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EU plans for a common charging port welcomed as positive move

Paul Lipscombe
June 14, 2022

Plan is for USB-C to be standard across EU by autumn 2024

The industry has welcomed the EU’s plans to enforce a common charging port across the region by autumn 2024.

The European Parliament and European Council agreed to legally require all smart devices to come with a USB-C charging port as default.

However, these plans – which await final confirmation – are expected to provide a headache for giants Apple, which uses its own Lightning cable for iPhones.

But the UK government says it is not “currently considering” implementing similar plans.

On the plans, European Parliament spokesperson Alex Saliba said: “European consumers were long frustrated with multiple chargers piling up with every new device.”

If the measures are pushed through, he said, “now they will be able to use a single charger for all their portable electronics”.

CCS Insight chief analyst and CMO Ben Wood said that “having one common charging standard would be a victory for common sense in the eyes of consumers,” while adding that it could diminish as an issue for Apple because the vendor already has a USB-C for some of its products.

Although Apple has made a strong argument for it keeping its Lightning connector, given the one billion active iPhone users, some of its products, including Mac and iPad Pros, now support USB-C.

“Hopefully, it will eventually become a non-issue if Apple keeps adding USB-C to more devices, and hat means ultimately we could see USB-C coming to iPhone.”

PP Foresight TMT analyst Paolo Pescatore agrees that the move is good for consumers and also expects Apple to overcome any potential hurdles.

Meanwhile, he hails the ruling as a move towards greater sustainability, as fewer charging cables amassed by consumers will lead to less e-waste.

“At first glance, this might seem like a huge blow to Apple, but the company already supports USB-C for some of its devices,” he said. “For sure, Apple will need to redesign the iPhone [at some point] that relies on the Lightning connector.

While there are pros and cons of using different charging cables, there needs to be a cohesive effort on sustainability and thinking about the environment.

“This ruling, which needs to be approved, is a huge step towards that goal.”

Refurbished reaction

Those within the refurbished industry have also welcomed the proposals.

This has been a long time in the making, but now seems to have been resolved,” said Fergal Donovan, regional president for Europe at PCS Wireless. “All mobile devices moving to USB-C, which for almost all is not an issue, but Apple.

“This a positive move for sustainability and e-waste, as all manufacturers will assume the same standard.”

Refurbished brand Nxt2Nu has also backed the plans, with the company anticipating that Apple will change its charging ports to meet requirements.

“The EU’s decision to enforce a universal charging port is a great step forward to reduce up to 12,000 tons of e-waste in the EU alone,” said Nxt2Nu commercial director Martijn Van Den Hout.

“This will force Apple to abandon Lightning ports from 2024 by changing to USB-C or completely wireless charging. This, in turn, will also reduce e-waste in the UK.”

Waste creation? 

However, IDC senior research manager Marta Pinto suggests that the consumers will be left with old unusable chargers, thus generating more initial waste.

“The common USB type for chargers can be argued from many points of view, but making all brands change will produce a high amount of waste, as going forward both consumers and companies will be left with old unusable chargers: in the following upgrade cycle, more waste will be generated.”

Pinto also suggests that innovation could be “stifled”, while third-party accessories suppliers might also struggle, but does note it could also “spur” innovation too.

“Innovation will be stifled, as all charging related tech, like supercharging, will have to be universally applicable. Therefore, brands will try to pass that risk to third-party accessory suppliers, which will be left with a dead-end business (no innovation at all, apart from colours).

“But on the other hand it will spur innovation and make consumers buy new air-contact based gear -> because brands are ditching ports anyway for better device robustness (especially water resistance).”

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