European Commission to Mandate USB-C on all Smartphones

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In a move that might make some Apple fans scratch their heads, the European Commission has introduced legislation that will mandate all cellphones sold in Europe to use the USB-C standard. While most modern Android smartphones already use this standard, there is one very notable exception. Apple’s phones use a proprietary charging port called a Lightning Charger.

And, predictably, Apple has spoken out against the law. “We remain concerned that strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world,” Apple wrote in an official statement.

Proponents of the law argue that it’s a good thing, forcing Apple to comply with industry standards rather than rake in cash on proprietary charging hardware that they can tightly control. The European Commission’s law does seem to be a bit late, however, with some commentators noting that this regulation would have made more sense a decade ago when there were dozens of charging port varieties.

Current Smartphone Landscape

The current smartphone landscape looks very different than it did even a decade ago. Most phones use the USB-C standard, a fast-charging port that is symmetrical along its vertical axis. This port allows users to plug their charging cable in from either side: there is no “top” or “bottom,” both sides work.

The other common port seen on non-Apple phones is the aging Micro USB standard. Micro USB is distinct from USB-C in that it’s an older standard, and it does sport a “top” and “bottom,” meaning it can only be plugged in one way. Micro USB also doesn’t allow for charging at the same speed as USB-C or Apple’s own Lightning charger.

Reason for the Law

The law is intended to cut down on electronic waste by standardizing all charging technology. The law will also mandate that companies offer retail SKUs of their smartphones that don’t bundle in charging cables, further cutting down on electronic waste. Notably, many companies already do this.

This law could see Apple hasten their adoption of phones that sport no external ports. There has been speculation that Apple could be moving toward phones that only support wireless charging, as this port-free design would allow for greater waterproofing. Indeed, this approach would also allow Apple to continue selling proprietary chargers, like their MagSafe wireless charger that uses magnets to “hook” to the back of the smartphone.