The European Parliament has voted to force Apple into adopting the USB-C port for its iPhones by 2024, in a move that would also likely result in standardised charging and connection cables in Australia and across the world.
The new rules would mean portable electronic devices including smartphones, tablets, cameras and eventually laptops would be required to include the port, although in almost every case they already do. The iPhone, and its proprietary Lightning port, is the main holdout.
USB-C is standard across almost all portable devices, but there is one notable holdout.
Though the legislation was provisionally agreed upon in June, on Tuesday a total of 602 lawmakers voted for the plan, with 13 against and eight abstaining. The deal still needs to get the final sign-off from the EU member states, and is likely to be written into law at the beginning of 2023 to take effect in 2024.
The European Union has been campaigning for a common charging connector for more than a decade, in a move designed to reduce e-waste and ensure households could power any device with a single standard charger. The European Commission estimates it would save consumers €250 million ($384 million) per year.
Alex Agius Saliba, the lead negotiator in the European Parliament, held up a pile of power adapters when debating the final proposal in Strasbourg on Tuesday. “We are replacing this pile of chargers,” he said of the bundle, “with just this,” holding up a single USB-C cable.
USB-C passes through more data and power than Lightning, allowing for faster transfers and charging as well as high-resolution video and compatibility with everything from cameras to hard drives, and it’s become the defacto port for laptops and tablets, including Apple’s own.
But the company has opposed the EU’s plan, saying it doesn’t think regulators should have this kind of say over smartphone design, claiming that adopting USB-C would stifle innovation, and rejecting the EU’s suggestion that a common standard would reduce e-waste.
The move could also hurt Apple’s “made for iPhone” business, which demands licensing fees from accessory-makers who include Lightning ports, and would remove Apple’s oversight on the kinds of things plugging in to iPhones.
However Apple is reportedly already testing an iPhone with USB-C, and stopped active development on its Lightning port years ago.
While manufacturers will only be compelled to provide the USB-C sockets in Europe, most are unlikely to produce different models for different parts of the world. Like the EU’s strict privacy regulations, the USB-C rule will almost certainly have a global impact, and lead to iPhones adopting the plug in all regions.
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