Greg “Joz” Joswiak Apple’s exec has confirmed that Apple will follow the charging requirement set by the European Union for all mobile devices to have a USB-C port by 2024. This requirement was signed into law on Monday.
Apple’s iPhone currently uses a Lightning connector for charging and data transfer while many smartphones use USB connectors. Apple is in the USB Implementers Forum though it does not use the charging system on its iPhone series and has been using its type of charging system since 2012 from the iPhone 5 series, which is two years before the USB-C condition was finalized. An overlap of purpose can be seen between the two.
Under the new European Union rules, all manufacturers whose products will sell in the EU with a charging cable that draws about 100W must be equipped with a type C USB port. Devices like handheld video game consoles, keyboards, headphones and headsets, portable speakers, earbuds, e-readers, navigation systems, and tablets should support a USB-C.
This will mean that many devices will have the same charging port and one charging cable can work on multiple devices. When the change was being announced in the summer a rapporteur on the issue Maltese MEP Alex Agius Saliba explained why the change is necessary by saying “(less) chargers for our consumers… a fairer deal to our environment, because ultimately we generate 13,000 to 15,000 tonnes of electronic waste of chargers that we barely ever use. One in three chargers that are bundled with these products is never opened.”
On commenting on how Apple will be affected by the change he said “In two years, if Apple wants to market their products, sell their products within our internal markets, they have to abide by our rules, and their receptacle device has to be USB-C.”
Newer devices from Apple are now being fitted with the standard charging ports such as Macbooks and iPads, and for other Android smartphones and laptops by other brands, the requirement is not a big issue but for Apple, the feelings are not good.
During an interview at the WSJ Tech Live event with Wall Street Journal journalist Joanna Stern Apple’s senior vice president for worldwide marketing Greg Joswiak disclosed the tech giants’ take on the issue. He said: “Obviously we’ll have to comply, we have no choice.”
Stern started by revealing a molded image of competitor standards which Craig Federighi a senior veep for software engineering called “terrifying.”
Joswiak tactfully commented on the image by saying that “I see two cool connectors, the most popular connectors in the world right now” and Federighi chipped in to say “One of them has a much better name though, don’t you think?”
When Stern pressed on the “mess” the whole issue created Joswiak argued that despite the good intentions aligned with government regulation, the new requirement can push companies to follow standards that are not the best for what the companies want to achieve with their products. He emphasized how these new rules will hold back innovation, he also pointed out that the issue of charging systems had already been resolved with the introduction of detachable cables.
He also repeated that since Apple has been making lightning connectors for years, billion or more connectors in people’s homes and offices will eventually turn into e-waste even though the EU is pushing to limit waste.
This however sounds insincere because Apple may likely want to still have control over how buyers use their Apple products and control over who can build Apple parts. Apple has not had any competition with other brands over its phones and does not want it to start now.
A Lightning USB cable by Apple costs close to $19 when bought through Apple’s website, money that the company does not want to part with. The different standard charger for iPhones also keeps the idea of a “walled garden” alive for Apple in the sense that many iPhone owners will remain iPhone users (once an iPhone owner, always an iPhone owner).
But the EU has made the USB-C standard for all EU devices from 2024 and the battle has surely been won. A USB-C can do everything that a Lighting cable can do while the same can’t be said for the latter.
USB-C has standardized endurance of 10,000 plug-unplug scenarios while the Lighting does not offer a specific life span. USB-C connectors are fast for 8K videos while Lightning is not and it only supports USB. 2.0 and USB 3.1 Gen 1 while a USB-C supports these and Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 2, DisplayPort, and HDMI. The EU rule will also require manufacturers to include dedicated labels for charging characteristics.