EU Will Make USB-C Mandatory on All Phones By 2024

Posted on June 7, 2022 by Laurent Giret in Hardware, Mobile with 50 Comments

EU lawmakers agreed today to make USB -C the standard charging port on all phones and other electronic devices that will be sold in Europe by 2024. The new legislation aims to reduce electronic waste, and it should impact Apple and its proprietary Lightning port in a pretty big way.

The EU’s Radio Equipment Directive will apply to many electronic devices that are rechargeable via a wired cable. ”The charging speed is also harmonised for devices that support fast charging, allowing users to charge their devices at the same speed with any compatible charger,” the EU press release reads.

Parliament’s rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba boldly said today that the EU has “made the common charger a reality in Europe.” The rapporteur added that the new legislation will also include provisions to address wireless charging technologies, which the EU also wants to make interoperable.

“We are proud that laptops, e-readers, earbuds, keyboards, computer mice, and portable navigation devices are also included in addition to smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld videogame consoles and portable speakers. We have also added provisions on wireless charging being the next evolution in the charging technology and improved information and labelling for consumers,” the rapporteur said.

This new legislation will still need to be formally approved by the EU Parliament and Council later this year before it can come into effect by 2024. However, we may not have to wait that long to see Apple finally give up on its proprietary Lightning port. Last month, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reported that the first USB-C iPhone could be released next year.

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Comments (50)

50 responses to “EU Will Make USB-C Mandatory on All Phones By 2024”

  1. digiguy

    It would be very bad press for Apple if they tried to milk Lightning until just before the law becomes applicable, that is until just the end of 2023 with iPhone 15. So iPhone 14 should be the last Lightning phone

    • will

      I am guessing Apple would have worked with the EU on this so that they would have time to get their devices in line. Take time to get the law worked out, a year or two, then allow the law to not go into effect for another 1-2 years. This gives Apple the time needed to make the design changes, and they might have already planned on this at some point.

      Now, will the Pro models have TB or USB-C when it launches?

      • wright_is

        If by working with the EU on this, you mean lobbying against it, then yes...

        They managed to bluster it out last time, with the micro-USB standard - that was a voluntary standard, but a few companies, like Apple, refused to comply and then USB-C came along, with defined power delivery protocols to allow different devices to tell the charger how much draw they wanted. Now the EU has said: because you (the industry) couldn't sort it out amongst yourselves to use a single standard last time around, we will be swinging the ban hammer this time.

  2. red.radar

    Next up the EU mandated all mains plugs conform to the same standard….

    • wright_is

      They are in most European countries, only the UK really had an incompatible system.

      When I travel across Europe, I just take my charger with me and plug it in (Germany, Austria, Italy, France, for example). French sockets are a little different to Germany, for example, but they are the same size and the plugs are universal and work in both countries without needing adapters.

      (For example, Germany has the earthing prongs on the side of the socket/plug, France has an earthing pin sticking out of the bottom of the socket, the plugs all have an earthing band that goes down the side of the plug and ends in a plat under the plug, so it works in both French and German sockets. The UK was the big exception, sticking with its 3-pin triangle pattern, with recessed earth, where the longer earth pin pushes a cover over the phase and neutral holes back, to allow the prongs to enter, this means all UK plugs are 3 pin, whether they use earth or not, whereas European sockets allow for 2 connector compact plugs or 3 connector earthed plugs. And, our sockets (Germany) have an additional child protection feature, which requires the plug to be pushed into the protection, then slid up to open up the socket, similar to the UK system - this is a third party addition and isn't fitted as standard.)

      • dftf

        "They are in most European countries, only the UK really had an incompatible system."

        Similar to our lights, too: most of Europe use either "large Edison screw" (E27) or "small Edison screw" (E14) ended-bulbs, whereas in the UK "bayonet" (B22) is still very-common for ceiling or wall-mounted light-fixtures, though SES (E14) is common in many desk-lamps, and appliances (such as cooker-hoods).

