Major Blow to Apple, USB-C Mandatory for Phones sold in the EU in 2024

European Union legislators have reached an agreement on legislation that will push all future smartphones traded in the EU with Apple’s iPhone to be provided with the universal USB-C port for wired charging by fall 2024.

The rule will also spread to other electronic devices, including digital cameras, headphones, tablets, handheld video game consoles, and e-readers.

The legislation has been under contemplation for years, but an agreement on its scope and components was reached this morning following negotiations between various EU bodies.

The Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection of The European Parliament revealed the news in a tweet earlier of a press conference due to take place at 12:30 CEST (6:30 AM ET) later today. The legislation still needs approval by the EU Parliament and Council this year, but this appears to be more formality than anything else. In a press release, the European Parliament noted the law would be in position “by autumn 2024.”

“Today, we have created the common charger a reality in Europe!” said the European Parliament’s rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba. “European consumers were discouraged long with multiple chargers piling up with every new device. Now they will be capable of using a single charger for all their portable electronics.” The legislation will also include conditions designed to address wireless chargers and harmonize fast-charging standards.

The rules attempt to trim down e-waste in the EU by driving chargers for interoperable electronic devices. In the future, lawmakers expect that phones won’t require to come with a charger in the box because customers will already have the appropriate cable and wall charger at home. The EU calculates that the rules could save consumers 250 million euros per year on “unnecessary charger purchases” and cut down on approximately 11,000 tonnes of e-waste annually.

The agreement would significantly impact Apple, the only major smartphone manufacturer, utilizing a proprietary port instead of USB-C. In 2021, Apple purchased 241 million iPhones globally, of which about 56 million were sold in Europe. The EU’s press release says explicitly the rules apply to devices “that are rechargeable via a wired cable,” meaning a machine that only charges wirelessly would not require to be fitted with a USB-C port.

The European Commission declared the current techniques for the legislation last September, but the bloc’s efforts to force manufacturers to utilize a common charging standard go back over a decade. In the years since, Android manufacturers have converged upon micro USB and then USB-C as the common charging standard of choice, while Apple went from offering phones with its proprietary 30-pin connector to Lightning.

Apple has pushed back against the EU’s attempts to force it to use USB-C on its phones. “We remain concerned that strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which will harm consumers in Europe and around the world,” a spokesperson told Reuters last year. It’s also argued that forcing a switch to USB-C would create e-waste rather than reduce it because it would make its existing ecosystem of Lightning accessories redundant.

Yet there have been reports from inside Apple. For example, the company could be qualifying to switch its iPhones to charge via USB-C. The company was testing iPhones with USB-C internally, and Apple critic Ming-Chi Kuo has asserted that it could make the switch as early as the following year. Away from its phones, Apple has been a big supporter of the USB-C standard and already uses it on its laptops and higher-end iPads.

USB-C (formally understood as USB Type-C) is a 24-pin USB connector system with a rotationally symmetrical connector. The designation C guides only to the connector’s physical configuration or form factor and should not be mistaken with its specific capabilities designated by its transfer specifications like USB 3.2.

The USB Type-C Specification 1.0 was issued by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) and was finalized in August 2014. It was developed at approximately the same time as the USB 3.1 specification. In July 2016, it was assumed by the IEC as “IEC 62680-1-3”.

A gadget with a Type-C connector does not necessarily enforce USB Power Delivery, USB, or any Alternate Mode: the Type-C connector is expected to several technologies while requiring only a few.

USB 3.2, unleashed in September 2017, replaces the USB 3.1 standard. However, it preserves existing USB 3.1 SuperSpeed and SuperSpeed+ data modes and raises two new SuperSpeed+ transfer modes over the USB-C connector employing two-lane operation, with data paces of 10 and 20 Gbit/s (1 and ~2.4 GB/s).

USB4, unleashed in 2019, is the first USB transfer protocol average that is only open via USB-C.