For years, Apple has been avoiding adopting USB on its iPhone device in favor of its own proprietary Lightning cable. While many users and commentators would prefer USB-C, Apple has stuck to its guns. However, the European Parliament is now pushing Apple towards a make-or-break decision over using USB-C on iPhone.
The European Parliament, European Council, and other groups within the nation bloc have created official legislation that mandates all smartphones and tablets sold in the EU to have USB-C. This regulation will come into effect by 2024.
For Android manufacturers like Samsung, Google, and OnePlus, this change means nothing. Those OEMs have been building USB-C support into their devices for years. However, Apple has resisted and is now having its hand pushed by EU lawmakers.
This will mean Apple must either wholesale change its iPhone models or ship a specific European variant with a USB-C charging port. According to the parliament, the change is to help reduce e-waste in European nations.
Parliament's rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba (S&D, MT) has been pushing for this change for a decade. He says that a common charging method is ideal for customers:
“The common charger will finally become a reality in Europe. We have waited more than ten years for these rules, but we can finally leave the current plethora of chargers in the past. This future-proof law allows for the development of innovative charging solutions in the future, and it will benefit everyone – from frustrated consumers to our vulnerable environment. These are difficult times for politics, but we have shown that the EU has not run out of ideas or solutions to improve the lives of millions in Europe and inspire other parts of the world to follow suit.”
It has always been a tricky subject surrounding Apple's reluctance to accept USB connectors. With the Lightning port and cable, the company has a proprietary connector that it alone controls. There is a lucrative market around licensing the technology to third party accessory makers or by selling official replacements.
Apple sells 200 million iPhones each year, and that lucrative market around Lightning will disappear under the EU's new rules. This may be enough for the company to make a Europe-specific version of iPhones following 2024.
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