        "Germany has the earthing prongs on the side of the socket/plug [...]"

        Both your "Type F" plugs and France's "Type E" plugs freak me out a bit, I must say. I know if I were to plug-in a non-Earther device, with only the two pins, that the two clips on a German socket, or the pin on a French socket, are Earth contacts, and so should not shock, but it still makes me feel uneasy, compared to our UK ones, which always get fully-covered. And it's also very-common in the UK too for all our plug-sockets to be switched, so you can turn a device off at the socket without unplugging it -- many of our "extension-leads" are individually-switched, too.

        Do EU plugs have a fuse in them? I know that is something all UK devices have, but from what I've read its rare for US and Canadian devices to be at the plug-end, usually only at the device-end.

        "... phase and neutral holes ..."

        Or live and neutral, as we call them here. (I know in the US, the "live" is called the "hot", and "Earth" is usually "ground", but not-sure about the "neutral" -- I've heard some call it the "return", but I don't think otherwise there is a different term used?)

        • wright_is

          The earthing prong on the German plugs are great if you are working on electronics, you can just attach the crocodile clip of your earthing strap to the earthing prong on a spare socket! I also often use it to earth myself, when working on things.

          There are no plug fuses, either device or the circuit box, which are trip-switches these days. I've had the circuit trip a few times, but I've never had a device damaged, here in Germany. I still have a couple of devices from the UK that have UK plugs, with fuses, and an adapter, but some I just swapped the plugs out, or they were standard "kettle" plugs, so just swapped the UK cable for a German cable.

          Interestingly, a lot of devices have a UK plug and an EU plug in the packaging, the UK plug has a fuse, the EU one doesn't...

  3. ebraiter

    In one way I could understand Apple's point of view. They want their devices to be as thin as possible and the "male" end of a lightning cable is thinner than a USB-C cable.

    However I really doubt if they can get much thinner for their iGadgets. I use to have mini USB devices and then micro USB devices and now mostly USB-C devices. [I find it interesting on Amazon that some reviewers knock a star off if the device doesn't have USB-C connector.]

    I now have a collection of micro and mini USB cables. I guess time to chuck most of them.

    • wright_is

      Apart from the iPhone and the base model iPad, all their devices moved to USB-C a while ago - although it looks like Apple are abandoning USB-C again on the MacBook line and going back to MagSafe, just in time for them to be out of compliance on laptops... :-S

  4. illuminated

    Apple can always create the new "hurricane" port and have an expensive USB-C dongle that is sold separately. Profit for Apple, happy EU, and middle finger to everybody else.

    • dftf

      Or, given that USB C carries power and data, there is nothing stopping them from making it so only their official Apple-brand charger would provide fast-charging, and every-other charger would be limited to somewhere around "USB A" charging-speeds (so overnight charging).

      Does the EU law mandate that all USB C devices have to allow every-charger, or just have the USB C port?

      • wright_is

        That is the whole point of USB-C, there is no diverse set of "super" charging, which is just a way for the device to negotiate with the charger to get "full power", USB-C includes a power delivery standard which makes all the different fast or super charging "special" that manufacturers built into their phone redundant, USB-C PD can give from a few milliwatts up to around 95W (currently). The device just needs to tell the charger what to provide.

        This, combined with all devices having the same plug means you don't get a charger with each new device, you buy one or two good quality chargers (or they are supplied with higher power devices) and it covers all your charging needs.

        We have iPad, iPhones, notebooks, Android tablets, Android phones etc. and, apart from the iPhones and the Apple Watches (a magnetic puck), they all use the same connector and they all use the same chargers. I have a 65W GAN charger with 3 USB-C outs in my office, that will charge my notebook, if needed, but generally is used for headphones (USB-C), tablets and has a Lightning cable on one port for the iPhone. I also have a USB-C dock for my company notebook on my desk, I have used that in the past to charge my phone or tablet as well.

