Uniform charging for mobile phones in the EU is getting closer – economy

One charging cable for the mobile phone, one for the tablet and one for the headphones – there is currently no uniform and therefore simple solution in Germany and the EU. In particular, the Apple iPhone company with its internal Lightning connector has made this difficult so far. It should be over soon – at least if the European Commission gets its way. The Brussels authority wants to present this Thursday a legislative proposal for uniform charging sockets on electrical devices. An overview:

Why has there not been a uniform solution for a long time?

The various cables and charging sockets have long been a nuisance to consumers – although the situation has already improved considerably. Over ten years ago, 14 cell phone makers – including Apple – agreed on a uniform standard for power supplies under pressure from the European Commission. When it comes to sockets in smartphones and tablets, three of the twelve types that once remained were left: the now obsolete Micro-USB, the newer USB-C, and Apple’s thinner Lightning connectors. The group refuses to completely renounce its standard. Competition from Samsung to Xiaomi to Oppo, One-Plus, and Motorola now typically use USB-C sockets on their devices.

How does the European Commission want to proceed?

If the European Commission gets its way, USB-C should become the general standard for device sockets, as authorities have said in advance. In addition, customers should no longer have to buy a power supply unit if they buy, for example, a new cell phone. This is, among other things, what the European Commission intends to propose in a draft directive, which the EU states and the European Parliament will then have to negotiate. With this demand, however, the Commission is lagging behind the market trend as Apple, Samsung and other manufacturers now ship their smartphones without a power supply.

For which devices should all this apply?

The specifications should apply to six categories of devices, as has been said. In addition to cell phones, these include tablets, headphones, speakers, handheld consoles, and cameras.

Why is this advance happening?

On the one hand, standardized charging sockets make it much easier for consumers because they need fewer different cables. On the other hand, it should also avoid huge amounts of electronic waste. The municipal waste management welcomed this decision: “The clutter of cables is neither respectful of consumers nor beneficial for the environment,” said a spokesperson for the Association of Municipal Enterprises of the German News Agency. “Uniform charging cables help avoid unnecessary waste.”

Why is Apple reluctant to standardize?

Apple wants to keep its Lightning connector, which is currently installed in all iPhones, but also in certain tablet models such as the current iPad 9 or AirPod headphones. In the beginning, the main thing was that with Lightning extremely flat devices could be designed to be dust and water proof, which would not have been possible with micro-USB. In the meantime, however, there is a viable alternative with USB-C, which is also used by Apple in some cases. The more expensive iPad models already have a USB-C socket. Apple has also abandoned the proprietary MagSafe connection in favor of USB-C for laptops (MacBooks). As for the power supplies – which can be separated from the charging cables – USB-C is used anyway, Apple argues. With the mandatory removal of the Lightning plug, a huge amount of electronic waste will be created.

Does Apple also have economic reasons to hang on to the Lightning cable?

Yes. The group generates income with its “Made for iPhone / iPad” (MFI) program. Third-party manufacturers of Lightning cables must have their products certified in the MFI program. How is it going now? First, the EU states and the European Parliament will be discussed on the proposal presented by the European Commission. Then the two parties have to find a common line. Parliament in particular is likely to put pressure on him, as he has been calling for uniform charging cables for years. After an agreement between the European Parliament and EU countries, national governments would have one year to implement the new rules into national law. The Commission proposal should also provide for a two-year transition period for companies, as indicated by the authority. Uniform charging would not be mandatory for businesses until 2024 at the earliest – and household cable clutter would decrease. Until then, the charging cables can only play a secondary role, as devices will be charged wirelessly more and more frequently in the future.

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