European Union to finally resolve its common charger standard issue, and what it means for Apple

Technological advancements have always been based on the assumption that the lesser the restrictions and limitations from the outer world, the faster they move forward. That’s basically how we’ve come to the place where everything around us is driven by technology.

But the new era of digitization has also come with new challenges. While the new pieces of technology encompass our everyday lives, they also come with various dangers, be it cyber attacks, data theft, or other scams and frauds.

And if one particular geographical area is to be explicitly mentioned here, it’s definitely Europe. European nations have moved towards regulating the majority of their industries quite a while ago. And we’re not talking about the EU only.

In Norway, online gambling providers with the most innovative platforms are subject to some specific regulatory measures. For instance, take a look at this top Norwegian bookmakers list – all of them are required to operate from the governmental platform. In short, gambling in Norway, with all its technologically savvy operators and providers, is nationalized.

EU and its common charging standard

And when it comes down to the EU, this institution has devised some of the most comprehensive tech regulations that exist in the industry. One of the most recent projects that the organization is working on is the law of common charger standard. And there’s a chasm between analysts regarding its implications for one of the biggest tech companies in the world – Apple.

Before the EU embarking on this prospective legislative project, the smartphones were issued with different charging ports, and different voltage and amperage outputs. And it created some peculiarities on the smartphone market. Every smartphone needed its own charging assembly – both a cable and wall adapter, otherwise, charging them would be impossible.

And in 2014, EU regulators came together to put an end to this issue. With the Radio Equipment Directive coming together in one piece, the European Union called for a unified charging system which required the smartphone companies to use only one particular standard.

The market has already shifted

But there was something pretty similar already happening on the market. You see, back in 2014, smartphone manufacturers were already migrating towards the MicroUSB charging system. At least that was what Android manufacturers were doing.

What this meant was that the majority of Samsung, LG, Sony, and other Android smartphones were using the same connectors, as well as the same milliamperage and voltage outputs that were dictated by the USB common standard. And for that reason, an additional intervention from the government seemed somewhat excess – everyone was already adopting the MicroUSB.

But then there was Apple who was going to a completely different direction: when it released the iPhone 5 in 2012, it replaced the old-school 30-pin connector, which was already slow and obsolete for that time, with the new Lightning port – a versatile connector with double sides and much faster transferring speeds.

If one thing can be said about Apple, it’s that this company rarely gives up its new inventions. And the Lightning connector was certainly one, which suggested that it was virtually impossible that Apple would switch from the newly-implemented technology to a much slower, one-sided MicroUSB.

To make some basic conclusions, the legislation the EU regulators were working on was mostly hitting Apple and its ecosystem. And not just smartphones were targeted: other products like iPads, iPods, docks, and HiFi systems were built around the Lightning ports and banning it would render those products obsolete.

In retrospect, that project didn’t come to fruition after all. There were a lot of logistical issues associated with agreeing on, and then implementing, the common charging standard system.

EU comes back to its legislative project

And after some five years later, the issue has floated on the surface again, with regulators trying for the second time to get the manufacturers to comply with a singular common standard when selling smartphones in Europe. But the same situation is present now as well.

The majority of Android smartphones have already switched to the USB-C chargers, which are much faster and more versatile – with double-sided connection – than its predecessor. It’s as if the governments are slowly following the steps of technology.

And now that the issue is back to the discussion, the first step to the real results is adopting it by the EU Parliament. And even if it is adopted, it’ll take a lot more time to agree on various issues, among which the actual standard is going to be the least complicated – it’s definitely going to be the USB-C.

But the layout of the Parliament, as well as the Commission and other EU institutions don’t really make for an opportunity to implement the new laws without too much delay. There are 27 (excluding the UK) governments who have their representatives with their own opinions on this topic. Then there are different pieces of documentation, procedures in different committees, and so much more.

And assuming all that hassle is overcome and the law is finally passed, it still doesn’t mean that the new USB-C standard will be implemented right away. You see, every manufacturer plans their smartphone projects years ahead and if they’re somehow stalled with unexpected regulations, it’s going to be bad for them. That’s why the regulators have to warn them years in advance.

Opinions diverge what will happen to Apple

To get back to Apple, we cannot help but notice that the resuscitated project is still targeted on its products. From 2012 and the invention of the Lightning port, almost 8 years have passed and the majority of products are still using this standard. Sure, the new iPads are already shipped with USB-C but they aren’t that decisive in Apple’s retails as the iPhones are.

So, in theory, the new legislation will be damaging to the company. But, as the other group of analysts mentions, things might not be as gloomy as they seem. Since the regulators have to warn the companies in advance, it means that Apple and other manufacturers will have plenty of time to prepare for the new regulations.

Besides, as the iPad example shows, the company has already acknowledged the importance of USB-C and we’re probably going to see other products incorporate the same technology as well. All that without regulatory enforcements.

Even more edgy prediction states that the company would be preparing to completely abandon the ports and release completely wireless-charging smartphones in the near future. Therefore, the new regulation won’t have a considerable effect on Apple.