EU Carries On With Common Charger Plans

Posted on April 21, 2022 by Laurent Giret in Hardware, Mobile with 46 Comments

The European Union’s plan to set USB-C as the new charging standard on portable devices reached a new milestone yesterday. MEPs from the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee agreed with a proposition the European Commission made last fall, and the revised Radio Equipment Directive now aims to standardize wireless charging as well.

Members of the European Parliament want to reduce electronic waste by requiring small and medium-sized electronic gadgets to all use USB Type-C ports for charging. However, MEPs would allow an exception for smartwatches, health trackers, and other devices too small to have a USB-C port.

“With half a billion chargers for portable devices shipped in Europe each year, generating 11,000 to 13,000 tonnes of e-waste, a single charger for mobile phones and other small and medium electronic devices would benefit everyone,” said Alex Agius Saliba, the MEP responsible for handling the legislative proposal.

MEPs also want the European Commission to address the rising fragmentation in the wireless charging market. “We are proposing a truly comprehensive policy intervention, building on the Commission’s proposal by calling for the interoperability of wireless charging technologies by 2026 and improving information given to consumers with dedicated labels, said Agius Saliba.

After the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee adopted its position on the revised Radio Equipment Directive yesterday, the European Parliament will need to approve it with a full vote next month before discussions regarding the details of the legislation can really begin.

If European institutions have been trying to enforce a common charger solution for many years, a company like Apple, which sold over a billion devices using the company’s proprietary Lightning port, has been very reluctant to adopt USB-C on its iPhones and iPads. However, things are slowly starting to change with recent iPad Pro models making the switch to an USB-C port.

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Comments (46)

46 responses to “EU Carries On With Common Charger Plans”

    • wright_is

      I already only have USB-C chargers left, although I still have a USB-C toLightning cable for my iPhone and AirPods, a USB-C to MagSafe for the Watch and a USB-C to Micro-USB cable for my mouse and camera.


      We dumped about 20 chargers last year. I now have a 4 way 60W charger in my home office and 3 chargers in the kitchen.


      When we bought the phones and Watches last year, none of them came with additional chargers, just a USB-C to Lightning cable. At least in that constellation, we saved space and waste on 4 additional chargers that weren't needed.


      I'd like Apple to standardise on USB-C on the device end, they have already standardised on the charger end. USB-C with USB-PD offers a standard for charging that covers everything from small IoT devices, all the way up to laptops using the same charger (assuming it has enough max power), the charger and device communicate and the charger provides the power the device needs.


      Obviously, not every device needs a 90W charger and a 15-30w charger will be enough for most non-laptop devices. But even a smaller charger should be enough to trickle-charge a laptop over night, at a pinch; and I've used my USB-C docking station on a few occasions to charge my phone or tablet.


      Reducing the number of cables would be the next welcome step, then, I'd only need to lug the one charger and 1 cable around with me, when I travel.

  1. mikegalos

    And yet the latest Apple rumors say that Apple is going to continue with the proprietary Lightning connector on the iPhone 14 and that the earliest they'll be going to USB Type C connector on that family of devices is on the iPhone 15 family in 2023 or possibly with the major redesign with the iPhone 16 in 2024.


    • wright_is

      Yes, it seems like Apple are eeking out as much life as they can, before the changes come into force. That means more royalties on all those Lightning cables and connectors from third parties.


      Until I switched from Android to iPhone at the end of last year, I'd gotten us down to USB-C only devices for nearly everything (older Kindle, camera and mice were still MicroUSB). Now we have USB-C to Lightning cables in the mix as well. I'd really hoped the iPhone 13 would come with USB-C...

  2. red.radar

    I doubt it has an impact on charger e-waste.


    New chargers are coming out with GA-N technology that aim to be smaller and provide more power. The technological advancement will cause a lot of devices to be regulated to ewaste status just because of progress. Not to mention that devices distinguish themselves on rate of charge. If you want the latest fast charging capability you will be throwing your charger in the bin to use the latest device on the market.


    I think e-waste occurs because of progress not because of device incompatibility. The world has been largely standardized around USB for quite some time yet ewaste still occurs. Sure the end of the cable can be different, but the cables have been interchangeable for a long time to USB A to whatever end the device needs. Thus people can keep the existing charger but just plug a lighting cable or usb-c or micro-usb cable into the charger. This has been normal for a very long time.


