Apple argues against EU calls for universal mobile charger, says it would stifle innovation

midian182

TechSpot Editor
Staff member

Earlier this month, it was reported that the EU was considering legislation that would require all mobile devices to support a single charging standard, thereby making consumers’ lives less complicated while reducing the 51,000 tons of electronic waste generated every year by old chargers.

While many Android phones now use USB-C, Apple still uses its Lightning connector for the company’s iPhones, though it has made the switch to USB-C in its latest iPad Pros.

Responding to the proposal, Apple said not only would ditching the Lightning connector inconvenience hundreds of millions of its customers, but also create an “unprecedented volume” of waste.

“We believe regulation that forces conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, and would harm consumers in Europe and the economy as a whole,” Apple said. “We hope the Commission will continue to seek a solution that does not restrict the industry’s ability to innovate and bring exciting new technology to customers.”

Last month, Apple commissioned a study by Copenhagen Economics that found 49 percent of households rely on multiple connector types, but only 0.4 percent of European consumers said they “regularly experience any significant issue” with charging their devices due to incompatible cabling.

The study also claims that moving to a common charger would cost €1.5 billion (about $1.7 billion), much more than the estimated €13 million ($14.4 million) in potential environmental benefits. It added that disrupting millions of people who use Lightning cables could create new environmental problems, and pointed out that the industry has already moved from "30 chargers to three, soon to be two."

What’s interesting is that Apple is expected to drop the Lightning connector in future iPhones, possibly next year’s models. In time, they might even become completely port-free and rely on wireless charging.

Apple’s statement in full:

Apple stands for innovation and deeply cares about the customer experience. We believe regulation that forces conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, and would harm consumers in Europe and the economy as a whole.

More than 1 billion Apple devices have shipped using a Lightning connector in addition to an entire ecosystem of accessory and device manufacturers who use Lightning to serve our collective customers. Legislation would have a direct negative impact by disrupting the hundreds of millions of active devices and accessories used by our European customers and even more Apple customers worldwide, creating an unprecedented volume of electronic waste and greatly inconveniencing users.

We do not believe there is a case for regulation given the industry is already moving to the use of USB Type-C through a connector or cable assembly. This includes Apple's USB-C power adapter which is compatible with all iPhone and iPad devices. This approach is more affordable and convenient for consumers, enables charging for a wide range of portable electronic products, encourages people to re-use their charger and allows for innovation.

Prior to 2009, the Commission considered mandating that all smartphones use only USB Micro-B connectors which would have restricted the advancement to Lightning and USB Type-C. Instead, the Commission established a voluntary, industry standards-based approach that saw the market shift from 30 chargers down to 3, soon to be two — Lightning and USB-C, showing this approach does work.

We hope the Commission will continue to seek a solution that does not restrict the industry's ability to innovate and bring exciting new technology to customers.

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Not quite sure where this "...unprecedented amount of waste..." comes from. The wires are presumably copper making them ideal for recycling. The tips are ceramic and plastic and the wire coating is a flexible plastic. The average gallon of bleach or laundry detergent contains enough plastic to make about (very conservatively) 10 cables. I can't imagine landfills, let alone recycling, noticing a billion apple charging cables.

My wife and daughter are iphones and ipad and we have USB plug-in chargers in every room to keep them from working in any one place. A high count estimate gives 15 cables between them in my house. I know I can stuff all 15, including the 10-foot ones into a 12-oz cup. This is still less plastic from the cleaning chemicals, let alone food containers, than goes out the door weekly washing up after a child.

There may be a slight bit of of the spirit of Jobs' hyperbole in the apple position.

Also, this wireless charging is interesting as an alternative since air transfer of power is way less efficient than copper wire. Perhaps some of the eco-warriors might want to see how much 'renewable' energy would be wasted daily on 'a billion devices shipped' vs the heat/resistance losses from a cable.
 
