Written by Nick Heer.

E.U. Standardizes USB-C Smartphone Charging for 2024, Laptops by 2026

The European Parliament:

By the end of 2024, all mobile phones, tablets and cameras sold in the EU will have to be equipped with a USB Type-C charging port. From spring 2026, the obligation will extend to laptops. The new law, adopted by plenary on Tuesday with 602 votes in favour, 13 against and 8 abstentions, is part of a broader EU effort to reduce e-waste and to empower consumers to make more sustainable choices.

I covered this plan earlier this year. I appreciate the spirit of standardizing around a single charging format. What I still find bizarre is that it specifically mandates USB-C for wired charging — a data cable type which also provides power. It means any improvements to the data transfer part of the equation must either be compatible with a USB-C plug or the device must have additional connectors. This is also true in reverse.

Apple’s laptops already solve for this by permitting charging with USB-C in addition to the superior MagSafe port. Recent improvements in wired data transfer are also generally compatible with USB-C-type connectors. At the moment, these worries seem mostly theoretical, but I understand concerns when something like this is codified into law.

Still, the company this impacts most is Apple. It has stuck with Lightning and its USB 2.0 speeds on iPhones for ten years, so it is ridiculous to see it claiming this will be a problem for users:

Apple said it shared the European Commission’s commitment to protecting the environment but questioned whether the proposals would help consumers.

“We remain concerned that strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world,” the company said in a statement.

I would love for my iPhone to be “stifled” by USB4 speeds when I sync my music library. If Apple thinks replacing Lightning with USB-C will make the iPhone worse for its users, it should more clearly articulate why. For example, one test found USB-C connectors left more material in the port in the case of the cable tip breaking, which could damage the device. Alas, Apple does not even offer that explanation, just some nonspecific worries.

The E.U. is also looking at standardizing wireless charging:

As wireless charging becomes more prevalent, the European Commission will have to harmonise interoperability requirements by the end of 2024, to avoid having a negative impact on consumers and the environment. This will also get rid of the so-called technological “lock-in” effect, whereby a consumer becomes dependent on a single manufacturer.

Even as someone living squarely in Apple’s universe, I still have to pack a half-dozen types of cable when travelling. I still cannot tell the difference between mini-USB and micro-USB at a glance. When I forgot my headphones and had to buy a pair at the airport, I had to settle for the one model with a Lightning connector because the shop did not sell a Lightning-to-headphone adaptor. It would be nice to avoid repeating all these mistakes as more devices support inductive charging.