    Also, Iphone users have been loyal to the platform for quite some time and ewaste still occurs. The idea that people are constantly switching device platforms and this generates unnecessary waste is flawed.


    EU is tilting at windmills, but hey if it gets the short term benefit of USB-C on the iphone ...ok. Not like I use the port anyways. I have been wirelessly charging my phones since the Iphone 8. I don't have to worry about port damage from all the insertions.



    • wright_is

      That is the whole point of the USB-C standard, it includes USB-PD (Power Delivery, which USB-A never had, so everybody had to make up their own method of providing more power). That means "fast charging" up to 90W, depending on the charger you have.


      The main point of USB-C is that you don't need a new charger with each device you buy. 7 of the last 10 devices we bought didn't include a separate charger (only the iPads and one Samsung phone). The rest just came with a USB-C cable (USB-C to USB-C, USB-C to Lightning, USB-C to MagSafe, USB-C to MicroUSB). We dumped all the non-USB-C chargers a year or so ago and we have 4 USB-C chargers left in the house, plus a few cables for Lightning or MicroUSB devices. My mice, cameras, iDevices, Kindles etc. all charge nicely from the USB-C chargers. Heck, I can even use the smaller chargers to top up my laptop over night - the bigger, 4-way Greenwood GAN charger can charge it at normal speed.


      Yes, switching out to GAN chargers will mean some chargers end up in waste, but most people will stick with the chargers they have, until they stop working. But at least with devices only coming with a cable in the box and not yet-andother-charger means some eWaste reduction, as the older chargers won't be thrown out when the new one arrives - or take up space at the back of drawers, gathering dust.


      If people need a new charger, they will buy one. I'd like to see the smartphone manufacturers offer a free charger for customers that don't have enough chargers, but I think it is a good move that most battery driven devices don't come with a charger any more.

      • jmountjoy

        This push for mobile phones to have in excess of 100 Watt charging drives me nuts. Seriously, if you can’t organise your life better to not NEED 100+ Watts to charge a phone, you would probably benefit from re-evaluating what’s actually important. Invest in a power bank to take with you if needs be for fire emergencies. Have a Qi charger or two lying around to allow for easy impromptu charging. Absolutely NEEDING my phone to charge at the insane rates (that will to some degree damage the battery causing more environmental waste) is something I cannot conceive of. Spec wars running amok to the detriment of the planet in my humble view.

        • jmountjoy

          To be clear; yes, I was tickled pink when I got my OnePlus 3 6 years ago and saw how fast it would charge. Very slowly by the standards of today’s fastest chargers, for certain. But even today, the Dash Charge of 2016 would still be more than adequate in all but exceptional circumstances. I get 10+ hours of screen on time with my iPhone 13 Pro Max and charge it less than once a day on average. Phone manufacturers (and SoC manufacturers) should be focusing more of their innovation on improved longevity of devices. Not shoring you inadequacies in efficiency/capacity by pummelling batteries harder when charging.

      • red.radar

        You could still charge almost anything with the older USB-A chargers. My current Anker charger is full of USB-A ports but has the older Quick Charge standard. Withstanding that it still charges my usb-c IPad, Apple Watch and a few older micro usb cameras just fine. I just bring the cable. Fun fact… i actually charge my iPhone with a micro usb connection because it plugs into a Qi wireless charge pad. I haven’t touch the setup in a few years other than to change cables out as devices enter and leave the house.


        Annoyingly… my new apple devices came with usb-c to lightning cables or usb-c to usb-c which is worthless in my setup. I need USB-A…. So i guess it won’t be too much longer and the Eu is going to force me to dust bin my perfectly good Anker charger or I will just continue to dust bin the supplied cables.

    • spiderman2

      I have at home 2 chargers with multiple usb-c ports and only usb-c cables... instead of 8 chargers and different cables

  3. ebraiter

    Sure glad I have a 3 "fingered" charger for microUSB, USB-C and and one for iGadgets.

