EU Rules to Force USB-c Chargers for all Phones

The USB-C port is a 24-pin connector released in 2014 that can be plugged in either way it’s rotated (horizontally), due to its symmetrically rounded design.

This new ruling to harmonise chargers is a massive shift for companies that have been releasing products designed for use with alternative ports. Apple, for example, use their exclusive Lightning connector and port, which has been the standard for their products since 2012.

Here’s our Innovationly overview of the new phone charger announcement, and what it means for big name companies like Apple. We’ll also discuss the pros and cons to the new USB-C ruling, in the eyes of both consumers and companies.

Announcing the Move to USB-C Chargers

The change was announced on Thursday 23rd September, in an 18-page document that announced how a universal phone charger port will “benefit consumers and save EU consumers £214m a year”. It’s clear they’ve done their research on this, otherwise such a statement can’t have been made – in this sense, it does seem like a largely positive move that will have the most advantages for consumers and the environment.

The press release states loudly that the EU is “pulling the plug on consumer frustration and e-waste” – a statement that many are bound to agree with. It’s these new rulings set to reduce our collective carbon footprint on the environment that are undoubtedly a positive step forwards, though they may be to the detriment of some big name brands as they’ve argued these announcements can hinder their plans for innovation.

An Overview of the EU’s Phone Charger Report

  • Over the past decade, the amount of phone chargers on the market has reduced from 30 to just 3. This implies the Commisson’s efforts can have a vast impact. Imagine having to root through drawers containing handfuls of chargers just to find the one you’re looking for… A nightmare.
  • The USB-c charger is not only to become the standard for phones. It will also become the standard port for most forms of tech. That includes cameras, gaming consoles, audio devices like speakers, headphones, tablets, and more.
  • The transition period for the change is set to 2 years. This gives companies 24 months to completely make the switch into using USB-C chargers.

Backlash from the Tech Industry

There has been plenty of much-expected backlash from the industry’s key players, including Apple. This is because the adaptation is no doubt one that will have a significant impact on their upcoming strategies.

Luckily for Apple, they had already started incorporating USB-C chargers into their products. They switched to using USB-C cables for their iPad Pro devices in 2018. But there’s still a monumental number of adaptations to be made with regards to fulfilling the EU’s new phone charger ruling.

The Lightning cable we mentioned earlier is an Apple-only charging cable. This was perhaps a profit-making move, and their products often reject the use of third-party accessories once a device realises they’re not the standard Apple cable, alerting consumers notification that states the accessory is not supported. Sometimes it even stops working.  This can prompt the user to splash out and purchase direct from Apple, where Lightning cables cost up to £29.00. This is a stark contrast in pricing when we consier that non-Apple Lightning connector cables can be picked up from highstreet retailers at just £1.00.

Apple have announced that the change “would create an unprecedented amount of electronic waste”, which might be the case, but we have to weigh up the benefits for switching to a universal charger type in the long-run, way into the future. There has been speculation that Apple’s anger about the situation is rooted in the realisation that they’ll lose out on a lot of profits.

Pros and Cons to the USB-C Ruling

Here’s our pros vs. cons take on the new EU ruling to force USB-c chargers for all phones. There are plenty of both positives and negatives regarding the switch, though it’s imperative to remember that the majority of negatives are rooted in the realisation that brands will lose out on income.

Pros

  • “Harmonised” device charging solutions for everyone. The report states 38% of consumers complained about not being able to charge a phone at some point due to incompatible charger availability.
  • Manufacturers lose the ability to limit charge speed, compatability and life span. Some producers (naming no names…) are known to limit the speed and life span of their devices and accessory products, in an order to maximise on profits. A universal charger prevents this.
  • Less waste, particularly in the future. Disposed chargers create 11,000 tonnes of waste every single year, causing huge sustainability concerns and proving something must be changed.
  • Complete interoperability across devices. Interoperability means we can switch chargers between any device we own, without having to own multiple types and experience the fuss of mixing them up.
  • Consumers save money. As with the above statement, we won’t have to waste money on multiple chargers for various devices. We also won’t have to resort to brand-name chargers that cost a small fortune.

Cons

  • Apple stated the ruling will “stifle innovation”. This is perhaps due to the fact they’ll have to concentrate more of their efforts on adapting products to suit USB-C chargers, rather than on innovation moving forward. However, these changes must be made in the next 2 years, so it’s safe to argue that this level of concentration in making the switch will be only a short-term ‘stifling’ of innovation.
  • Apple will lose revenue on their proprietary Lightning cables. This may be another of the reasons that Apple made their statement about innovation. Less profit means less potential for investments in innovation. But we do know that Apple are not at all short on money, making £15.91 billion in profit in the last fiscal quarter of 2021.
  • There will be waste as people discard their now outdated Lightning cables. The EU Commissioner report states that on average, people own 3 phone chargers each. Although it is not specified that these are Lightning cables, it goes without saying that there’ll be tonnes of waste as consumers do make the switch to USB-C.

Whether you consider the switch to USB-C charging cables across devices to be a step forward or possibly a step backward, the change is set to happen anyway. It’s now just a case of considering how we can minimise the waste from those discarded Lightning cables.

Watch this space on Innovationly for more upcoming insights into topics such as technology, business, finance and creativity. You can subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates so you don’t miss out!

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