European Union flag with a USB Type-C cable

The 27 countries in the European Union have been considering a law for years that would force phones, tablets, laptops, and other mobile devices to use a single connector: USB Type-C. Now the EU is one step closer to pulling it off.

The European Parliament announced today that it has reached a “provisional agreement” that establishes a single charging solution — in this case, USB Type-C — for certain electronics. The current agreement applies to phones, tablets, eReaders, earbuds, digital cameras, headphones, headsets, handheld consoles, and portable speakers. Manufacturers can continue selling any existing devices, but starting in fall 2024, new products must support USB Type-C charging.

Laptops sold in the EU will also have to use USB Type-C, but the deadline for that is much farther off. Since we’re still in the (relatively) early days of Type-C charging with enough power for larger laptops, the requirement won’t go into effect for laptops until fall 2025.

The rules aren’t completely set in stone yet, though. There’s no agreement for a standard wireless technology (at least, not yet), and the EU Parliament and Council still have to formally approve everything.

The Apple Problem

Apple has been portrayed as the main target of these rules, since iPhones still use Apple’s proprietary Lightning charging port, and Apple sells a lot of iPhones in Europe. Even though the iPad Pro/Air and all MacBooks have moved to USB Type-C, Lightning is still unfortunately alive and well.

Apple criticized the EU’s charger rules when they were first proposed in 2021, telling the BBC, “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.” The European Union has said in response that it will update its rules as new technology arrives.

Apple could theoretically side-step the new rules with an iPhone that only charges wirelessly, since (as previously mentioned) there’s no firm proposal for a standardized wireless charger. Apple added MagSafe wireless charging to its phones starting with the iPhone 12, and there have been rumors for the past few years that Apple might remove a physical charging port entirely. However, more recent reports indicate Apple is testing iPhones with USB Type-C ports, and the company might switch connectors as early as 2023.

Why Does The EU Care?

So, you might be wondering, why does the European Union care which chargers electronics use? The main problem is electronic waste, as the EU estimates disposed and unused chargers amounted to 11,000 metric tons of e-waste in 2018, and that number could continue to rise as chargers become larger and heavier to accommodate faster speeds. More electronic waste means more hardware slowly decomposing in landfills, which contributes to climate change — affecting everyone on the planet, not just the people living within the EU’s borders.

The idea is that if you can have one charger standard for most (if not all) of your mobile devices, you can reuse the same adapters and cables for longer periods of time. For example, if your laptop and your phone both have USB Type-C, and your phone’s cable is damaged, you can just charge the phone with your laptop charger. You’re probably also more likely to keep USB Type-C chargers if you know you might use them in the future, while proprietary chargers usually go in the trash once the device they were built for are replaced.

The European Union also says the move will make buyers’ lives easier. “Consumers will be provided with clear information on the charging characteristics of new devices,” the EU said, “making it easier for them to see whether their existing chargers are compatible. Buyers will also be able to choose whether they want to purchase new electronic equipment with or without a charging device.”

We’ve already seen many companies stop selling devices with chargers in recent years, including Apple’s iPhones, many of Samsung’s Galaxy devices, and most wireless earbuds. That might be more motivated by cost-cutting than anything else — Apple didn’t lower the iPhone’s price when it stopped including a charger — but it still cuts back on e-waste.

Source: European Parliament

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Corbin Davenport is the News Editor at How-To Geek, an independent software developer, and a podcaster. He previously worked at Android Police, PC Gamer, and XDA Developers.
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