The European Parliament has officially voted to force gadgets including the Apple iPhone to adopt USB-C by 2024, in a move that will kill off Apple’s Lightning connector and likely lead to standardised power and data connectors across the globe.
The new rules are part of an EU push to reduce e-waste and consumer hassles. It estimates the change will save European consumers €250 million ($384 million) per year. Discarded and unused chargers represent around 11,000 tonnes of electronic waste per year in the EU.
Coming into force in 2024, the new rules not only apply to smartphones, but also to “all small and medium-sized portable electronic devices”.
This includes tablets, cameras, e-readers, handheld video game consoles and a wide range of other devices. Hardware makers then have another 40 months before the rules also apply to laptops.
The European Parliament voted on Tuesday to adopt USB-C by a vote of 602 votes to 13, with eight abstentions. The use of old chargers will not be outlawed, allowing consumers to continue using existing older devices.
While most gadget makers have already embraced USB-C, Apple has been the main holdout. The 2015-model 12-inch MacBook was the first Apple device to include USB-C and the connector has since come to several iPad models. Now the stage is set for the Apple iPhone to adopt USB-C.
USB-C is an open standard, designed to carry more data and power than Apple’s proprietary Lightning standard, from which Apple derives licensing fees from accessory makers. USB-C’s advantages allow for faster charging and data transfers, along with high-resolution video for connecting to monitors.
Apple introduced the Lightning connector in 2012, when it ditched the 30-pin dock connector which was introduced with the 3rd generation iPod classic in 2003 and also used by the early iPhone models.
Rather than adopt USB-C in the iPhone going forward, Apple may side-step the EU ruling by removing the charge/data port entirely. iPhones already support wireless charging, using Apple’s MagSafe and the Qi open standard, along with wireless data transfers.
The European Parliament statement added: “As wireless charging becomes more prevalent, the European Commission will have to harmonise interoperability requirements by the end of 2024, to avoid having a negative impact on consumers and the environment.”
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