        Upstairs, in the kitchen, I have 2 more (single port) chargers for everyone else who needs to charge their stuff, again, USB-C cables and a Lightning cable, plus a Watch puck. Going forward, when we next replace the iPhones, we can hopefully do away with swapping the Lightning cable back and forth.

  5. sscywong

    Seems no one in EU actually tried having a few devices with the same USB-C looked plug for charging but actually there's little interoperability...

    • wright_is

      I have Samsung Galaxy Buds+, Samsung Galaxy S20+, iPad Air, Lenovo ThinkPad, Dell laptop and various other stuff, I have a Lenovo USB-C charger, a Dell USB-C docking station, a UGreen 65W GAN charger, an Anker 35W GAN charger and an Apple USB-C charger. All of the devices charge on all of the chargers or the dock. Even the laptops will charge on the lower powered chargers (Anker and Apple), they won't charge and run it at the same time, because the max power of the chargers is less than what the laptop needs, but they will charge it overnight. On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy and the iPad will both charge at full speed on the docking station.

  6. angusmatheson

    This is stupid. Let the market decide the best charger. I love USB C. I curse every time I still have to use USB A, which is sadly frequent. I would be delighted to use USB C to chaege an iPhone. But the problem is that this law will remain, and technology will move on. Later they could be a better charger, but no one can use it because of this law which no one will ever be bothered to change, a new better port will never be used and USB C will remain.

    • wright_is

      That is the problem, the EU told manufacturers to sort it out themselves last time around. Many did and standardised on USB-A to micro-USB, but without any power delivery standards, they all came up with their own quick charging methods.

      USB-C comes with a PD standard, which means everything from a torch up to a notebook can all be charged using the same cable and charger (max output is the problem with the chargers themselves, but if you have a small charger, a notebook will trickle-charge over night, but if you have a 95W charger, it will provide everything, from the torch up to the notebook with the power it can cope with.

      As the industry showed it couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery last time around, the EU has stepped in with legislation this time around.

      If a new technology comes along and it is demonstrably better - and the designer is willing to make it a standard using FRAND terms, the law can be amended.

  7. Greg Green

    Won’t this create waste as everyone dumps their lightning cables?

    • wright_is

      Only the natural waste as the old iPhones are recycled.

      But this is more about the chargers, as they are standard, you don’t need to have a different charger for every device. Apple has more or less completely switched, even the iPhone cable is usb-c to lightning these days.

      We have nearly a dozen devices that use USB-C now, but we have 3 chargers, 2 in the kitchen and one in my office with 3 outputs (and 65W power). We generally only need to charge a couple of devices at any one time.

    • dftf

      "Won’t this create waste as everyone dumps their lightning cables?"

      I guess so... but that same waste has occurred in the past when Apple introduced the current Lightning connector, replacing the previous 30-pin connector. People weren't bothered when Apple obsoleted their old cables and accessories (such as docks) then... why so bothered when the EU does it now?

  8. manteno

    Would Apple be able to work around this by including a Lightning to USB-C dongle with phones sold in the European market?

    • ebraiter

      I doubt it. And who wants an extra item to carry around.

      • arjay

        I would, if it would allow me to keep my large collection of lightning accessories.

      • dftf

        "I doubt it. And who wants an extra item to carry around."

        Increasingly thesedays any Android user who still wants to use wired-headphones with their phone?

  9. arjay

    With the EU’s penchant for regulating everything in life, in detail, maybe Apple should make an EU-only phone. Alternatively, they could do a cost-benefit analysis to see whether just pulling out of the EU market entirely is a better choice.

    • MadsM

      Pull out of a market with almost 450 million people for a charging connector?

      • arjay

        That, plus all the other stuff in the EU regulatory pipeline.

        • dftf

          I guess some US companies may ultimately decide to pull-out, and only sell inside their internal market... but remember, that is only 330 million people (or about 370 million, if you include Canada also).

          The population of Earth (as of 2020) is estimated as 7,753,000,000 people, meaning 4.78% of people live within the US and Canada. The 95.22% of people who live elsewhere are hard-to-ignore, financially...