  4. Leebing

    1. What about the billions of chargers that now get trashed since I can't use my same lightening chargers that I have all over the house and have to throw them all away and buy all new chargers?
    2. I agree with qaelith2112, now we have to wait on governments to approve new technologies? Here in the U.S., most of our legislators barely know how to use a computer at all. Why not standardize the size of batteries so that I don't have to buy 20 different kinds for my devices (sarcasm). Maybe standardize the size of all liquid bottle caps so that they are interchangeable!
    3. If this is the most important work that needs addressed, I think they might be over staffed. And yes, I think our U.S. counterparts way too busy on similar nonsense.
    • wright_is

      1. Apple switched to USB-C to Lightning a while back, so any fairly recent (and therefore more efficient) chargers will just need you to replace the USB-C to Lightning cable with USB-C to USB-C. I use the USB-C charger from my iPad Air to charge my iPhone and Apple Watch, just swap the cable out.
      2. The EU is fairly flexible, when it comes to such changes. Although the was a regulation in place for MicroUSB, USB-C has pushed its way through fairly quickly. Although, given that some manufacturers ignored the voluntary regulation last time round, this time it will probably end up as legislation, which will slow down a future change, but if there is a good case for a change, that shouldn't hold back new technology too much. But the Industry only has itself to blame in this case.
      3. From an environmental impact view, it is important. But the people working on these committees usually sit on several others as well.
  5. WaltC

    So...what happens when someone comes up with a charger solution that is a lot better than USB-C? Will the EU have to go through the same old rigmarole again? The main problem with government interference in technology development is that it stifles innovation and real development. The EUC is overbearing and shortsighted, and just like with medicine, politicians everywhere cannot resist meddling in fields about which they know next to nothing. Washington DC, for instance, is full of people practicing medicine without a license, and so on. We all know the sad story there. Politicians screw the government enough as it is--no sense letting them screw up everything else they touch, as well. Behind every UN action, you will find a lawyer's commission lurking in the shadows. Politics in the US is just as bad. So many numskulls interfering in places they should never be allowed to touch, imo.

    • WaltC

      Should be, "Behind every EU action, you will find...." I couldn't find the edit button here, if there is one...;)

    • jmountjoy

      Define “a lot better”. To my mind, the only way things will get “a lot better” would be in efficiencies of power transfer. The shape of the connector involved doesn’t inherently stand out as being key to that function. I can’t imagine why that would be the case but happy to be enlightened. Improvements in the voltage conversion, sure. Gallium nitride chargers have already been leading the “charge” (awful pun) in that area. But they have nothing to do with the physical end point so far as I’m aware. I’m happy to eat my words, but for now I think any significant improvement that benefits the entire world (and not just someone that occasionally needs to blast from 0% to 90% in under 5 minutes) is a way off.

  6. TigerTom

    I'm pretty sure the latest USB C standard either in dev or maybe ready for release can charge with up to 200W for the really high end power hungry laptops too.


    Most of my stuff is USB C now, only my wireless headphones and kindle are still micro usb. I have a cable with 3 ends on it that does micro, type c and apple for now and one charger.


    Once the headphones and kindle eventually get upgraded i won't be going back to anything that isn't USB C.


    For me forcing laptops onto USB C charging would be a better thing. Still a lot of non standard laptop charging systems out there.

  7. truerock2

    In my opinion, the reason USB-C exists is because it was a reaction to Apple inventing the Lightning connecter.


    Up to the point that Apple introduced the Lightning connectoer, the microUSB connector was going to be the next possible open-standard.


    Recall - in general - the tech industry had an insane negative reaction when Apple released Lightning.


    In my opinion, we are very lucky that Apple created Lightning. I don't believe USB-C would exist if Apple had decided to use micoUSB.

  8. christianwilson

    "Apple ... has been very reluctant to adopt USB-C on its iPhones and iPads."


    That's not quite true on iPads. Aside from the base model, iPads charge via USB-C.



    As far as this plan goes, I'm generally OK with it but worry about it becoming a roadblock to an eventual replacement for USB-C, which itself has a lot of problems.

    • SvenJ

      And that's the crux of the opposition. As long as it takes for the EU to come to an agreement and pass anything, they will be mandating what used to be the best choice. If they had gotten it done the last time they started this, we'd all be standardized on micro-USB.

      • qaelith2112

        Yes, this is the aspect that worries me too. I'm so terribly torn on this that I really don't know how I fall on it. Ask me 10 minutes from now and I'll have changed my mind from whatever it is right now.


