Mobility

Why the EU might force Apple to swap its Lightning connecter for USB

The European Commission is pushing for a common mobile phone charger, which would eliminate Apple's Lightning port.

The European Commission is considering whether or not to take action in pushing for a common mobile phone charger, following the lack of progress made towards this effort, EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager said in a response to a query from an MEP.

The Commission has been trying to get mobile phone companies to use the same charger for nearly a decade, citing both customer inconvenience and 51,000 tons of yearly electronic waste from old chargers as the primary reasons.

SEE: Mobile device computing policy (Tech Pro Research)

Back in 2009, 14 companies including Apple, Samsung, Huawei, and Nokia signed a voluntary memorandum of understanding (MoU), in which they agreed to harmonize chargers of their new smartphone models coming out in 2011.

Following the expiration of the memorandum, the only type of phone charger on the market that isn't USB-C or micro-USB is Apple's Lightning connector, making Apple the obvious target of the dilemma.

"Given the unsatisfactory progress with this voluntary approach, the Commission will shortly launch an impact assessment study to evaluate costs and benefits of different other options," Vestager said in the MEP query response.

The study will help the Commission decide whether action is necessary to implement a universal phone charger.

A harmonized phone charger would be extremely convenient for users. Business travelers and users who carry multiple devices, in particular, could benefit greatly from the change. Finding and borrowing a charger from someone else won't be a hassle, and it would open the opportunity for more public chargers to be planted in common areas, as companies would only have to provide one kind of charger.

Device management would also be much easier, especially among companies with both Apple and non-Apple smartphones deployed. IT would be able to keep a stock of common chargers without have to worry about compatibility or adapters.

Perhaps the elimination of the Lightning port will bring back customers' beloved headphone jack on the iPhone.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • The EU is investigating whether or not to take action in implementing a harmonized phone charger rule for all phone carriers.
  • A harmonized phone charger would force Apple to abandon its Lightning Cable in exchange for something that works with other brands.
lightning.jpg
Image: iStockphoto/Wachiwit

About Macy Bayern

Macy Bayern is an Associate Staff Writer for TechRepublic. A recent graduate from the University of Texas at Austin's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Macy covers tech news and trends.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox