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The EU wants all phone chargers to be USB-C, Apple not happy

The European Commission wants the whole bloc to harmonise around a single device interface and has decided it should be USB-C.

While it would undoubtedly be handy not have to keep multiple types of charger leads, it’s not obvious why the situation is any of the EC’s business. “Years of working with industry on a voluntary approach already brought down the number of mobile phone chargers from 30 to 3 within the last decade, but could not deliver a complete solution,” laments the EC press release. “The Commission is now putting forward legislation to establish a common charging solution for all relevant devices.”

Note the slightly exasperated tone and use of the term ‘voluntary, followed by ‘legislation. This is classic EU authoritarianism in which it patiently gives you the chance to do what you’re told before it forces you to. In other words there was never anything voluntary about the process.

“European consumers were frustrated long enough about incompatible chargers piling up in their drawers,” said Margrethe Vestager, EVP for a Europe fit for the Digital Age. “We gave industry plenty of time to come up with their own solutions, now time is ripe for legislative action for a common charger. This is an important win for our consumers and environment and in line with our green and digital ambitions.”

Unstated but very much the elephant in the room is Apple, as it’s the only significant smartphone maker not to have already made the switch to USB-C. Surely that’s a matter entirely between Apple and its customers who, if its sales numbers are anything to go by, are far from frustrated with the situation. However, the generic response below indicates Apple is fairly resigned to the unstoppable force that is the EC once it gets going, so it will probably get into line once the legislation is rubber-stamped by the EU’s joke of a parliament.


5 comments

  1. Avatar Jan Dingenouts 24/09/2021 @ 9:16 am

    I don’t now why the writer is referring to the European Parliament as a “joke”.

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 24/09/2021 @ 9:21 am

      Because it has no power and is merely very expensive rubber-stamping body for the EC to give it a thin veneer of democratic accountability.

  2. Avatar Guillaume 24/09/2021 @ 11:16 am

    It has more power than you think, but I will agree to the low level of democratic accountability… since it’s a Parliament composed from people elected ( through various systems ) from 26 countries. ( and usually with a low number of people going to cast their ballot at the European Parliament elections )

    Another point to raise though, is that while this time it only concern the phone chargers, there’s been a clear message that all the other devices ( portable speakers, wireless headsets, and more ) that uses some kind of charger should really consider going for the selected USB-C ASAP before the bunch of meddlers from Brussel/Strasburg move the same way on them.

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 24/09/2021 @ 11:19 am

      Fair enough but I very rarely see any evidence of it pushing back on the EC, which is entirely unelected. Agreed on your second point.

  3. Avatar Victor D. 24/09/2021 @ 8:08 pm

    The port on the Apple phone is for more than just charging. Also, USB-C charging cables notoriously vary in quality, which impacts customer experience (slow charging, Interfering RF emissions, shorting/exploding cables, etc..) Apple Thunderbolt-3 ports can look like a USB-3, but they are not the same, though backward compatible (i.e. can drive video displays etc) Apple tries to control poor user experience for their customers, because Apple is as much of a customer experience company as it is a technology company, by driving consistency through certification on 3rd party cables, etc. You can’t say that about Apples competitors. In addition, Apple was innovating with their port technologies well before the more ubiquitous industry standards were in place and in most circumstances other standards followed to match Apples capabilities. These are the consumer benefits benefits Apple is referring to. What Apple should do is to simply supply an adapter so that consumers have an option to charge their iPhones with a USB-C cable and leave the choice to consumers as to what technologies they would prefer using.

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