European lawmakers have voted by a margin of 602 to 13 in favor of a long-planned directive that will oblige manufacturers of phones, tablets and cameras to use a common charging standard, USB-C, by the end of 2024. The news was announced on Tuesday in a press release from the European Parliament.
The law also applies to headsets and headphones, sat navs, e-readers, mice, keyboards and portable game consoles and speakers. And for laptops, for that matter, although laptop manufacturers have more time to implement the change: for that category, the law will not come into force until the spring of 2026.
This has been in the works for a while. Preliminary approval was announced back in June, but the European Parliament advocated a common charger standard as early as 2014.
It’s worth noting that technically this law only applies to devices sold in the EU. But it’s highly unlikely that a phone manufacturer would choose to manufacture and sell two versions to offer USB-C in Europe and Lightning in the US, for example. Furthermore, US lawmakers themselves are working on legislation to make the same provision.
Unless it is able to lobby to overturn the law by the end of 2024, Apple now appears certain to adopt USB-C for its iPhones and iPads within the next two generations. But while we can debate cause and effect, it already looked likely. Sources report that the iPhone will switch to USB-C in 2023 and that AirPods cases will follow suit. The iPad has already begun the transition to USB-C, and there’s only one model left to make the switch, likely later this year.
The other option, especially for the iPhone, would be for Apple to skip the USB-C stage altogether and switch to a portless design that relies solely on wireless charging. However, it is debatable whether the company would be able to make a convincing case in favor of such a design: it would make waterproofing easier to guarantee, but iPhones are already very waterproof, and any gains in internal space (potentially filled with a larger battery cell or other component) would likely be outweighed in customers’ minds by the loss of what is still the fastest method of charging and transferring data to and from a phone.