What Europe’s push to simplify chargers means for you

The European Union’s attempt to eliminate cord ambiguity could have far-reaching implications beyond its boundaries. (Europe’s push to simplify chargers)

My phone charges using a different cable than my laptop, which charges with a different cable than my PC’s keyboard. And which charges with the same cable as my toothbrush for some reason.

To put it another way, my existence is a tangle of connections. I’m not the only one that thinks this way.
The European Union reached a tentative deal this week requiring all items sold within its borders (excluding toothbrushes) to utilize the same USB-C charging connection. This means that corporations that rely on proprietary technology, such as Apple, will have to make significant modifications.

By 2024, all smartphones must have a single charging connector, according to the European Union.

According to a statement from the European Parliament, the goal is to “make EU products more sustainable, minimize electronic waste, and make customers’ life easier.”

Here’s a quick rundown of what the EU proposal entails and what it might mean for those of us living outside of Europe.

What is actually happening?

The European Union intends to ensure that individuals can charge a variety of portable electronic gadgets using a single charger. Smartphones, tablets, headphones, cameras, e-readers, handheld game consoles, Bluetooth speakers, keyboards, computer mouse, and other gadgets that can charge by inserting a wire into them are all on the list.

Hardware manufacturers and tech businesses will have until fall 2024 to ensure that specified devices have USB-C connectors. Assuming both the European Parliament and the European Council sign off on the resolution following their summer holiday.

In the case of laptops, the situation is slightly different: manufacturers will have 40 months from the time European law makers adopt the deal to ensure that their machines accept USB-C charging.

Apart from establishing a “universal” charger, the EU intends to standardize charging speeds for electronics that support quicker charging, such as smartphones.

What about iPhones?

Much of the spotlight surrounding the European Union’s decision has been on Apple. With good reason: the company’s iPhones have used the proprietary Lightning charging technology for almost a decade. It doesn’t appear that it has many options other than switching it entirely.

The proposal states that the USB-C connector “shall be accessible and operable at all times,”. Therefore Apple won’t be able to just throw a Lightning-to-USB-C converter in iPhone packaging and call it a day. During a press conference, Alex Agius Saliba, the European Parliament’s main negotiator, said a statement like this. “if Apple wants to advertise their products, sell their products within our internal market, they have to follow by our standards”. It was regarding the inclusion of a USB-C connector in their gadgets.

That’s a shift the corporation has reportedly been exploring behind closed doors, which comes as no surprise. After all, the business already employs USB-C charging in its laptops and a few iPad models, albeit its cheaper tablets continue to use Lightning connectors.

Could Apple, on the other hand, make special USB-C iPhones for usage in Europe. While the rest of the world gets handsets with Lightning ports? That concept has occurred to several industry observers, though they do not expect Apple to make such a decision.

“I believe the most likely consequence here is that Apple will switch the iPhone to USB-C across the board rather than producing two somewhat different designs,”. This is said Aaron Perzanowski, a law processor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “I’m not a supply chain specialist, but that doesn’t seem like an efficient strategy.”

Apple is unlikely to have different iPhone versions for different areas, according to Carolina Milanesi, president of tech analysis company Creative Strategies. “That’s not something they generally do,” she explained. “I was also anticipating them to switch to USB-C this year because it’s already standard on everything.”

Apple declined to respond when questioned about the impact of the European Union’s decision.

How does this affect users in the U.S.?

This entire scenario is taking place in Europe (at the risk of repeating myself). The EU has no direct authority over how firms behave or what they do outside of Europe. Does this indicate that those of us who live outside of Europe will unaffecte by this shift?

Certainly not.

It’s not uncommon for companies to determine that having one set of rules for Europe. And another for the rest of the globe is inefficient. Consider Microsoft’s decision to offer GDPR protections to consumers outside of Europe. While restructuring its goods and services to comply with Europe’s General Data Privacy Regulation, or GDPR. (It’s no coincidence that this phenomena is known as the Brussels effect.)

In this scenario, that may mean Apple and other companies begin to move toward a single type of charging port that is used all around the world.

“If that’s correct,” Perzanowski said, “it’s yet another dramatic instance of the Brussels effect, with broader ramifications.”

If firms truly embrace change, don’t expect your life with your electronics to alter overnight. Even if everything proceeds according to the E.U.’s expectations, hardware manufacturers will have years to begin following the standards. Because USB-C is currently the de facto charging standard for a wide range of consumer gadgets, some early adopters may not notice much of a difference.

Others, though, may be able to. The number of various cords they use during the day may start to shrink for them. When you go on vacation, you might not need to bring as many as you think. You won’t have to worry about your phone dying on a night out. Because the bartender didn’t have the correct one. To put it another way, some of us might be able to live our lives with one less finicky item to worry about, which isn’t nothing.

What should I do in the meantime?

Because IT businesses and governments are already considering cables and ports, this is an excellent time for you to do the same.

If you’re already up to your neck in outdated charging wires, resist the desire to throw them away. Instead, stack them and take them to an e-waste center or a big-box electronics retailer. “Obsolete cords and cables typically contain a lot of copper and may be recycled 100 percent,”. This explained by Linda Gabor, executive vice president of public relations at Call2Recycle.

Here are some ideas for repurposing and recycling your outdated gadgets.

Users who rely on accessories that plug straight into the Lightning port on their iPhones should think about which ones they truly need. Apple has refused to comment on future product plans. But if the European Union gets its way, future iPhones may not be able to connect to those add-ons at all.

If that’s the case for you, and you know you’ll want to keep using those peripherals, try setting aside a known-good iPhone to use alongside them in case. They aren’t updated with a USB-C-friendly model.

Think twice if you were planning on getting ahead of the game by loading up on USB-C cables ahead of time. Make sure you read the reviews carefully and avoid those that appear to be too inexpensive. Not all cords are made equal, and USB-C is still a bit of a jumble years after it became popular.

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