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European Union Pushes For USB-C to Be New Portable Charging Standard

White USB-C cable on top of a black phone.
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The European Commission has announced new plans for legislation today that will require all mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld video game consoles, to conform to the USB Type-C standard for charging.

This goal is to reduce e-waste from a large number of differing chargers, and may also have the added benefit of ending those times when you can't find the right charger for your phone at a friend's house. The transition period will be 24 months once the European Parliament passes the new regulation.

Fortunately, the move to Type-C has already become mainstream with most smartphones incorporate Type-C for charging already. The same can be said of tablets, USB headphones, and speakers as well. So once the legislation is set in motion, all major device manufacturers should be ready for it.

What About the IPhone?

However, this leaves one major player left to make the transition, iPhones. Apple is still using its home-brewed Lightning port, years after most smartphone manufacturers made the transition to Type-C. Of course, many Apple customers own these cables, as well as accessories that use the connector.

MacRumors believe Apple has no plans to switch to type-C any time soon. If anything, we might see a completely wireless iPhone before Type-C comes to the phone.

It's possible Apple can sell an adapter for future iPhones to allow charging with Type-C chargers to comply with the legislation, though we don't know for sure how that would work with the proposal. Apple could also accelerate its wireless plans and make all iPhones fully wireless by 2023. Or, Apple could simply compromise fully and change plans by making a Type-C iPhone.

Fast Charging Uniformity:

Along with the Type-C uniformity, the Commission is also proposing a harmonized fast charging technology that will be compatible with all Type-C chargers and devices to ensure charging speeds will be the same when charging any device. If we had to guess, this will probably be related to Qualcomm's Quick Charge technology which is already very popular in the mobile landscape.

The Commission is also proposing unbundling charging bricks from smartphone sales to further reduce e-waste. This is something Apple is already doing with its iPhones and Samsung is doing with Galaxy smartphones.

The final proposal is to improve information pertaining to charging statistics for both devices and chargers. The Commission wants to make details perfectly clear on how fast your device charges and whether or not it supports fast charging.

According to the Commission, over 11,000 tonnes of chargers are wasted every single year from incompatibility problems and consumer reports say that at least 38% of people have problems finding or buying the right charger in the first place.

For now, this legislation only applies to the European Union, but we wouldn't be surprised to see other countries following suit with similar agendas down the line.

  • punkncat
    Seems like a good idea. My favorite aspect is there is no "right way" to have to plug it in. Other USB standards often result in the "3 times" try.
    Reply
  • hotaru.hino
    I could've sworn Apple finally relented and put USB-C on the last iPhone, like how the iPad Pro, Air, and the new Mini are using USB-C.

    But alas. Even the new iPhone is still Lightning. I don't get why Apple is holding onto this connector other than just because.
    Reply
  • MasterMadBones
    This is not exactly new in that this used to be a thing with Micro USB type B before Type C came about. This really just completes the transition. Not including chargers is a fine idea in the perspective of e-waste and cost reduction, but in reality, as we've seen with recent iPhones, the reduced cost isn't passed on to the consumer at all. It efectively increases the price of the devices.

    On Apple's Lighting ports: they didn't change back then and they won't change now, despite the fines that have been imposed on them in the past and likely will be in the future.
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    They are holding on to it because Lightning cables are much more expensive than USB and Apple would do anything for money...and to be special.

    Honestly I think Apple would go fully wireless before they put USB-C on their devices and create a proprietary mounting mechanism so people would have to use a proprietary Apple MagSafe (or whatever they end up calling it) wireless charger.
    Reply
  • hotaru.hino
    MasterMadBones said:
    It efectively increases the price of the devices.
    If by "increasing the price" you mean "they didn't drop the price by $20 because you no longer get a charger with the device ", I suppose you could make that argument.

    Aside from that, you don't need a pre-packaged charger anymore unless you really need a fast charger. USB ports on devices made in the past 3 years can supply enough current to bring a phone from near dead to 50% in a moderate amount of time. Plus you can find USB ports on power strips and wall oulets now. And if you really need that 50% in less than half an hour on demand because you're constantly using the phone, you should invest in a battery bank at that point.
    Reply
  • setx
    If we had to guess, this will probably be related to Qualcomm's Quick Charge technology which is already very popular in the mobile landscape.
    I hope it isn't. Type-C has native USB PD specification so it's counterproductive to push any vendor-specific things there.

    hotaru.hino said:
    USB ports on devices made in the past 3 years can supply enough current to bring a phone from near dead to 50% in a moderate amount of time.
    With Type-C it's even better: my Samsung S8 charges at max speed from motherboard's Type-C port. Some Xiaomi however only treat that port as slow charging and go 3x faster if I put Type-C->DP adapter in between.
    Reply
  • sizzling
    Alvar Miles Udell said:


    Honestly I think Apple would go fully wireless before they put USB-C on their devices and create a proprietary mounting mechanism so people would have to use a proprietary Apple MagSafe (or whatever they end up calling it) wireless charger.
    Unfortunately I think you might be right but that will be the time for me to stop buying iPhones. I have a nice couple of audio setups that although have Bluetooth they also show how much better a lossless wired connection is. I have tried Android before and didn’t like it, apart from the complete lack of apps I preferred Windows Phone.
    Reply
  • cryoburner
    This goal is to reduce e-waste from a large number of differing chargers
    They did the same thing with Micro-USB some years back. I guess all those "standard" Micro-USB chargers become e-waste now. >_>

    Though really, I suspect most new phones in the EU have probably already moved on to Type-C, so that regulation might no longer be in effect. A few years from now, they will probably be moving on to something else like wireless charging, and the Type-C chargers will get trashed in favor of a new standard. And a few years after that, the standardized wireless charging docks will get replaced with some new wireless charging standard. And of course, those wireless chargers (with a cord attached) will likely create more e-waste than a simple cord.

    The real e-waste though is in the phones themselves, that people have a tendency of replacing within a few years or so whether they have actual need for a new one or not.
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    Just like FireWire vs USB...Apple loses again.
    Reply
  • hotaru.hino
    cryoburner said:
    They did the same thing with Micro-USB some years back. I guess all those "standard" Micro-USB chargers become e-waste now. >_>
    I think this is more to standardize fast charging because there's too many different protocols that aren't compatible with each other.

    Besides, you can still use a Micro-USB charger, since the output is over Type A. Fast charging also works over a Type A output. You just can't use USB-PD with a Type A output, but the wattages it provides aren't really necessary for phones anyway.
    Reply