        It is a very real concern that they lock in some mandatory standard and next year something much better comes along but then it's 5 years before the approved standard finally adopts it, right around when the next better standard comes out. I don't like that possibility. On the other hand, I've been frustrated for so long by Apple sticking with its own proprietary ports for no apparent reason other than lock in and to have more control over the accessory market, so that part of me almost welcomes the consequences of the other concern just to end this other BS. But then I know that when that next connector comes out I'll be back on the other side of it again. The ideal situation -- the one that WON'T happen -- is no mandate from the EU and Apple does the right thing on its own. The second best compromise I've hoped to see is that the threat of the EU acting pushes them to just friggin' do it and then the EU no longer has a reason for a mandate. If the mandate is a real possibility, you'd THINK Apple might see this as good reason to voluntarily do it. If in the end they MUST adopt the standard, seems better to me to adopt the standard WITHOUT having done it only after a mandate that now THEY are locked into along with everybody else.

      • wright_is

        Yes, but regulations can change and get updated, if there is a strong enough case.


        The MicroUSB was pushed through (I believe Apple even provided a MicroUSB adapter in the box?), then USB-C was shown to be the better choice and the regulations have been changed, although next time will probably be slower, as it is likely to be a law this time round and not everybody complied last time...

        • jmountjoy

          This. The ability to migrate to a demonstrably better technology isn’t beyond the wit of man. As an Apple ecosystem user with the odd Windows / Android device lying around, I would love for a standardised connection to come about. Hell, allow OEMs to include their own proprietary ultra-mega-super charging options with their charging bricks, so long as they ALSO comply with Power Delivery standards. If they can manage 150W through their proprietary charging standard, surely they can manage to support the existing USB PD standards too?

      • arjay

        And Micro-USB is the absolute worst.

  9. spiderman2

    Can hear tim cook crying "but but it stops evolution" (lightning is much slower than modern usb standards)

    • dftf

      "It prevents evolution" is the argument most Apple fans make in their defence here -- but, honestly, how much more can we realistically expect wired-charging to evolve? Short of using a different metal for the wires in the cable (other-than copper), or a different end-connector (which virtually changes nothing from an electrical-standpoint, given wired-charging has for years been something like 98-99% efficient) I fail to see what-more can really be done.

      • red.radar

        Its a defense of sunk costs. Lightning came out first before USB-C. So there are a lot of long time Apple users who have a large amounts of accessories that depend on that connector. The change will be disruptive and there are equal number of people who want USB-C as those that want to keep Lightning.


        Also, Apple is on record of keeping Lightning for 10 years. That clock runs out this year and it will be interesting to see what they do next. I suspect USB-C in this iteration or the next since every other device has it.

      • red.radar

        For USB-C, I think the Power Delivery spec is mature enough to accommodate needs for many years. latest iterations of the standards accommodate 240Watt profiles. Which is insane when you think about the wire in those connectors.


        The likely point that causes the connector to evolve is data rates. Thunderbolt is possible but the lengths on the cables are short… the clock speeds over the wires are really fast. I could see more data pairs needing to occur.

    • simont

      Lightning is basically USB2 standard. Can you imagine if you are using the iPhone 13 Pro Max with 1TB of storage and you need to copy all your files off that device, how long it will take.

      • crownseven

        I know its not the same thing, but I've transferred a 3 gb movie file from one iphone to another through airdrop, and it took less than 30 seconds. Mind blown.

      • ivarh

        This is not correct. Ligthning has support for USB-3 5gbit speed but it requires support for this on the phone. The 2 first generations of iPad pro's had support for 5gbit USB speeds. If you look inside the connector on those ipads you will see there are connectors on both sides of the female lightning socket. On iPhones, there are only connectors on one side of the female lightning connector.


        Here is a link to apples lightning adapter for connecting to cameras using usb3 speeds: https://www.apple.com/au/shop/product/MK0W2AM/A/lightning-to-usb-3-camera-adapter


        It has a description of what ipads it supports USB 3 speeds on.

        • Paul Thurrott

          It's still Apple's fault. And it's still ridiculous that they use USB-C almost everywhere else and not on the iPhone.
          • truerock2

            Paul,


            Is it possible that Apple is concerned with?...


            1. The huge amount of electronic waste if they drop Lightning too quickly
            2. Figuring out the future of smart-phone charging... probably MagSafe
            3. Figuring out high-speed data-transfer... probably WiFi7 (not Bluetooth)
            4. The issue of probably not having any data/charging ports on smart-phones in the near future.


