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USB-C will be Europe's smartphone standard. That could mean a big change ahead for Apple

The move to USB-C means Apple will need to change the iPhone's charging port by 2024 if it wants to sell it in Europe.
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Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on
White USB-C charging data cable, type C
Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

European lawmakers have struck a deal on a common charger for phones, laptops and other computer devices that aims to reduce costs to consumers – and to the environment.

The deal will require vendors to use a common USB-C charger for 15 types of electronic devices, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, mice, keyboards, video games and other gadgets.    

"Today we have made the common charger a reality in Europe… Now they will be able to use a single charger for all electronics," said Alex Agius Saliba, an MEP from Malta and the European Parliament rapporteur on the proposal. 

"I believe this agreement we reached today is a very important agreement that gives a fairer deal to consumers and a fairer deal to our environment," he said, adding that device chargers in Europe produce between 13,000 to 15,000 tonnes of electronic waste every year. 

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The law, which is expected come into force in 2024, will mean Apple needs to change the iPhone's Lightning port to a USB-C port if it wants to sell the device in Europe. The iPad and new MacBooks already have a USB-C port as do virtually all Android devices.

Apple previously has said the EU common charger rules would harm consumers globally and stifle innovation, but agreed with the EU's environmental goals.

The deal struck this week between the European Council and European Parliament follows MEPs in the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee in April voting overwhelmingly in favor of a European Commission proposal from September 2021 to revise the EU's Radio Equipment Directive. The revision proposed makers of smartphones and other small devices use a common USB-C charging port to help reduce e-waste and unnecessary costs for consumers.

While Apple is the most affected by the incoming law, Saliba contended the iPhone is not the only device affected by it.

"A lot of focus is on smartphones," he said. "A common charger will not only affect Apple. It will affect a lot of brands using some of these 15 different types of products when it will come into force in two years' time." 

European Commissioner for internal markets Thierry Breton said: "We're not forcing anybody to enter the internal market, but if you want to go in, you have to comply with the rules. And they shall apply to all."

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The common charger law requires all mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, earbuds, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld videogame consoles and portable speakers that are rechargeable via a wired cable to have a USB Type-C port. 

Laptops will also have to be adapted to the requirements by 40 months after it comes into force, according to the EU. 

The European Parliament and Council still need to approve the agreement. It will enter into force 20 days after publication in the EU Official Journal and will start to apply to new devices after 24 months. 

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