eu forces apple to change charging ports

The European Parliament has just signed off on a piece of legislation that will force all smartphone sellers to switch the charging ports of their devices to USB-C in an effort to reduce electronic waste.

An overwhelming majority of legislators voted in favor of the new rules that result in an amendment to the Radio Equipment Directive. According to the Parliament’s rationale, the benefits of the new law may include up to 250 million euros in savings for consumers as they will now be able to use the same charger for multiple devices.

Moreover, the measure may also reduce e-waste by 11,000 tonnes per year as unused chargers tend to be thrown away.

Some smartphone manufacturers have used a “lock-in” strategy that consists of commercializing devices that can only be charged by using one of the company’s proprietary accessories. This is the case with Apple’s lighting port.

As a result of this change in the EU’s directive for electronic devices, Apple (AAPL) would be forced to switch the charging ports of all its new devices to USB-C. However, the company will have until 2024 as legislators gave companies a two-year grace period to make the transition.

Other electronic devices will also be affected by the new rule including tablets, e-readers, earbuds, digital cameras, headsets, and videogame consoles, among others. Laptops were also included in the legislation but manufacturers will have a lengthier 40-month period to make the switch on these devices.

The legislation still has to be approved by the European Council to become a binding rule for member countries.

How Will Apple Respond to the EU’s New Directive?

The Cupertino-based company has many ways to respond to the new directive that effectively forces it to change its flagship charging port. First, they can decide to withdraw from the European Union altogether to avoid making the switch.

This scenario is highly unlikely considering how much the region brings in sales for the tech company. According to the firm’s latest financial reports, Europe accounts for approximately a quarter of its top-line results.

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The next alternative for Apple would be to create a detachable adapter that can be plugged into the lighting port so users can use their USB-C chargers. Although this sounds like a reasonable solution, the new legislation explicitly requires that the USB Type-C “remain accessible and operational at all times”. This puts adapters off the table.

It seems that there is no simple workaround for Apple to comply with this new directive. However, the firm may not make any changes to its devices until the deadline approaches.

In this regard, it is important to note that Apple launches new products during the second semester of every year. If manufacturers are given 24 months to switch to USB-C, Apple may not have to change the charging ports of these devices until October 2024.

The company headed by Tim Cook could opt to present its new lineup of devices before that date so they fall within the grace period. Even though this may cause some outcry among legislators, it will not explicitly contravene the rules.

Could iPhones Start Supporting Wireless Charging Exclusively?

Apple could also decide to transition its devices to wireless charging only as this solution would make the directive inapplicable to the firm as no charging port will be added to the products.

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Interestingly, Apple could retain its “lock-in” model if it opts for this solution as the devices could be built so they can only be charged with one of the company’s wireless chargers.

All iPhone models that came after the 8 come with an integrated wireless charging port that works with any Qi-certified charger. Apple could tweak the coding of its adapters so they only accept its proprietary chargers moving forward as that would allow them to maintain, to some extent, their ability to produce revenues by forcing consumers to buy the firm’s accessories.

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