            Maybe it is more difficult and complex than I realize.


            1. Magsafe
            2. High-speed wireless
  10. anoldamigauser

    I am all for standardizing chargers, but USB-C connectors are the most finicky in my experience. They clog with dust and pocket lint, and the connectors themselves are a bit delicate.

    • dftf

      Hopefully whatever future-standard will inevitably replace USB-C will keep the reversible-connector design though. Far too-many damaged USB-A ports damaged by people trying to force a USB-A plug in upside-down!

      • qaelith2112

        My feeling is that we likely have seen the end of direction-dependent plugs. I also celebrated USB C and have done everything possible since to get rid of my need to keep a supply of Micro USB cables -- every new device I buy, no matter what it is, will have USB C and not Micro USB even if I have to pay more, if there is any brand at all that has the option. I was buying a rechargeable hand sized vacuum to keep next to my electronics recently and too many still had Micro USB. I bought one of the ones that has the better plug. Same with a battery pack for my Quest 2 headset, same with every other cheap little rechargeable consumer good I've recently bought. But back to the point, I will be SORELY disappointed and surprised if the next standard to supersede USB C isn't also a direction-independent design.

        • jg1170

          Yeah, the world is NEVER going back to direction-dependent plugs, and I suspect that USB-C shaped (AND presumably, expectedly, backward compatible) connectors will be the standard for at least two decades to come (thankfully). I say two decades because I just don't see any reason to modify the design. Smaller has been proven to be not necessarily better, and since even laptops can now charge via USB-C, I don't see much reason to make the port bigger either.

    • ebraiter

      They should of reversed the male/female ports.

      I haven't had any flakiness. Maybe it's the cables?

    • wright_is

      I've had USB-C phones for at least 5 years now (well, I now have Lightning since December) and I've never had any reliability problems or problems with pocket lint in the port, no more so than any other device I've ever had with Micro-USB.


      I've certainly never had problems with them being delicate or finicky.

      • anoldamigauser

        Kids?

        Mine have managed to cause at least three USB-C cables connecting to their laptops to bend to the point that the connections inside broke, and they were not very bent. And manufacturers being who they are, the other end of the cable is always wired directly to the charger so it requires a new charger and a new, separate, cable. I now have them use a magnetic connector to the laptops, so any strain on the cable just causes it to separate from the laptop. It just seems that the connector housings for many USB-C cables are not as rigid, and have smaller strain reliefs on the wire.

        Regarding pocket lint, I had to regularly (about twice a year) clean both my phone and my wife's (purse lint?). Usually it would manifest as the plug just not quite inserting. I just had the same issue with a lightning connector on my iPhone after two years.

    • lightbody

      Yes I had problems with the USB-C socket on my Oneplus phone... took some careful work with a very fine needle to fix it. Dust had got forced into it each time i inserted the plug.

  11. MoopMeep

    The annoying thing about usb in general. I have devices with three different connectors already.

    I have really old devices (playstation move controllers) that have the old boxy shapped usb connector (mini/micro?).

    These are the most annoying because it seems like these are forgotten and I find it hard to get cables for this type.

    I have more newer usb devices with the half triangle connector (probably the most devices I have, I guess micro/mini?).

    I have newer devices with the roundish usb-c connector.


    Hopefully they stick with usb-c style but seems like they like to switch things up after a few years.

  12. JH_Radio

    I've got devices that do USB B for audio, USB c for smartphones, Micro USB for a LG Exult LTE, Mini USB for my ComPilot, USB A for keyboard and external hard dribes, and lightning for the iStuff.

    There is not one charger that I know of that can accommodate all of this lol.

    john

    • wright_is

      I have a Greenwood 4-way USB-C charger and I use it to charge my iPhone, Apple Watch, AirPods, iPad, Logitech mouse, Sony camera, and, at a pinch, my laptop (it is a 60W charger). The iPad and laptop are pure USB-C to USB-C, the other Apple devices are USB-C to Lightning or MagSafe (Watch). The camera and mouse are Micro-USB.


      The charger isn't the problem, it is just a matter of getting the right cables. Although you might lose proprietary fast charging on some devices, if they don't use USB-PD.

    • SvenJ

      USB C can. Just needs separate cables. The majority of chargers I've been seeing lately have a port on the charger, so you can use it for multiple standards, rather than the old method of having the cord a permanent part of the charger.

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