European smartphone users are a step closer to only ever needing to worry about buying one charger for all their devices.
Earlier in 2022, the EU took the wraps off a pretty interesting plan: reduce electronic waste by mandating that all smartphones use USB-C, the near-ubiquitous connectivity standard.
Yesterday, the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee voted to approve the Commission's proposals, 43 to 2, moving the legislation another step towards becoming reality.
One charger to rule them all
A full vote for all MEPs is now expected next month, confirming how to negotiate with EU Member States on the exact rules within the legislation.
For anyone making Android smartphones in 2022, this news is pretty, well, non-news: almost all major Androids have a USB-C connection now.
But for Apple, which uses its own (ubiquitous) Lightning standard, this was a pretty interesting – and potentially huge – development.
The EU's rules, set to take effect in 2026 once all the details are fully worked out, apply to pretty much all electronics: smartphones, tablets, laptops, headphones, you name it. The idea is that consumers would only need one single cable to charge and port data between devices.
A good idea – for everyone but Apple
Reducing electronic waste is a very noble goal – and an important one as the climate crisis intensifies.
"With half a billion chargers for portable devices shipped in Europe each year, generating 11,000 to 13,000 tonnes of e-waste, a single charger for mobile phones and other small and medium electronic devices would benefit everyone," says MEP Alex Agius Saliba.
"It will help the environment, further help the re-use of old electronics, save money, and reduce unnecessary costs and inconvenience for both businesses and consumers," he continued.
"We are proposing a truly comprehensive policy intervention, building on the Commission’s proposal by calling for the interoperability of wireless charging technologies by 2026 and improving information given to consumers with dedicated labels. We are also expanding the proposal’s scope by adding more products, such as laptops, that will need to comply with the new rules.”
Apple itself has actually begun shipping new iPhones without a wall plug or headphones, citing environmental reasons (opens in new tab). The EU's rules go further and would require a complete rethink of how the iPhone handles its ports.
Given iPads and MacBooks come with USB-C, though, it seems possible iPhones from 2026 onwards could also.