Proposed EU Law Could Force Apple to Change iPhone Charging Connector

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The European Union is considering a new law that would require all cell phone makers to use a standard charger connector, which could put Apple in a position where the company is forced to drop its Lightning Connector in some parts of the world. The law will go beyond the guidelines the EU has already set for standardized connectors, and if passed will go into effect in 2017.

EU wants all smartphones to use the same charger cableEU wants all smartphones to use the same charger cable

The proposed law creates what the EU is calling "harmonized rules" for standardized cell phone connectors. The current guidelines call for micro-USB connectors, which are known for being unreliable and fragile.

Forcing a standard connector on all phone makers will cut down on cost and waste, according to the EU. EU rapporteur Barbara Weiler (S&D, DE) commented,

With this agreement we will find more safety under the Christmas tree. I am especially pleased that we agreed on the introduction of a common charger – although the Council and the Commission were hesitant at first. This will benefit the consumers.

The benefit for consumers will be that no matter what cell phone, smartphone, rechargeable remote car lock system, or model consumers buy, they'll all use the same charger connection. The down side is that manufacturers will be limited in how they design new products since they'll be forced into a single connection type, and if they stick with micro-USB, consumers will be stuck with a fragile connector that may not hold up over time and isn't known for efficient data transfers.

Assuming the EU approves the law, companies like Apple will find themselves in a position where they have to change designs that are already working well and may be superior to the new requirements. Apple already sells a micro-USB to Lightning adapter, but unless the company can convince EU lawmakers that it's current solution is acceptable, we may soon be looking at iPhone models in Europe that aren't compatible with cables in other parts of the world.

There's still time for revisions to the proposed law that could save Apple from building micro-USB iPhones. The EU isn't expected to vote on the law until some time around March 2014, and it's a safe bet there will be plenty of negotiating with device makers happening between now and the the actual vote.

Comments

Tiger

Let’s start a trade war. This is stupid. If they don’t think there won’t be retaliation, they’re crazy. I have never owned a single device with a Micro USB connector. Why would they want something that is mono-directional, versus omnidirectional? Not to mention slower, harder to plug in for persons with disabilities (or 40-somethings whose vision has started going…)

If they want to flex their muscles, let them fix an actual problem instead of creating some useless “standard” (by their arbitrary definition).

mlvezie

I personally don’t have any problem with the micro-USB devices I use, but I’m trying to wrap my brain around why the EU government feels compelled to pass such a law.

They mention “harmonizing rules”. That calls to mind an image of a long line of people, hand in USB cable in hand, smiling and singing. Clearly, the EU government has too much time on their hands.

iVoid

Maybe before the EU forces manufacturers to standardize on one charging connector for cell phones, they should get all the EU countries to use the same electrical plugs and voltages.

THAT is much more troublesome for people moving between countries frequently than the type of charger port on their cell phones.

After all, a UK charger that has a micro-usb plug is still worthless in Germany even if it has the micro-usb plug.

 

Lee Dronick

Put two charger ports on the iPhone.

MOSiX Man

Huh. So, what happens when the proposed, new design for a small, bi-directional USB connectors comes out, in 2016? Is the EU still going to mandate the use of the micro-USB connectors, for mobile devices?

These kinds of laws are inane. Only a barrel of bureaucrats would decide that a minor inconvenience to consumers requires mandating homogenous technology be used for all devices in a broad category, denying consumers access to superior technology.  There is 0% chance that Apple will make euro-specific i-devices. They will simply include micro-USB to Lightning adapters, as necessary.

Lancashire-Witch

The EU are over 10 years too late - I’ve now got a drawerful of old phone chargers. Sony, Erickson, Samsung, Nokia - old style and new style, Motorola - all of them different - none of them USB.  It all dates from the time I couldn’t get more than 2 years out of a mobile phone.

I’m sincerely hope the Apple Lightning/USB adapter will be acceptable. If not then I go for Lee’s suggestion. This is not about data transfer. It’s about being able to charge your phone; any phone; using a common charger.

There is now a Euro plug/voltage standard. The UK will always be an odd-ball as a result of the post-war copper shortage and deciding to adopt the “ring circuit” which necessitates a fused plug.

MOSiX Man

These days, such devices are designed to squeeze a LOT of microcircuitry into as small a space as possible. Having to shoehorn both Lightning and micro-USB ports and controllers into said devices would cost a lot to re-engineer. Also, it is rather less than as elegant as Apple prefers to make their products.

Lancashire-Witch

@ Mosix Man.
Yep. No doubt about that.

I suspect Apple is not the only company who perhaps thought the EU would never stop talking about this and not actually get passed the ‘guideline’ stage. And maybe they won’t; this wrangle has been going on for years, that’s why the preferred standard is micro-USB.

It would be crazy for a 12 year-old idea to become law in over 3 years’ time, but the idea originated not because of some concern for consumer convenience but because of the large numbers of discarded chargers turning up in land-fill sites.

Lee Dronick

Who is really behind this law, Nokia?

Lee Dronick

  Having to shoehorn both Lightning and micro-USB ports and controllers into said devices would cost a lot to re-engineer. Also, it is rather less than as elegant as Apple prefers to make their products.

Yes, it wouldn’t be the best solution.

Benjamin Roethig

If its based around the Type-C which was clearly inspired by lightning its not so bad

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