    • ebraiter

      So you either want Apple to change their hardware just for a single large market or just pull out? You need to take some courses in how business work.

    • illuminated

      Electricity in EU is also different. 220V instead of 110V. Everybody pull out!

      • dftf

        Or how-about for video-games in the pre-flat-screen era, when you had games running at either (rounding-up) 25FPS or 50FPS on 50Hz PAL systems, or 30FPS or 60FPS on NTSC 60Hz systems?

        Good-developers would alter timings and animation-frames to make games run at the same-speed on PAL systems, which is arguably more-effort than simply using a USB C connector than a Lightning one!

    • red.radar

      That would be ridiculous. They moved the iPad, chargers and Mac to usb-c. It is obvious they were going to do the iPhone next. And with media files exploding in size it wasn’t if but when the iPhone was going to usb-c.

      Personally this is much ado about nothing. The only thing it tells me is to hold off buying my next iPhone till the transition completes. My lightning accessories are wearing out and I am ready to start replacing with usb-c versions. Should be a nice big purge.

    • wright_is

      The EU doesn't regulate everything in detail, in many cases, it first lets industry try and regulate itself, when industry can't be bothered or go against the common good, then they step in and regulate.

      Food is probably the area with the most regulation and, as a European, I find it good so. A lot of American meat, for example, is considered not fit for human consumption in Europe. Specifically, the hygiene standards are lower and the meat is often washed in chlorine (chicken), for example. In the EU such treatment is illegal, instead the animal welfare standards are higher and the hygiene standards in the processing plants are higher, so the washing is not necessary.

      The US tried to get their meat cleared for import and ordered the EU to reduce their standards, the EU refused and told the US to improve the quality of their meat instead. Part of the post-Brexit negotiations between the UK and US for a trade deal is that the UK will now lower their standards to allow US meat to be classified as fit for human consumption.

      That isn't to say all US meat is bad, but the mass-produced meat and poultry is particularly bad and this is the stuff that usually gets exported en-masse.

      • dftf

        Is chlorine-washed chicken really that bad though?

        Within Europe, our-alternative is mostly to include antibiotics within animal-feed, to kill bacteria that-way (rather than at the end of the process), but this is helping to fuel the antibiotic-resistance crisis, where many antibiotics are no-longer as-effective through overuse.

        Plus, many US citizens (like us here, in the UK!) have health-problems mostly because they eat too-much, not just because of the quality of the food itself. Doesn't matter if all the chicken is free-range and organic health-wise if you're then deep-frying it and binging a whole bucket!

        • wright_is

          We generally buy bio quality poultry, where we can, it is more expensive, but we eat less of it, and that bans or severely reduces the amount of antibiotics that can be used. But, yes, the amount of antibiotics used in general poultry farming is a big concern, although it is being reduced and through animal welfare, at least in Germany, it has to be accurately recorded just how much and at what intervals they have received, so they can't exceed the maximum allowed doses. But, ideally, we would go back to free range and eat less meat, which would require less antibiotics and also the better hygiene in the meat processing industry, so they didn't need washing either.

          Having worked in the slaughter and meat processing industry for several years (we supplied software to slaughterhouses and meat (and other food) processing plants), I've seen for myself where the hygiene levels are and I'd rather eat meat out of an EU slaughter house, that didn't need to be cleaned with chemical afterwards than something that has been chemically washed.

  10. dftf

    Funny-enough before coming here I visited a UK news website which had a story on this with a headline like "EU decision to force Apple to use USB C is bad for innovation" and I'm like what? It's a cable! How-much more innovation can you really expect?

