After lengthy campaigns, negotiations and delays, the EU has finally approved a ruling that could force the iPhone to adopt the USB-C standard in late 2024.
Negotiators have reached a tentative agreement on amendments to the Radio Equipment Directive that will make USB-C the common charging port for all mobile phones in the EU, along with laptops, tablets, digital cameras, handheld game consoles, e-readers and other portable electronic devices.
Apple hasn’t commented on the news yet, but the timing of the ruling may play in its hand. Ming-Chi Kuo claimed last month that the company was already planning to move from Lightning to USB-C, and would do so in 2023. In other words, the iPhone 14 could be the last Lightning iPhone. We’ll know more when Apple unveils its new iPhones this fall, but few analysts expect a USB-C iPhone so soon.
Of course, Apple has other options when considering its response. For starters – and this is assuming it isn’t already using this strategy – it could fight back and try to lobby and appeal: Few tech companies have access to such vast legal, political and financial resources. At this point, however, the EU seems to have taken a decision.
In theory, as the ruling only applies to the EU, Apple could make two versions of its iPhones from 2024, with USB-C models sold in Europe and Lightning elsewhere, but this too seems unlikely given the logistical burden this would entail. would affect the company’s supply chain.
A more likely approach, given the relatively long time Apple has to comply with the ruling, would be to skip the USB-C phase and go straight to portless. There have long been rumors of an iPhone without charging ports, which would offer advantages in terms of waterproofing and a slim design. However, wireless charging (which Apple is currently advocating with its patented MagSafe technology) is slower and less efficient than wired charging, and many users like the option to plug in wired headphones: they tolerate the loss of 3 .5mm, but having the option of neither Lightning nor USB-C would be an added pain. In terms of both practicality and user readiness, we suspect the portless iPhone is further away than 2024.
So it looks like this is an additional indication that Apple will be using USB-C on its iPhones in 2023 or 2024. Which isn’t much of a problem considering the company already uses the standard on so many of its MacBooks and iPads.
The move has been a long time coming. Back in 2014, the European Parliament called for a common charger standard that all mobile phones should use; in January 2020, a resolution called for the European Commission to adopt such a standard “as a matter of urgency to avoid further fragmentation of the internal market”. The legislation passed today was first discussed last September.
“Today we made the common charger a reality in Europe,” said Alex Agius Saliba, representative of the European Parliament, in a press release. “European consumers have long been frustrated with multiple chargers piling up with every new device. Now they can use a single charger for all their portable electronics.”