All phones could soon use the same charger if the EU gets its way

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Hunting for different wires and chargers could soon be a thing of the past after the European Union (EU) revealed it could finalise legislation that would require manufacturers to adopt a common charger port for smartphones, tablets and headphones by the end of 2022.

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.

It 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.

One charger to rule them all

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 European Commission (EC) 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.

Given the common charging standard would most likely be USB-C, Apple would be disproportionately affected by the new rules. The company 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.

Proposed rules were first published last year and lawmaker Alex Agius Saliba told Reuters he hopes the legislative assembly will be able to vote on them this May, paving the way for discussions with member states on a final draft. 

He added that he would like the rules to come into effect within six months after adoption rather than a more usual two years so they would have more immediate effect. This means that the iPhone 15 could be the first Apple device to be affected.

In an ideal world, Agius Saliba would like rules to go even further, and cover other categories of electronic devices and laptops believing not to do so would be a “missed opportunity”. Furthermore, he would like harmonisation of wireless charging standards by 2025.

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.