EU lawmakers vote for one charging standard, may upend Apple’s Lightning plans

While the most of us are fairly used to the idea of receiving a new charging cable with our phone, making the switch from MicroUSB to USB Type-C (or from either to Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector) can be difficult as well as an expensive excercise depending on the number of peripherals we have.

Now, the Members of the European Parliament have settled an age-old topic with a resolution that may bind device manufacturers to one specific charging standard should they wish to sell their products within the Eurozone. Crucially, given the number of Android devices using either MicroUSD or USB Type-C connections, the move may have massive implications for Apple, given that the Cupertino company is the only firm to use its proprietary connector.

In a statement to the press, the European Parliament confirmed that its members “voted by 582-40 for a resolution urging the European Commission, which drafts EU laws, to ensure that EU consumers are no longer obliged to buy new chargers with each new device.”

The announcement added that “the resolution said voluntary agreements in the industry had significantly reduced the number of charger types, but had not resulted in one common standard” – though, importantly, the development only applied to a charging cable (a connector) and not to an external power supply. 

A news clipping from the European Parliament clarified that “in summary, the most effective approach to addressing the consumer inconvenience that results from the continued existence of different (albeit mostly interoperable) charging solutions would be to pursue option 1 (common connectors) in combination with option 4 (interoperable external power supply).”

The move might solidify Apple’s intention to discard Lightning in favour of a universal USB Type-C connector. While the company has largely pivoted its broader range of devices to USB Type-C, its iPhone and iPad line (in addition to the iPod Touch) still make use of Lightning.

In a statement to the press, an Apple spokesperson outlined that the company does not believe that industry regulation around connectors will yield any significant benefit, and might stifle competition.

The full release reads:

“Apple stands for innovation and deeply cares about the customer experience. We believe regulation that forces conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, and would harm consumers in Europe and the economy as a whole.

More than 1 billion Apple devices have shipped using a Lightning connector in addition to an entire ecosystem of accessory and device manufacturers who use Lightning to serve our collective customers. Legislation would have a direct negative impact by disrupting the hundreds of millions of active devices and accessories used by our European customers and even more Apple customers worldwide, creating an unprecedented volume of electronic waste and greatly inconveniencing users.

We do not believe there is a case for regulation given the industry is already moving to the use of USB Type-C through a connector or cable assembly. This includes Apple’s USB-C power adapter which is compatible with all iPhone and iPad devices. This approach is more affordable and convenient for consumers, enables charging for a wide range of portable electronic products, encourages people to re-use their charger and allows for innovation.

Prior to 2009, the Commission considered mandating that all smartphones use only USB Micro-B connectors which would have restricted the advancement to Lightning and USB Type-C. Instead, the Commission established a voluntary, industry standards-based approach that saw the market shift from 30 chargers down to 3, soon to be two — Lightning and USB-C, showing this approach does work.

We hope the Commission will continue to seek a solution that does not restrict the industry’s ability to innovate and bring exciting new technology to customers.”

What are your thoughts? Would you be in favour of one universal charging standard? Be sure to let us know your opinion in the comments below.