iPhones may need redesign as EU pushes for universal charger

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The European Commission said Thursday it wants a single type of charging port to be used for all smartphones and tablets as well as equipment such as cameras, some headphones, portable speakers and handheld video consoles.
The European Commission said Thursday it wants a single type of charging port to be used for all smartphones and tablets as well as equipment such as cameras, some headphones, portable speakers and handheld video consoles.
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Apple may have to redesign its iPhones to use USB-C charging ports under draft rules from the European Union aimed at cutting waste and simplifying life for consumers owning multiple devices.

In a move that could signal the end of Apple’s Lightning cable on iPhones, the European Commission said Thursday it wants a single type of charging port to be used for all smartphones and tablets as well as equipment such as cameras, some headphones, portable speakers and handheld video consoles.

"With more and more devices, more and more chargers are sold that are not interchangeable or not necessary," said Thierry Breton, the EU’s industry chief, in an emailed statement. "We are putting an end to that."

Apple has opposed a standard connector, saying it risks hurting innovation that can bring more energy efficient products to the market. The draft legislation adds to intense pressure from the EU in recent years with antitrust probes into its app store and payment system adding to a legal row over a massive back-tax order.

Apple is "concerned that strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it", according to an emailed statement. The Cupertino, California-based company said it "deeply cares about the customer experience" and shares the commission’s "commitment to protecting the environment". 

The iPhone maker started removing adapters from packaging last year to reduce waste. While the company uses USB-C for some devices, it has its own Lightning cable and magnetic chargers for iPhones and some accessories.

'Annoying'

People spend around 2.4 billion euros (~R41 billion) annually on standalone chargers not supplied with devices, the EU said. It forecasts a 250 million euro saving every year as consumers avoid buying new chargers. People tend to own as many as three chargers each and find incompatible chargers annoying, it said.

The rules would see all chargers offer the same speed of charging. Phone makers could still be able to sell phones with a charger as long as they also offer models without. They can also sell devices with a cable in the box and without the electric plug. Devices could potentially have multiple ports so long as one was USB-C.

The EU throws away some 11 000 tons of chargers every year, some unused, according to the commission. It expects the proposal to reduce that by almost 1 000 tonnes.

The rules could come into force two years after they are agreed by EU lawmakers and governments who can make changes to the draft text.

The EU proposal doesn’t touch on wireless charging. Regulators said they decided not to include earbuds, smartwatches and fitness trackers due to their smaller size.

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