European lawmakers have voted by a margin of 602 to 13 in favor of a long-planned directive that will oblige makers of phones, tablets and cameras to use a common charging standard, USB-C, by the end of 2024. The news was announced Tuesday in a European Parliament press release.
The law also applies to headsets and headphones, satnavs, e-readers, mice, keyboards, and portable game consoles and speakers. And to laptops, for that matter, although laptop manufacturers have more time to implement the change: for that category, the law doesn’t take effect until spring 2026.
This has been coming for a while. Provisional approval was announced back in June, but the European Parliament was advocating for a common charger standard as long ago as 2014.
It’s worth noting that technically this law applies only to devices sold in the E.U. But it’s very unlikely that a phone maker would choose to manufacture and sell two versions in order to offer USB-C in Europe and Lightning in the U.S., for example. Furthermore, U.S. lawmakers are themselves working on legislation to make the same stipulation.
Unless it’s able to lobby to overturn the law before the end of 2024, Apple now seems sure to adopt USB-C for its iPhones and iPads within the next two generations. But while we can debate cause and effect, that already looked likely. Sources report that the iPhone will switch to USB-C in 2023, and that AirPods cases will do the same. The iPad has already begun the transition to USB-C, and only one model remains to make the switch, likely later this year.
The other option, particularly for the iPhone, would be for Apple to skip the USB-C stage entirely and switch to a portless design that relies entirely on wireless charging. It’s debatable, however, whether the company would be able to muster a convincing argument in favor of such a design: it would make waterproofing easier to guarantee, but iPhones are already very water-resistant, and any gains in internal space (potentially filled by a larger battery cell or other componentry) would probably be outweighed in customers’ minds by the loss of what remains the fastest method of charging and transferring data to and from a phone.