Technology

USB-C will be mandatory for phones sold in the EU ‘by autumn 2024’

European Union lawmakers have reached an agreement on legislation that will force all future smartphones sold in the EU — including Apple’s iPhone — be equipped with the universal USB-C port for wired charging by fall 2024. The rule will also apply to other electronic devices including tablets, digital cameras, headphones, handheld video game consoles, and e-readers.

The legislation has been under consideration for years, but an agreement on its scope and details was reached this morning following negotiations between different EU bodies.

The European Parliament’s Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection announced the news in a tweet ahead of a press conference due to take place at 12:30 CEST (6:30AM ET) later today. The legislation does still need to be approved by the EU Parliament and Council later this year, but this appears to be more of a formality than anything else. In a press release, the European Parliament stated the law would be in place “by autumn 2024.”

“Today we have made the common charger a reality in Europe!” said the European Parliament’s rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba in a statement. “European consumers were frustrated long with multiple chargers piling up with every new device. Now they will be able to use a single charger for all their portable electronics.” The legislation will also include provisions designed to address wireless chargers, as well as harmonizing fast-charging standards.

The rules are an attempt to cut down on e-waste in the EU by making chargers for electronic devices interoperable. In the future, lawmakers hope that phones won’t need to come with a charger in the box because buyers will already have the appropriate cable and wall charger at home. The EU estimates that the rules could save consumers 250 million euros per year on “unnecessary charger purchases” and cut down on around 11,000 tonnes of e-waste annually.

The agreement would have the biggest impact on Apple, which is the only major smartphone manufacturer to still use a proprietary port instead of USB-C. In 2021, Apple sold 241 million iPhones globally, of which about 56 million were sold in Europe. The EU’s press release specifically says the rules apply to devices “that are rechargeable via a wired cable,” meaning a device that only charges wirelessly would not need to be fitted with a USB-C port.

The European Commission announced the current plans for the legislation last September, but the bloc’s efforts to force manufacturers to use a common charging standard go back over a decade. In the years since, Android manufacturers have converged upon micro USB and then USB-C as the common charging standard of choice, while Apple went from offering phones with its proprietary 30-pin connector to Lightning.

Apple has pushed back against the EU’s attempts to force it to use USB-C on its phones. “We remain concerned that strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world,” a spokesperson told Reuters last year. It’s also argued that forcing a switch to USB-C would create e-waste rather than reduce it, because it would make its existing ecosystem of Lightning accessories redundant.

Yet there have been reports from inside Apple that the company could be preparing to switch its iPhones to charge via USB-C. Bloomberg reported last month that the company was testing iPhones with USB-C internally, and Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has claimed that it could make the switch as early as next year. Away from its phones, Apple has been a big supporter of the USB-C standard, and already uses it on its laptops and higher-end iPads.

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