers.”
He also said the legislation was unnecessary as the industry moved toward USB-C via a connector or bundle of cables. Given this tug of war between the EU and the American company, for 2-3 years we have been seeing stories, rumors that iPhones are going to lose their classic Lightning port and use a USB C.
Europe proposes the USB C law in September 2021
But it is in this year when we will see an important advance in the process since Europe has officially introduced a law that will force Apple to use USB C on its iPhones. According to Reuters, the text proposes a standard for the mobile charger, which implies that all companies should use this connection for their devices within the new framework of European legality.
According to the Commission proposal, the USB-C connector will become the standard port for all the:
- Portable Speakers
- Portable video game consoles
Chargers too will be sold separately from electronic devices. The EU executive will soon review its ecodesign regulation to make the external power supply interoperable, which is the last step for a common load.
Apple opposes the proposal
The European Commission said it was not targeting Apple and was only acting because the companies weren’t able to agree on a common solution. Despite a decade of talks, they have reduced the number of mobile phone chargers to three from 30.
As Apple said in a statement, “We remain concerned that strict regulations imposing only one type of connector will stifle innovation rather than encourage it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world.”.
It has also raised concerns about the 24-month transition period for companies to comply with the legislation once it is adopted. Commission industry chief Thierry Breton pointed out the ungainly appearance of the multiple charging cables.
“My job is to kill these sea snakes whenever I can”, he said at a press conference. Breton also dismissed Apple’s comments as old sayings. “I have known these companies for years. Every time we come up with a proposal, they start to say ‘oh, it will be against innovation.’ No, it is not against innovation, it is not against anyone. Like everything the Commission does, it is for the consumers”.
The proposal needs the green light from Member States and EU legislators, after which companies will have two years to adapt their devices, which means that at least future iPhone 14 and 15 will mount the Lightning port.