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MMWWMM

TS Rookie
If that rule pass, no one prevents device manufactures to add secondary port like Lightning or USB micro B, it is just sed to be mandatory for one charging port to be USB type C. Heck Apple even free up some space to put it after they removed the headphone jack.
 

RobJoy

TS Rookie
“We believe regulation that forces conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones stifles innovation rather than encouraging it,.."

You mean to say, it stops branding and locking people to their ecosystem entirely.
This is called FREDOM.

"We do not believe there is a case for regulation given the industry is already moving to the .."

Luckily EU does not care what you believe.

USB4 is more than enough for any of your products, it is backwards compatible and it is using USB-C connector.

OW snap.

Stop reinventing the hot water.
 

Burty117

TechSpot Chancellor
I'm confused why Apple are fighting this, they put USB-C into everything else other than the iPhone?
At one point, you could buy a £1500 iPhone and a £2000 MacBook and from the word go you couldn't plug them into each other. That was just unacceptable.

I hope the EU actually stick to their guns, Apple are the last ones to use a custom connector as far as I'm aware, the rest of the world moved on with Type-C.
 

trparky

TS Evangelist
But I like the Lightning Port, it's so much more sturdy than USB-C. I've used USB-C devices and the port just doesn't seem as sturdy and well-built whereas the Lightning Port is darn near indestructible.
 

Hollow1838

TS Rookie
This is dumb, when you buy a new phone you get a new cable, also your old phone still needs the same cable. Cables usually die before phones. Where is the waste exactly ?
They just know that changing their ports will cost a lot, they only gave false excuses.
 
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Ravalo

TS Addict
But I like the Lightning Port, it's so much more sturdy than USB-C. I've used USB-C devices and the port just doesn't seem as sturdy and well-built whereas the Lightning Port is darn near indestructible.
I actually accidentally broke my ipad mini (2013) charger by just bending it a bit lol
 
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Cubi Dorf

TS Booster
Does this prevents apple from dropping a wired charger? I hear they just want wireless. I don’t agree europe’s reasoning about waste because I would having to throw away a lot of lightning cable. I wouldn’t mind go to usb-c because it’s best thing right now.
 

mbrowne5061

TS Evangelist
Apple is trying to convince us that a ton of overpriced adapters is what they consider innovation.
To be fair, there are almost multiple blogs by electrical engineers that put various phone charges through their paces, and Apple chargers regularly come out on top. Say what you will about the company, they know how to rectify the full range of AC sources available internationally into a stable and clean DC voltage. Samsung's and Anker's offerings are up there too, but they usually have one weak category, while Apple has designs that are strong across the board.

I hate Apple as a company, and can't stand their walled garden approach to software, but I can respect their electrical engineering chops.
 

jgraham11

TS Booster
Its interesting that they point out all the waste: Remember when Apple switched from that big wide docking connector in the Iphone 4s and switched to the lightning connector. Not only were all the charging cables garbage, all those cradles for docking, music players, etc were thrown away, that was more waste than what the Europeans are proposing.

In the end having a common connector promotes freedom to not be locked into a particular manufacturer, not mention, those cradles for docking are still compatible and don't need to be thrown out like Apple has done in the past.

Making these kinds of statements is nothing more than just deceit as when you actually look into it more, you can see that the reality is not how Apple is painting it to be.
 

sauri

TS Enthusiast
Not a fan or a user of Apple products (anymore, switched to PC and android a while ago after 15 years on macs), but standards should prevail through competition, not through legislation.
 
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p51d007

TS Evangelist
If you look at the lightning cable, then look at the charge port on 99.9% of the other devices that have USB-C, they look pretty much alike.
All apple did was put the male connector on the cable, the female connector on the charge port, patent it, and jack up the price.
The other thing I always found ironic about the whole USB universe was:
USB-A, B, C, mini, micro and on and on, but the first word in USB is UNIVERSAL. ;)

Stop screwing with the charge cables/ports and just make a universal WIRELESS charge
standard.