EU could enforce a single phone charger within weeks

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The European Union (EU) is set to confirm plans to introduce a common charger port for mobile phones, tablets, and headphones later this week, meaning Apple would be required to ditch its proprietary Lightning connector for the more universal USB-C interface.

European policymakers have been keen for a single standard for more than a decade, citing significant amounts of electronic waste caused by unused chargers and the inconvenience suffered by Android and iPhone users who need different cables for different devices.

However, the EU has become increasingly frustrated at a lack of progress by the industry to find a compromise and is now ready to legislate to force their hand, publishing proposed rules last year.

One charger to rule them all

Reuters says further discussions between member states and lawmakers will take place later this week and could be the final round of talks before a more concrete plan is laid out. 

Remaining issues that need to be ironed out include the scope of the legislation and how it will affect laptops, and the duration of the lead in period.

The proposals last year said the rules could come into effect within six months after adoption rather than the more usual two years so they would have more immediate effect. Such a timeframe would dramatically increase the impact on manufacturers. Lawmakers are also reportedly want to include provisions to harmonise wireless charging systems by 2025

The EU has expressed its view to the industry for almost a decade and in 2009 it appeared as though there was a breakthrough when Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Apple, agreed to use the MicroUSB standard for all new smartphones by 2011. However, many vendors have since moved into USB-C technology, while Apple has persisted with proprietary ports, introducing the ‘Lightning’ connector with the iPhone 5 back in 2013.

The use of USB-C would disproportionately affect Apple, which would either have to create a special edition of its products for Europe, or would be forced to change the design for all markets around the world.

Apple opposes any mandate, arguing that it would lead to a huge amount of electronic waste as consumers dispose of their old Lightning chargers.

However the EU believes a common charger will reduce e-waste volumes as all cables would be interchangeable between devices. When Apple switched from its old 30-pin connector to Lightning, some accessories became unusable or required an additional adapter to function.

Via Reuters

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.