We reported back in June that USB-C iPhones would become mandatory from 2024 for all models sold in Europe, as the European Union reached an agreement on a common charging port for all smartphones.
We said then that although a full vote of the European Parliament was required, it was certain to pass – and the EU has today confirmed that this did indeed happen …
Background to the law
The primary objective of the law is a reduction in electrical waste, as consumers dump phone chargers and/or cables when they get a new phone.
The European Union has long felt that the solution to this was to mandate a single charging port. We can be extremely thankful that progressing from initial proposal to law has taken so long, because back when the idea was first put forward, the most common port was the truly evil microUSB one. This was both uni-directional and extremely fiddly.
Now, though, the standard will be the USB-C port, which has already been adopted by most premium and mid-market Android smartphones.
Lawmakers in the US have also voiced support for this approach, stating that it would reduce consumer costs as well as mitigate e-waste.
Apple’s journey toward a USB-C iPhone
Although the law will effectively force Apple to switch iPhone ports from Lightning to USB-C by the iPhone 16, it seems likely that the company would have already made the switch anyway.
Apple began its adoption of USB-C for Macs back in 2015, with the 12-inch MacBook. It then went all-in with the 2016 MacBook Pro, before backtracking a little last year by restoring MagSafe, HDMI, and SD card slots.
The iPad made the switch from Lightning to USB-C in 2018, with the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models.
That left the iPhone as the sole core Apple product with a Lightning socket. Since the iPhone retained the older connector for years after the Mac and iPad adoption of USB-C, some suspected that it would continue to do so until the first portless model. However, Ming-Chi Kuo reported earlier this year that Apple would make the switch to USB-C in the iPhone 15.
An improvement to the USB4 spec announced just last month provides another incentive for the switch, offering data transfer speeds of up to 80GBps.
Law passes with overwhelming majority
As expected, the law was easily passed by Parliament.
The new law, adopted by plenary on Tuesday with 602 votes in favour, 13 against and 8 abstentions, is part of a broader EU effort to reduce e-waste and to empower consumers to make more sustainable choices.
It extends not just to smartphones, but a whole range of other devices.
Regardless of their 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.
Could Apple finally take the opportunity to reposition the infamous charging port in the Magic Mouse?!
The law will also apply to laptops from 2026, but Apple is of course already well ahead of the game here. While the latest models do have MagSafe charging ports, they can also be charged via USB-C.
Render: Concepts iPhone
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