The European Commission has shared its proposal for making USB-C the standard port for smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices as part of a major effort to reduce e-waste. This could be bad news for Apple, as its iPhones use the proprietary Lightning connector rather than USB-C for charging unlike many of its Android competitors. The EU has clarified that the proposal does not cover wireless devices; a USB-C port would not be mandatory for devices that charge exclusively via wireless technologies.

From the EU’s press release:

With today’s proposal for a revised Radio Equipment Directive, the charging port and fast charging technology will be harmonised: USB-C will become the standard port for all smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld videogame consoles. In addition, the Commission proposes to unbundle the sale of chargers from the sale of electronic devices. This will improve consumers’ convenience and reduce the environmental footprint associated with the production and disposal of chargers, thereby supporting the green and digital transitions.

An overview of the European Commission’s proposals:

  • A harmonised charging port for electronic devices: USB-C will be the common port. This will allow consumers to charge their devices with the same USB-C charger, regardless of the device brand.
  • Harmonised fast charging technology will help prevent that different producers unjustifiably limit the charging speed and will help to ensure that charging speed is the same when using any compatible charger for a device.
  • Unbundling the sale of a charger from the sale of the electronic device: consumers will be able to purchase a new electronic device without a new charger. This will limit the number of unwanted chargers purchased or left unused. Reducing production and disposal of new chargers is estimated to reduce the amount of electronic waste by almost a thousand tonnes’ yearly.
  • Improved information for consumers: producers will need to provide relevant information about charging performance, including information on the power required by the device and if it supports fast charging. This will make it easier for consumers to see if their existing chargers meet the requirements of their new device or help them to select a compatible charger. Combined with the other measures, this would help consumers limit the number of new chargers purchased and help them save €250 million a year on unnecessary charger purchases.

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe fit for the Digital Age, said: “European consumers were 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. This is an important win for our consumers and environment and in line with our green and digital ambitions.”

Commissioner Thierry Breton, responsible for the Internal Market, said: “Chargers power all our most essential electronic devices. With more and more devices, more and more chargers are sold that are not interchangeable or not necessary. We are putting an end to that. With our proposal, European consumers will be able to use a single charger for all their portable electronics – an important step to increase convenience and reduce waste.”

Source: EU (via The Verge)

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6 Comments

  1. I’m wondering if they don’t just include some kludgey USB-C to Lightning adapter, or make a special “European Only” option that costs 10% more.

    Also, what happens to this law once we are past USB-C for whatever reason?

    The problem with laws like this: they have to be specific enough to be enforceable, but they can never address the underlaying issue adequately. It’s like when CA first did their no cellphone while driving law, but you can still put on makeup while driving, eat a taco, or let autodrive go and take a nap… The problem isn’t cell phones, it’s distracted driving, and there are a lot of things other than phones that can cause it. They did eventually fix that, sort of.

    Same thing here, the problem isn’t lack of USB-C, it’s standardization across commodity devices. And enforcement of something like this means we’ll probably be stuck on USB-C long after the industry is ready to move on to something better, because you aren’t letting anyone move on to something better.

  2. I think the issue they are addressing here makes sense. The Lifecycle for USBC will be longer due to this… but it doesn’t mean USBC won’t get better.

    Hell look at base T ethernet cabling. Remember when 10mb was fast… now they have 10Gigabit and beyond running over copper using the same plug.

    Just because the plug is standardized doesn’t mean that technology won’t improve and adapt. Sometimes constraints are better for engineering. The more variables you remove from a equation the more you focus on the areas you can change. 🙂

  3. [QUOTE=”Grimlakin, post: 41732, member: 215″]
    Remember when 10mb was fast… now they have 10Gigabit and beyond running over copper using the same plug.
    [/QUOTE]
    Same plug, but not the same cable standards or necessarily wiring.

    If you went and ran your house with CAT3 back with 10Mb was the standard, you’d not be running 10Gb today on that same wire, even though the plug and receptacles would still provide some minimum level of compliance and functionality.

    That said, not necessarily a bad analogy.

    But.. would Qi wireless have come about if USB C is mandated on everything a few years back? Would we have USB C is USB A or USB Micro had been mandated 20 years ago?

  4. [QUOTE=”Brian_B, post: 41753, member: 96″]
    Same plug, but not the same cable standards or necessarily wiring.

    If you went and ran your house with CAT3 back with 10Mb was the standard, you’d not be running 10Gb today on that same wire, even though the plug and receptacles would still provide some minimum level of compliance and functionality.

    That said, not necessarily a bad analogy.

    But.. would Qi wireless have come about if USB C is mandated on everything a few years back? Would we have USB C is USB A or USB Micro had been mandated 20 years ago?
    [/QUOTE]

    Good question. My phone supports wireless charging just fine… as long as I don’t have a sturdy case and place it JUST RIGHT on the charging pad. Lets forget about powershare device to device charging.

    Yea wireless charging has a long way to go. As a matter of fact IF apple wanted to be the big swinging ‘penis’ in the room they could remove the charging port completely and go wireless charging only and make their devices simply the BEST at charging wirelessly. Make that their target and forget about USBC or the lightening port.

  5. [QUOTE=”Grimlakin, post: 41759, member: 215″]
    Good question. My phone supports wireless charging just fine… as long as I don’t have a sturdy case and place it JUST RIGHT on the charging pad. Lets forget about powershare device to device charging.

    Yea wireless charging has a long way to go. As a matter of fact IF apple wanted to be the big swinging ‘penis’ in the room they could remove the charging port completely and go wireless charging only and make their devices simply the BEST at charging wirelessly. Make that their target and forget about USBC or the lightening port.
    [/QUOTE]
    The only thing stopping them is Zarathustra 🙂

    And Courage.

    And a law telling them they must have a USB C port.

  6. [QUOTE=”Brian_B, post: 41753, member: 96″]
    Same plug, but not the same cable standards or necessarily wiring.

    If you went and ran your house with CAT3 back with 10Mb was the standard, you’d not be running 10Gb today on that same wire, even though the plug and receptacles would still provide some minimum level of compliance and functionality.

    That said, not necessarily a bad analogy.

    But.. would Qi wireless have come about if USB C is mandated on everything a few years back? Would we have USB C is USB A or USB Micro had been mandated 20 years ago?
    [/QUOTE]

    You can move forward without losing compatability, like said Ethernet plug or like PCI express, the old stuff works fine in the new motherboards (most of the time anyways).

    As for wireless charging, there may be a exemption there, but this will also have to be standardised (if not already) or the same issue will pop up there.

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