What once seemed like little more than a dream, nay, a utopia moved one huge step forward several months ago
, but if for some reason you remained skeptical that the EU’s long overdue “amended Radio Equipment Directive” would ultimately be enforced, another important step in the right direction is now made.
While we’re still a fairly long way from the newly adopted law
imposing a “common charger for mobile devices” actually being implemented, it sure looks like there’s (finally!) no escape for Apple.
Death to the Lightning port!
If the Cupertino-based tech giant wants to continue selling its iPhones and iPads on European Union territory, said devices will have to be equipped with USB Type-C ports… soon. That’s unlikely to be a problem for the industry-leading iPad family
, the entirety of which is expected to adopt the universal USB-C standard no later than this year
, but iPhones are still a proprietary Lightning affair and it’s not clear if Apple had firm plans to change that in 2023… or 2024.
Unfortunately, both next year’s iPhone 15 series
and the iPhone 16 roster after that could (at least in theory) stick with the almost universally hated Lightning connector. It’s also not entirely clear how this new law might impact Apple’s long-rumored intentions to eventually go down the portless handset road
The reviled Lightning port is seen here on the iPhone 13
Perhaps most notably, it’s important to point out the obvious – EU regulations are in no way, shape, or form applicable stateside (or in any other regions
and countries), so again in theory, Apple
could well continue to release Lightning-equipped iPhones in the US while treating its customers on the old continent to “special” editions of the same devices capable of charging via USB-C.
What’s etched in stone today is the European Union’s overwhelming support of one mobile charging standard to rule them all, sealed with no less than 602 votes in favour, just 13 against, and a measly 8 abstentions.
Exactly what comes next?
Following the law’s formal adoption as a result of the aforementioned unequivocal vote, another approval will have to come from the European Council (which is obviously nothing but a formality), after which the Radio Equipment Directive is to be published in the EU Official Journal and “enter into force” 20 days later.
Member states will then get 12 months to “transpose” the rules and another 12 months to “apply” them, which essentially means the Lightning ban will only come into effect for iPhones released in 2025 and beyond. Laptop manufacturers (including Apple) will get even more time to implement USB Type-C technology across their products, as the EU’s new “obligation” is scheduled to expand to that particular category “from” spring 2026.
Long live the USB Type-C port!
Keep in mind that, if the European Parliament gets its way, which seems just about inescapable right now, buyers of new “mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld videogame consoles and portable speakers, e-readers, keyboards, mice, portable navigation systems, earbuds and laptops that are rechargeable via a wired cable” will have to be offered a choice between a purchase with a charging “device” included or without one… eventually.
Last but definitely not least, fast charging technologies will also need to be standardized soon, as the EU wants all devices to support the exact same charging speed regardless of what (compatible) charger you’ll use to juice up your phone, tablet, earbuds, and so on. The European Commission is promising to “harmonise interoperability requirements” in relation to increasingly more prevalent wireless charging technology “by the end” of 2024 as well, although it’s a little less clear at the moment exactly what that means for manufacturers and end users alike.