The European Union has delivered its verdict: if Apple wants to sell new iPhone in the region, these devices will have to have a USB-C port before the end of 2024.
That means Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector, which has been around for more than a decade and has established itself as a huge revenue stream for the tech giant, will have to be phased out of future iPhones. At least those who go to the EU.
“We have no choice – as we do all over the world, [Apple will] comply with local laws,” Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, told a Wall Street Journal technology conference Oct. 25, when asked if Apple would comply with the charging law. common in the EU.
“We think it would have been better for the environment and for our customers not to have such a prescriptive government.”
While the legislation technically only applies to consumer electronics sold in the European Union, Apple could be forced to decide the fate of the Lightning port for iPhones destined overseas. Most commercial phones charge and connect to accessories using the USB-C standard, but iPhones don’t. Could this mean that future iPhones sold outside the European Union will also switch to a USB-C charging port? Or will Apple make hardware changes by geography: produce two iPhone variants to support USB-C and Lightning, one for the EU and one for the rest of the world?
Apple is already changing iPhone models regionally, like it did with the iPhone 14. The US version only has an electronic SIM card, while other variants retain the SIM slot, like points out Avi Greengart, analyst at Techsponential. But he also thinks Apple has good reason to move all iPhones to USB-C in the future.
“…There are more important ecosystem, security, and accessory considerations with the power/data connector, so I think Apple is more likely to move all iPhones [globally] to USB-C within the iPhone 16 deadline to comply with EU regulations.”
For more than a decade, European lawmakers have pushed for electronic devices to include a standardized charger in an effort to reduce cable clutter and electronic waste. The legislation, which is part of the amended Radio Equipment Directive, was finalized in June before the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of the rule in October. Its approval is widely seen as a victory for consumers, who will soon be able to use a single USB-C charger on a range of accessories and devices, including higher-powered ones like gaming laptops and 4K monitors. . Its adoption was also seen as a victory for the environment. A European think tank estimates that chargers generate up to 13,000 tonnes of e-waste per year in the EU and have associated lifecycle emissions of around 600-900 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
Apple lobbied vehemently against the idea of a common phone charger. The tech giant says such legislation could stifle innovation and exacerbate the e-waste problem, as it would likely render the Lightning cable obsolete for perhaps a billion people around the world. Apple, which collects fees from third-party companies that make accessories designed for the iPhone, could potentially lose revenue from every Lightning cable and accessory compatible with the iPhone.
Despite Apple’s pushback, the tech giant has would have test a USB-C iPhone. Noted Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo predicted Apple will exceed the EU mandate by a year by equipping a new iPhone with a USB-C port in 2023.
“USB-C could improve iPhone transfer and charging speed in hardware designs, but final spec details still depend on iOS support,” Kuo wrote in a May post. on Twitter.
Before the impending EU vote, the tech giant had been gradually moving to USB-C on other products. It was integrated into MacBooks in 2015, iPad Pro in 2018, iPad Air in 2020 and iPad Mini in 2021. In addition to the iPhone 15, Kuo expects several other Apple accessories, including the AirPods, Magic Keyboard and MagSafe Battery Pack, are moving to USB-C, but he didn’t offer a specific timeline.
Read more: Will a USB-C iPhone make Apple’s Lightning cable obsolete? Not yet
In the long term, the move from iPhone to USB-C is poised to benefit Apple customers, just as the law predicts. Since most of the company’s iPads and Macs already use USB-C rather than Lightning, the move will streamline the charging experience for customers. Apple loyalists currently need three different types of chargers to power their iPhones, MacBooks, iPhones, and Apple Watches. For a company proud of its ecosystem, Apple offers a cumbersome charging experience that goes against its philosophy of simplicity.
“It makes sense for Apple to [switch to a USB-C iPhone] in all markets, as it will not only improve the experience for users, who also use iPads or Macs, but also simplify supply chain processes,” Will Wong, research director for International, told CNET. Data Corporation.
Read more: Apple’s dream for iPhones could actually be a nightmare
Even if Apple eventually moves to a USB-C iPhone for all models, there are valid arguments that it will be a short-lived fix. Rumors indicate that Apple is ditching ports altogether in its iPhones, leaving the traditional plug-in charger a thing of the past. This potentially means that USB-C could be an interim measure before Apple enters a wireless future.
“Portless is probably one of the developments that Apple is considering with the introduction of the MagSafe wireless charger,” Wong said. “Nevertheless, there is obstacles like slower charging speed to overcome before becoming totally portless”,
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