European Union officials are considering adopting new standards for smartphone chargers that could cut down on electronic waste.

Right now most smartphones ship with a charging cable and adapter. So when you buy a new phone and don’t need your old charger anymore, you probably throw it out.

According to the European Commission that leads to more than 50 thousand tons of electronic waste that could be reduced if chargers were sold separately from phones, allowing you to use the same one year after year even as you switch phones.

Ultimately the company that would probably have to make the biggest change to comply with any upcoming regulatory changes? Apple. But it’s not clear if it’ll come to that.

Right now most smartphones have USB ports for charging… although we’re in a sort of transitional period between micro USB and USB Type-C, so even if you’ve used nothing but Android phones for years, there’s a chance that your old micro USB adapter won’t work with your new USB-C phone.

Things get even more complicated when you start looking at fast charging. Different phone makers use different fast charging technologies, so while you can probably use one adapter with another phone, you may not get the benefits of fast charging unless you use an official adapter.

But still… we’re mostly talking about USB adapters.

Apple, on the other hand, ships phones with a proprietary Lightning connector. And all of the first-party and third-party charging accessories for iPhones use Lightning connectors.

You can buy Lighting to Micro USB or USB Type-C cables and adapters. But that’s an added cost… and more potential electronic waste.

If the European Commission decides that smartphone adapters need to be standardized, Apple could potentially lose out on revenue it makes by licensing that technology to third-party accessory makers.

The European Commission has been pushing for some sort of standardization for almost a decade and, according to Reuters, the EU Commission for Competition says that “given the unsatisfactory progress” of voluntary efforts so far, “the Commission will shortly launch an impact assessment study to evaluate costs and benefits of different other options.”

In other words, the group is planning a study to decide whether to plan a plan.

By the time any action actually takes place, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple stops using ports on iPhones altogether, moving entirely to wireless charging.

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12 replies on “EU may push phone makers to use standardized chargers (goodbye Apple Lightning adapters?)”

  1. I have european good charger with eu certificate, now i must buy one more 😉
    because european tell me my european charger is nor in law

  2. I think the commenters here who have been down voted forget that the tech blogosphere & it’s readers are largely spoonfed liberals getting their opinions from the “Daily Show” & enjoy having the government make all their decisions for them.

    cable Nazi’s …. USB-C for you!!!

    1. “tech blogosphere” and “enjoy having the government make all their decisions for them” …
      Not impossible for a very few of them, but mostly false IMO.
      Fact is : it’s a mess with micro USB, USB-c and lightning and also the “it charges faster with the company-provided charger”. And yes it was even more of a mess for the earlier phones.
      The tech blogosphere doesn’t like to take orders from neither the government nor companies, but everyone choose the lesser evil from their point of view.

  3. EU had rules (or wanted to have?) for standardized chargers for years now. The whole thing started in ~2014 (?) and was focused around micro-USB. To my knowledge Apple ships iPhone with an adapter in EU. Some big manufactures signed an agreement to work on this issue some years ago, but EU is not happy with the progress other those years. It’s most likely this time they will mandate USB-C connector as USB PD is much more versatile.

  4. While I would appreciate some more standardization, as I’m sure a lot of people are sick of buying new chargers and cables every 5 years or so, but this is a terrible idea. If they enact this, say goodbye to innovation. Fast charging? Sorry, not in the spec approved by the government. It’ll be a 10+ year process to get anything added or changed.

    1. Except the way it’s been handled so far is that the EU has stayed completely out of what the standard actually is, and left that to the manufacturers.

      Hence why it’s been micro-USB for a while, and transitioning to USB-C is not problematic.

      But it requires that all manufacturers are on board, and all of them except Apple is doing this voluntarily.

  5. I seriously hope that Apple tells the EU to kiss it. The government has no business telling a company how to make products. If the consumer doesn’t like it, they won’t buy it.

  6. The current iphone 10 and 8 will charge from a generic usb pd wall adapter. They will request 9V when the fuel gauge is less than 80%. The type-c to lightning adapter is needed for these phones. 9V charge time is within 2% of the 14.9V Apple official charger charge time.
    I would not be surprised if this fall’s iphone is type-c only. I would expect next year’s iphone to certainly be type-c.

    1. I doubt Apple will ever go to USB-C on their iphones. Apple is going towards a totally port free device. They want to be able to seal them completely. As soon as they get their overly complicated wireless charging system working reliably there will be no reason for case penetrations. I expect volume buttons to be virtual too.

      1. Out of personal experience, device sync over wifi is more painfully slow than with the turtle (lightning) cable. I would nwver want to be exposed to such miserable device in my lifetime.

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