The European Union has ruled: if Apple wants to sell new ones iPhones in the region, those devices must: have a USB-C port by the end of 2024.
That means Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector, which has been around for more than a decade and has established itself as a significant moneymaker for the tech giant, will have to be phased out from future iPhones. At least, those going to the EU.
“We don’t have a choice — as we do all over the world, [Apple will] comply with local laws,” Greg JoswiakApple’s senior vice president of global marketing told a Wall Street Journal Technology Conference on October 25, when asked whether Apple will comply with the common EU tax law.
“We think it would have been better for the environment and for our customers if the government wasn’t so prescriptive.”
While the legislation technically only applies to consumer electronics sold within the European Union, Apple could be forced to decide the fate of the Lightning port for iPhones going abroad. Most commercial phones charge and connect to accessories via the USB-C standard, but iPhones don’t. Could this mean that future iPhones sold outside the European Union will also transition to a USB-C charging port? Or will Apple adjust the hardware by geography, producing two iPhone variants for USB-C and Lightning – one for the EU and the other for the rest of the world?
Apple is already modifying iPhone models regionally, as it has done with the iPhone 14. The US version only has an electronic SIM card, while other variants keep the SIM slot, as Techsponential analyst Avi Greengart noted. But he also thinks Apple has good reasons to move all iPhones to USB-C in the future.
“…There are bigger ecosystem, security and accessories considerations with the power/data connector, so I think it’s more likely Apple will move all iPhones [globally] to USB-C in the time frame of the iPhone 16 to comply with European regulations.”
For more than a decade, European lawmakers have been pushing for electronic devices to include a standardized charger to reduce the clutter of cables and e-waste. The legislation, part of the amended Radio Equipment Directive, was finalized in June before the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of the rule in October. Its adoption is widely seen as a win for consumers, who will soon be able to use just a single USB-C charger for a range of accessories and devices, including higher wattage devices such as gaming laptops and 4K monitors. Its adoption was also seen as an environmental victory. A European think tank darling chargers bring up to 13,000 tons of e-waste per year in the EU and have associated life cycle emissions of about 600 to 900 kilotons in carbon dioxide equivalents.
Apple has lobbied vociferously against the idea of a common phone charger. The tech giant claims such legislation could stifle innovation and exacerbate the e-waste problem, as it would presumably render the Lightning cable obsolete for potentially a billion people worldwide. Apple, which collects fees from third-party manufacturing companies made for iPhone accessories, could potentially lose out on the revenue generated from any Lightning cable and accessory compatible with the iPhone.
Despite Apple’s pushback, the tech giant Reportedly putting a USB-C iPhone to the test. Renowned Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo predicts Apple will beat the EU mandate by a year and equip a new iPhone with a USB-C port in 2023.
“USB-C could improve iPhone transfer and charging speeds in hardware designs, but final specs still depend on iOS support,” Kuo wrote in a May post on Twitter.
Ahead of the EU’s then-looming vote, the tech giant had been steadily moving towards USB-C on other products. It was built into MacBooks in 2015, the iPad Pro in 2018, the iPad Air in 2020, and iPad Mini in 2021. In addition to the iPhone 15, Kuo expects several other Apple accessories, including AirPods, Magic Keyboard, and MagSafe Battery Pack, to switch to USB. -C, but he didn’t offer a specific timeline.
Read more: Will a USB-C iPhone make Apple’s Lightning cable obsolete? Not yet
In the long run, the iPhone’s shift to USB-C will benefit Apple customers — just as the law intended. Since most of the company’s iPads and Macs already use USB-C instead of Lightning, the move will streamline the charging experience for customers. Apple loyalists currently need three different types of chargers to power their iPhones, MacBooks, iPhones, and Apple Watches. For a company that prides itself on its ecosystem, Apple offers a cumbersome charging experience that goes against its ethos of simplicity.
“It makes sense that Apple [switch to a USB-C iPhone] across different markets as it will not only improve the experience of users who also use iPads or Macs, but also simplify supply chain processes,” Will Wong, a research manager for the International Data Corporation, told CNET .
read more: Apple’s Dream for iPhones Could Actually Be a Nightmare
Even if Apple eventually makes the move to a USB-C iPhone for all models, there are valid arguments that it will be a short-lived solution. Rumors point to Apple leaving ports on his iPhones altogether, eliminating the traditional plug-in charger in the past. That potentially means USB-C could be a stopgap before Apple enters a wireless future.
“Portless is probably one of the developments that Apple is looking at when we saw the introduction of the MagSafe wireless charger,” Wong said. “Yet there are hurdles like slower loading speed to overcome before you go completely postageless”,