European Commission: All Portable Devices To Use USB-C

Manufacturers are given a 24-month deadline, Apple's iPhones to be affected the most

The European Commission certainly took its time, but it is finally forcing all manufacturers to use a common standard for charging their portable devices. That standard is, of course, USB-C. (Image: Marcus Urbenz, Unsplash)

It's been a long time coming - probably way too long - but it's now official: the European Union intends to force tech product manufacturers into using a common USB-C charging port for all of their devices. This was announced today as one of the measures the European Commission is taking in order to cut down on electronic waste, encouraging people to re-use existing chargers and cables when they buy new products such as smartphones, tablets headphones, portable speakers, video and photo cameras, even videogame systems and controllers.

In the same proposal to be put on vote soon, tech product manufacturers are also forced to make their fast-charging standards "interoperable" (they already are in most cases) and to provide information to customers about what charging standards their products support. European consumers "will be able to buy" new devices without an included charger, meaning that they may or may not be given the option. Apple and Samsung have already stopped including chargers with their smartphones.

Manufacturers are given a 24-month deadline in order to comply with the European Commission’s directive about adopting USB-C but, the truth is, most of them have done so already. (Image: Mishaal Zahed, Unsplash)

The European Commission's proposals only cover devices using wired, not wireless, chargers. EU commissioner Thierry Breton claimed that "there is plenty of room for innovation on wireless", which is largely true. "Chargers power all our most essential electronic devices", Breton added. "With more and more devices, more and more chargers are sold that are not interchangeable or necessary. We are putting an end to that". The commissioner added that through this proposal "European consumers will be able to use a single charger for all their portable electronics, an important step to increase convenience and reduce waste".

"European consumers were frustrated long enough about incompatible chargers piling up in their drawers. We gave the tech industry plenty of time to come up with their own solutions, now time is ripe for legislative action for a common charger", European Commission executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager added. She noted that, should the proposals pass the vote in the European Parliament, manufacturers will have 24 months at most to comply with these new directives - so, by the end of 2023 at the latest.

Apple is essentially the only manufacturer not using a USB-C port for charging its smartphones these days, sticking with the Lightning port because of the profits being made through its vast ecosystem of peripherals every year. (Image: Daniel Romero, Unsplash)

People following the evolution of the smartphones, tablets and general portable devices categories are obviously aware of the fact that most manufacturers have practically adopted USB-C already - the main difference between their implementations has to do with the fast charging speeds their products support more than anything else. The European Commission's proposals are essentially making the transition official (and obligatory).

The one manufacturer that did not follow the trend of USB-C adoption of years past is, of course, Apple with its iPhone line of smartphones. The Americans now use a USB-C port for almost all of their iPad tablets, but they stuck with the Lightning port for all the iPhone models because of the large, lucrative ecosystem built around that connector despite its shortcomings. Apple will now have to either change its plans and adopt USB-C by the time the iPhone 15 comes out... or go completely cable-free with all iPhone models by fall 2023 (which many believe is Apple's actual plan).

The irony in the European Commission’s proposal about USB-C charging is that Apple and others will be using wireless charging to go port-free in the not-so-distant future anyway. (Image: Oscar Helgstrand, Unsplash)

Of course, it may turn out that Apple is not the only smartphone manufacturer planning to go port-free in the next two or three years: wireless charging speeds are constantly increasing - we are at 15 Watts for most flagships nowadays, roughly on par with what iPhones used to offer via cable just a few short years ago - and its quite possible that new tech will soon allow for higher speeds, acceptable for everyday use. Samsung and Xiaomi are thought to be working towards portless smartphone models, for instance, so others will surely follow. As far as smartphones, in particular, are concerned then even USB-C might become irrelevant sooner rather than later. Good thing that politicians are great at identifying and solving problems quickly, though, eh?