On Wednesday the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee adopted its position on the revised Radio Equipment Directive with 43 votes in favour (2 against).
The new rules would make sure consumers no longer need a new charger and cable every time they purchase a new device, and can use one charger for all of their small and medium-sized electronic gadgets. Mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld videogame consoles and portable speakers, rechargeable via a wired cable, would have to be equipped with a USB Type-C port, regardless of the manufacturer. Exemptions would apply only for devices that are too small to have a USB Type-C port, such as smart watches, health trackers, and some sports equipment.
The straight-line way of reading this is that future iPhones and iPads will have to have a USB-C port instead of a Lightning one. An irony of introducing a policy like this now instead of, say, eight years ago is that it is likely to generate a massive amount of short-term waste as new device purchasers adopt the new standard. One of the Lightning cables I am still using is one that came in the box with my iPhone 6S because my current iPhone still uses that same connector, but I might have to stop using that — and all the other Lightning cables I have — when I upgrade.
A bizarro world way of interpreting this press release is that Apple could submit the connector currently known as Lightning to the USB standards people for certification, perhaps as a USB-C Mini connector. Depending on how these regulations are written, if it is being forced to adopt a standard and forego royalties from its proprietary connector, why would it not use a connector it actually likes and is familiar with? Sure, that does not fit the E.U.’s goal of adopting a single universal cable, but surely there are flexibilities built into the law so future inventions are not hampered by the requirement of forever using the standards available today, right? Because that would be pretty silly.
Update: The regulations would not apply if a device uses only a wireless charging mechanism.