Tech manufacturers could soon be forced to implement a universal charging cable for all mobile phones and other electronic devices including tablet computers, as the European Commission (EC) proposes a new rule.
The proposal states that all smartphones sold in the EU must come with USB-C chargers. With the main aim being waste reduction as consumers are then able to re-use their existing chargers when they buy a new smartphone.
However, Apple is against the proposal suggesting it would be harmful for innovation. Apple is the manufacturer that mainly uses an alternative charging port, with most of its iPhones using its custom made ‘Lightning’ charging port and cable.
Whilst Apple uses Lightning ports on its devices, many other smartphones, including most Android devices, come with USB-C as standard.
The proposed EC changes relate to the device’s charging port, while the cable’s plug connector could be either USB-C or USB-A.
The proposal also asks for standardised fast charging speeds - so all devices charge at the same speed.
The devices the new proposed rules will apply to are:
- Portable speakers
- Handheld video game consoles
EU politicians have long been campaigning for standardised charging ports. According to the Commission's research, discarded charging cables generate over 11,000 tonnes of waste every year. The EC also found that on average people own up to three charging cables and use only two regularly. Back in 2009, over 30 different chargers were in regular use, but now that’s down to just three - USB-C, Lightning and USB micro-B.
Since Android devices are practically universally USB-C, it’s Apple that would have to implement big changes to its smartphone manufacturing. Speaking to the BBC, an Apple spokesperson said: "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."
But others see it as a logical step in the right direction. Also talking to the BBC, Ben Wood, an analyst at CCS Insight said: "Having one common charging standard would be a victory for common sense in the eyes of consumers.
"Although Apple has made a strong argument for keeping its Lightning connector, given the one billion active iPhone users, some of its products including Mac and iPad now support USB-C.
"Hopefully it will eventually become a non-issue if Apple keeps adding USB-C to more devices."
The proposal will now be debated by national governments and the European Parliament, but it could be many years yet before the proposals are approved.