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One charger to rule them all: Apple iPhones, other gadgets face big setback

Apple iPhones, other gadgets, have chargers that cannot be used in any other rivals' products.
Apple iPhones, other gadgets, have chargers that cannot be used in any other rivals' products. (YouTube)

Apple to protest as new user-friendly rules are set to hit iPhones hard.

The European Union (EU) announced on Thursday that it is going to impose a “universal charger for smartphones”. The commission believes that a standard cable for all devices is going to help cut back on electronic waste. To be fair on paper, this proposal sounds good. And most smartphone manufacturers will agree since they have moved on to using the more popular USB Type-C charging ports for their devices from the micro-USB. However, there is one company that has been holding on to its own style of charging port all this while - and that’s Apple with its iPhones.

EU’s decision is all set to clash with Apple and it’s iPhones. iPhones use the lightning port for charging and are the only devices from the repertoire to do so still. Other products like the MacBooks, iPads, AirPods, etc have all been moved to the USB Type-C. And having said that, the iPhones ARE Apple’s biggest products. Apple has also argued that a standard charger for all smartphones will slow innovation and create more pollution.

The EU bloc, as AFP points out, is home to 450 million people including some of the world’s richest customers. If the USB-C cable standard is imposed once all memebr states and the European Parliament approves it, it can and will affect the entire global smartphone market.

"European consumers have been frustrated long enough about incompatible chargers piling up in their drawers. We gave industry plenty of time to come up with their own solutions, now time is ripe for legislative action for a common charger," said EU executive vice president Margrethe Vestager in a statement.

Currently customers are making buying decisions based on three main charger types - the micro-USB that’s gradually becoming less and less common, the more popular USB-C, and Apple’s lightning port. While this range has been considerably simplified since 2009 when “dozens of different types of chargers were bundled with mobile phones, creating piles of electronic garbage when users changed brands”. Some smartphone companies like Apple, Xiaomi, and even Samsung has started leaving out the charging adaptor in the retail box in certain countries, but the cable still comes included.

According to the EU, this current situation remains “inconvenient” and that the European consumer has spent approximately 2.4 billion euros ($2.8 billion) annually on standalone chargers bought separately.

Thierry Breton, the internal market commissioner at EU, pushed back against the argument that innovation would be harmed. Breton told reporters that US tech giants "are always making this argument, that (EU law) is against innovation ... It is not against innovation. It is for European consumers, it is not against anyone."

Apple has been insisting that a legislation to force a universal charger for all mobiles in the European Union is unwarranted. "We remain concerned that strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world," Apple said.

The tech industry, at least a part of it, is of the opinion that phones that are currently in use with legacy charging cables will lose their resale value if they cannot be replaced, thus creating more digital waste.

This is not the first time the European Commission has spoken up about universal chargers. It has long defended a voluntary agreement it made with the device industry in 2009 that witnessed a big reduction in cables, but Apple has refused to give in.

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