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 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.