In a new development, the European Parliament has voted in favor of introducing standardized chargers for mobile and radio equipment. Although they don’t specifically target Apple users, it seems like this is the demographic that will be most affected, since iPhones require specialized Lightning charging cables that vary from the norm. USB-C is likely to become the new industry standard, due to the fact that it’s already a component of the majority of Android devices.
According to a report from the European Parliament, the reason behind this switch is environmental in nature. For more than ten years, efforts have been made to produce a common charger for mobile phones, tablets, e-book readers and other portable devices. Their logic is that decoupling the sale of a charger from that of a new mobile device will allow you to use a charger that you already own, reducing electronic waste (e-waste). Estimates show that approximately 50 million metric tons of e-waste are annually generated on a global scale, averaging at more than 6 kg per person. In Europe, the waste generated per person is much greater than the world average, equivalent to 16.6 kg on average per person. As a result, the EU aims to “reduce electronic waste and empower consumers to make sustainable choices.” These new measures are due to be implemented by July 2020 at the latest.
Why do many phones use USB-C ports? In our previous article on the USB Type-C, we explored its many benefits. It is extremely compact in size, and similar to a micro-USB connector. It is also reversible, which means that you can plug it in on any side and you no longer have to fumble with turning the port around multiple times just to plug your phone in. In addition, it can carry a lot of power, meaning that it can be used to charge larger devices such as laptops. As a result, it has quickly become the new standard, replacing many of the USB Type-A, USB 1 and USB 2 ports of the past. HP’s feature on the USB-C highlights how this type of port “really shines in the way it transmits video signals from one device to another”, providing high-quality video and audio at extremely fast speeds. Because of this, it can replace the bulkier HDMI cable. Furthermore, “as devices become more and more cross-platform, both PC and Mac users will benefit from USB-C.” However, if you’re using an older device, you may run into some issues with compatibility, and in the future, you may need to upgrade your system to accommodate a USB-C port.
The BBC explores the potential consequences of this vote for European customers, necessitating a likely switch between USB-A to USB-C ports. Currently, most iPhones with charging plugs come with a USB-A port for their Lightning charging cables. In contrast, many Android phones tend to come with wall chargers that have a smaller USB-C port, along with a USB-C charging cable. In fact, they state how Apple does sell a cable that has a USB-C connector at one end and a Lightning one at the other, so they could switch their adapters to be compatible with new technology. Furthermore, you should note that the iPhone 11 Pro Max actually comes bundled with a USB-C power adapter. However, for users who own older models, “most existing Lightning cables — and indeed other types of cable with USB-A connections — would require an adapter to work with the new chargers.”
Previously, Apple released a statement to address these concerns: “We want to ensure that any new legislation will not result in the shipment of any unnecessary cables or external adaptors with every device, or render obsolete the devices and accessories used by many millions of Europeans and hundreds of millions of Apple customers worldwide.” As a result, many experts think that it’s likely for us to soon see Apple integrating USB-C into future iPhone models. However, Apple is still unhappy with this development. The Guardian reports how Apple recently responded to the EU, arguing that the proposed change “stifles innovation rather than encouraging it”, and that “Legislation would have a direct negative impact by disrupting the hundreds of millions of active devices and accessories used by our European customers … creating an unprecedented volume of electronic waste and greatly inconveniencing users.”
What does this mean for the future? Potentially speaking, this move could prevent companies from having the freedom to create a new port when technological development calls for it. And if this change does through in Europe, it will likely affect iPhones here in the US and across the globe, as Apple won’t want to be burdened with the cost and inconvenience of having two create two versions of each phone. However, it should also be noted that the current situation is definitely better than the past when charging cables came hardwired to the plug and could not be used for other devices. For instance, “In 2009, there were more than 30 charging solutions, while today there are three charger types,” claims the European Parliament. Logically speaking, this move to reduce waste is an intelligent move, but the law should be updated to adjust to future developments in technology. Furthermore, the relatively new rise of wireless chargers should also be made compatible with a range of devices across the board.
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