    Plus, standardisation has happened in many-other areas: if you want a wired-keyboard thesedays it won't be a DIN-connector or PS/2, it'll be USB. A mouse won't be PS/2 or serial, just USB. If you want to connect a device to a TV or monitor, it'll likely be via HDMI (not VGA, DVI or DisplayPort... or even-older like S-Video or SCART!). The controllers for most video-game consoles are USB thesedays, not a proprietary connector. (And then, on the software-side, look at file-formats: MP3, AAC and FLAC are virtually the only audio-formats most people will ever encounter; most recently-encoded video-files will be H.264, H.265 or AV1 format; and for images, JPEG, PNG or GIF are again predominantly what most will encounter, aside from RAW if you are a professional photo-editor).

    I get the innovation argument, but we don't need multiple competing standards all-the-time "just because", and with Lightning it does seem like "just-because", given that Apple already use USB C on some of their products anyway! It just seems to be kept solely because "it makes us different from Android and makes our users feel more-special" and environmentally I don't think that's a great reason.

    • Greg Green

      But this locks the connection into a legal standard. Doesn’t that mean innovation ends until the law changes?

  11. MoopMeep

    The annoying thing… all our apple devices use a lightning connector, except for ipad mini we bought in december. So my wife and kids constantly try to plug in a lightning cable, get confused for a few minutes, realize its usb c and then search for the correct cable. Kinda a pain

    • wright_is

      All,our Apple devices use USB-C, except the iPhones, so we have to keep a lightning cable around… Everything non-Apple also now uses USB-C.

  12. rm

    Apple coming out with USB phone prior to the timeline required shows it really was just a lock in. If it was a hard change, they wouldn't be getting it done quicker than what was required.

  13. SvenJ

    Everyone seems to gravitate to phones, Apple's lightning being tagged specifically. I imagine that was going to happen anyway. Note the comment though, “We are proud that laptops,......" Guess all laptops will need to be charged, or at least chargeable, via USB C. Apple might as well back off on the return to MagSafe on their latest MacBooks.

    • rob_segal

      They can keep MagSafe on their MacBooks. All of their laptops can charge by USB-C, too.

  14. Daekar

    This will probably be good in the short term. It will be very interesting to see how it affects the transition to the next connector.

    • wright_is

      The EU standardised on the micro-USB at the beginning of the previous decade and Apple was the only real dissenter. Then the industry came along with USB-C, made a case and got the standard changed.

      Because Apple was recalcitrant last time, the EU has moved from allowing the industry to sort out the standard amongst themselves this time and put it into law. This has a lot of precedent in Europe, often industries will be given a chance to get their own houses in order and only if they continue to squabble and fail to sort themselves out, does the government step in and wrap them over the knuckles with a ruler (implement the solution in law).

      • Greg Green

        Japan tried this once with tvs I believe. Turns out the government guessed wrong, setting their companies back a few years.

        • dftf

          While I don't know what you're referring to here, I doubt changing to USB C would set Apple back "a few years" -- they are the third-largest company in the US by-revenue with a 2021-2022 revenue of around $366 billion (below Amazon on $470 billion, and Walmart at the top on $573 billion).

          Somehow, I don't think changing to USB C is going to make their company collapse or suffer any major setback. And remember, for all markets outside of the EU, they could keep the Lightning-connector if they really wanted to...

          • wright_is

            And with the iPhone 13 Pro this year, professional videographers that use iPhones for certain shots have been complaining about Lightning and its far from lightning performance. Whilst USB-C can do anything from USB 2 speeds up to 40gbps, there is the possibility to move data around quickly...

            The Lightning port on the iPhone still maxes out at USB 2 speeds, of around 40-60mbps. Given that ProRes video uses gigabytes of data a minute, it takes a very long time to extract the video per cable, Wi-Fi is a bit better, but still far from ideal.

            (Just listen to Alex Lindsay and Rene Richie over on MacBreak Weekly on the TWiT network (or Rene's YoutTube channel moaning about the lack of speed on Lightning. Alex has been ridiculing USB-C for years, but even he wants USB-C on the iPhone to get the data off in a timely manner.)

  15. Bart

    Apple could work around this by just using wireless charging. Although that brings another host of problems. Ie no fast charging