Apple opposes EU plans to make common charger port for all devices

USB Sockets

The European Commission has set out plans for a common charger port for all mobile phones, tablets and headphones, in the face of resistance from US tech giant Apple.

An 18-page directive released on Thursday said a common charger for all brands “would benefit consumers and reduce electronic waste”. It estimates that it will save EU consumers €250m (£214m) a year.

The directive will impose the use of USB-C ports, currently used by Android phones, for all devices. It would force Apple devices, which use lightning cables, to provide USB-C ports on its devices in EU countries.

Once the law comes into force there will be a transitional period of two years during which manufacturers must switch their devices to the common standard.

Apple has objected. In a statement it said: “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.”

It also expressed concerns about the two-year transition period for companies to comply.

The commission vice-president, Margrethe Vestager, defended the plan. She said: “We gave industry plenty of time to come up with their own solutions, now time is ripe for legislative action for a common charger. This is an important win for our consumers and environment and in line with our green and digital ambitions.”

The current system allows Apple to use “proprietary charging interfaces”. The new directive complains that this prevents full interoperability. It says it also ignores the “environmental issues arising from the continued existence of those different charging interfaces.”

The directive says Apple’s “proprietary solutions” are “no longer justified in view of the technical advantages provided by the introduction of the USB-C interface”.

Without mentioning Apple by name, it makes clear that the company has resisted the change. It says: “Those manufacturers that have invested heavily in proprietary charging technology appear less keen, since the high charging performance of their bundled phones and EPS [external power supply] is an important part of their marketing strategy.”

It adds: “This directive aims to reduce the e-waste generated by the sale of radio equipment and to reduce the extraction of raw materials and the CO2 emissions generated by the production, transportation and disposal of chargers, thereby promoting a circular economy.”

Half the chargers sold with mobile phones in 2018 had a USB micro-B connector, while 29% had a USB-C connector and 21% a lightning connector, according to a 2019 Commission study.