Apple executive Greg “Joz” Joswiak confirmed that the company will comply with the European Union’s requirement for mobile devices to use USB-C by 2024, which was signed into law on Monday.
For now, the iPhone uses Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector. Although Apple is in the USB Implementers Forumit started using Lightning with the iPhone 5 in 2012, two years before the USB-C spec was finalized, though there is some feature overlap between the two.
Under the EU standardsManufacturers wishing to sell headphones and headsets, handheld gaming consoles and portable speakers, e-readers, keyboards, mice, portable navigation systems, headsets and any other wired-charged device that consumes up to 100W on the single market will have to ensure that they are equipped with a USB Type-C port.
The reason is “[fewer] chargers for our consumers… a fairer deal for our environment, because in the end we generate between 13,000 and 15,000 tons of electronic waste from chargers that we barely use. One in three chargers that come with these products are never opened,” said Alex Agius Saliba, Maltese MEP, Rapporteur on the issue, when the change was announced in summer.
“Two years from now, if Apple wants to market its products, sell its products within our internal markets, it must comply with our rules and its receptacle device must be USB-C,” he added.
While this won’t be a problem for today’s Android smartphones and laptops, or MacBooks and iPads, which already support USB-C, Apple feels a bit difficult.
In an interview with journalist Joanna Stern for the Wall Street Journal’s WSJ Tech Live EventApple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing Joswiak said: “Obviously we’ll have to comply, we don’t have a choice.”
Stern began by revealing a staged image of the rival standards, to which Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi pronounced, “Scary.”
When asked what he sees, Joswiak diplomatically said, “I see two really cool connectors, the two most popular connectors in the world right now.”
Although one of them has a much better name, don’t you think? Federighi joked.
But pressed on what Stern described as “a disaster”, Joswiak argued that although governments regulate with the best of intentions, this can lead to companies being forced to comply with standards that are not the best for what they want to achieve. He implied that such rules limit innovation and that the problem had already been solved with detachable cables.
It also repeated arguments Apple has been making for years, namely that it would turn the roughly 1 billion Lightning connectors in circulation into e-waste when the EU move is supposed to limit waste.
However, this turns out to be false. Above all, Apple wants to control how people use its products and who can make Apple parts. Apple doesn’t want to compete with others on products for its own phones. A Lightning to USB cable costs up to $19 through Apple’s website. The standard also helps keep consumers within Apple’s “walled garden”: once you own an iPhone, you always own an iPhone.
But USB-C has established itself as the vendor-neutral standard. There’s not much benefit to Lightning, except maybe the lower profile, otherwise USB-C can do everything Lightning can, but Lightning can’t do everything USB-C can.
Lightning doesn’t have a specific lifespan, while USB-C has a standardized endurance of 10,000 plugging and unplugging. The contact springs are inside the cable, not the socket, which means that while the cable may wear out, your device’s socket won’t, which can’t be said for the iPhone.
USB-C is fast enough for 8K video, Lightning isn’t; USB-C supports Thunderbolt 3, USB 2.0, USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 2, USB 3.2, DisplayPort, HDMI, Lightning only supports USB 2.0 and USB 3.1 Gen 1; USB-C handles up to 100W power delivery, Lightning can only draw up to 14W. Etc, etc.
But that’s not to say that USB-C is perfect, far from it. Just because a cable is USB-C doesn’t mean it will work with your USB-C device, which is unnecessarily confusing from the start. You may have a 20W USB-C cable in the box with your new smartphone, but it could cook if used with a 100W laptop power adapter. Ultimately, you risk damaging your equipment. electronic if you use cheap, defective or incompatible USB-C connectors; however, they all look the same to the average person.
EU regulations aim to address this by requiring device manufacturers to include dedicated labels on the charging characteristics of new devices so that consumers can more easily tell if their existing chargers are compatible. Otherwise, you’d have to buy another cable, which doesn’t exactly solve the problem the EU claims to be addressing.
Still, Apple seems to have turned around because it wants access to the European market, one too lucrative for any company to have to give up. Although Joswiak did not say when the iPhone would go to USB-C, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believe that Apple will ditch Lightning in the second half of next year, likely with the next iPhone 15.
So it sucks to be anyone who gave themselves an iPhone 14 this year. ®