The days of the Lightning port that powers the Apple iPhone are numbered. In the fall of 2024, regulations will come into force in Europe requiring the use of a USB-C port in small electronic devices. However, the transition will not be smooth. That’s why.
What does European law say?
A law approved by the European Parliament in early October requires manufacturers to use a USB-C port to charge their small electronic devices. From autumn 2024, it will apply to electronic devices that require less than 100W charger, such as phones, tablets, rechargeable mice and keyboards, handheld consoles, Bluetooth speakers, and e-readers.
This will also affect laptops, but only from 2026. Other types of smaller devices, such as smartwatches and fitness bands, will not be subject to the rules.
According to the European Union, the law could lead to an annual reduction of 12,000 tons of e-waste and save Europeans “250 million euros ($338 million) a year by avoiding buying unnecessary chargers. The calculation, however, was not explained.
The legislation also aims to harmonize fast charging across devices by forcing compatibility with USB PD (Power Delivery) charging. Therefore, a brand A fast charger should be able to quickly charge a brand B phone. This is usually already the case, but there are exceptions.
Manufacturers will also have to make it clear on their packaging whether the products contain a charger or not. Four years after the entry into force of the law, the European Union will consider the possibility of an outright ban on the sale of devices with chargers. Usually at this time, every home should have several USB-C chargers.
Who should change what?
In terms of size, the manufacturer most affected by the new law is Apple. The company is already equipping several of its products with USB-C ports, such as MacBook computers and iPads, but its iPhones still have a Lightning port.
Rumor has it that the first iPhones equipped with a USB-C port will be released in 2023 when the iPhone 15 arrives. Even if European legislation only applies in Europe, the port will be offered worldwide. Apple will have a few other customization products, such as AirPods and mice.
Some smaller producers will also have to rethink their products. Devices with microUSB ports are becoming rarer, but e-readers (Kobo) or mice (Thermaltake), for example, are still being produced with this obsolete port.
Good news or waste in sight?
The law would have been big news a few years ago when Lightning, USB, Micro-USB, and proprietary ports were commonplace, but it’s clear that its impact will be more limited in 2024.
Not only is USB-C currently dominating the market, but newer devices that don’t have one are becoming increasingly rare.
In the long term, there are several benefits to standardizing ports across the electronics industry, especially if regulation avoids future format wars and manufacturers stop offering chargers for their new devices.
However, in the short term, the law may have negative consequences. Anyone who has, for example, several chargers for their iPhone (to charge it in the living room, at work, and in the bedroom, among others) or those who have accessories equipped with a Lightning port (such as alarm clocks), in the morning when you can put your iPhone) you will have to change them. This is also an argument put forward by Apple to justify its opposition to the law. In its desire to reduce e-waste, the European Union is in danger of creating more of it.
This negative influence, however, would have taken place with or without the law. The Lightning port was indeed coming to an end: therefore, the losses caused by its obsolescence were inevitable. European law will only speed up this process. One thing is for sure: if you buy an accessory with a Lightning port, think twice and tell yourself that it may have a limited lifespan.
>> See also: Wireless charging: a waste of electricity