We’ve reached a point where Apple’s refusal to outfit its iPhones with a USB Type-C port instead of the proprietary Lightning has become a bit of a meme. Even the iPad Pros from 2018 upwards and the iPad Air (2020) have USB Type-C now, and so do the MacBooks, iMacs, and Mac minis. Consumers are perplexed and a bit irritated, but it seems that EU lawmakers are also disgruntled.
A long time brewing
- Customer inconvenience and confusion – mixing and matching the right cable with the right charger for your phone
- Environmental impact – the e-waste produced by the devices (manufacturing, transportation, future waste when discarded)
- Economical impact – the need to buy different chargers and cables for all your devices
The study took into consideration not only that ports on the cables and devices need to be standardized, but also that charging bricks themselves often vary in power output and charging speed. Which is why the study suggests that any “phone charger” that’s sold in the EU should provide a minimum of 15 W power output (this is pretty much the minimum standard nowadays, but some companies still go as high as 40 W, 65 W, even 100 W).
The document is an interesting thought experiment to sift through and see how such legislation could affect not only the consumers but also the manufacturers. Some solutions, like allowing for proprietary connectors so long as the manufacturer includes a USB Type-C adapter in the box with the phone, were also considered, but are generally viewed as a bad solution — they wouldn’t help much with customer confusion, nor are they good for e-waste management.
The study itself claims that USB Type-C is expected to completely replace USB Type-B by 2023, but questions whether or not Type-C is at a probable end of its lifecycle itself. It was accepted in 2016, and while it’s still the best way to solve both charging and data transmission with one port, it’s not improbable that a new connector may be developed in the next 5 years. In this case, the EU would have to move fast to yet again investigate the new standard and possibly enforce an upgrade deadline, which would become one massive hassle.
This is a point that Apple itself targets when it states that such a law might “stifle innovation” — nobody will be interested in developing such a new port since they wouldn’t be able to sell their devices in the EU with it. Or, they will need to go through years worth of red tape to get it through to market.
Still, we may never see USB Type-C on an iPhone