EU votes to adopt universal smartphone charging adapter

The EU just voted to approve legislation for a standard charging adapter.

There are plenty of things that differ between Android and iOS smartphones. In most cases, these small tweaks are actually things users like. For instance, Android owners can typically get away with using any USB-C charging cord if their phone was made within the last few years. On the other hand, iPhone owners must use Apple’s proprietary Lightning Connector.

Meanwhile, it is standard for smartphone makers to include a charging adapter in the box with every new gadget. This enables features like fast charging. Now, a landmark ruling from the European Union (EU) will force device makers to create a standard charging adapter as part of an effort to reduce e-waste.

Standardized Charging

The EU has been mulling over the idea of adopting a standard charging adapter for some time. In fact, the debate has been under discussion for more than 10 years. On Friday, the body voted strongly for legislation that will force manufacturers to conform to a standard. The vote was split 582 to 40.

The European Commission, who drafts EU laws, will have until July to determine exactly what the new legislation will look like. It will cover small gadgets like smartphones as well as medium-sized devices like iPads and e-readers.

Since Apple continues to rely on its Lightning Connector, it has the most to lose based on the new legislation. Fortunately for the Big Tech firm, it appears that the EU isn’t focusing on charging ports or cords so much as the adapters. This means that Apple might still be able to use its Lightning ports for charging. Meanwhile, Android phones will likely continue transitioning to USB-C charging ports.

For Apple, this might not be as big of a problem as it seems. Reports have already suggested that the company is ditching the Lightning port on some of its 2021 iPhone models in favor of wireless-only charging.

The bigger problem for the wider industry is the various fast charging standards that smartphone makers use. Most of these rely on special chips housed inside the adapter that comes with a new phone. Different manufacturers have their own protocols that don’t play nicely with other brands. So, moving to a standard charging adapter could be a challenge. Nonetheless, they may be forced to adjust quickly depending on the final results of the forthcoming EU legislation.

Addressing the E-waste Problem

Aside from making things more convenient for users, the EU is trying to start addressing the growing issue of e-waste. The organization estimates that we create more than 50 million metric tons of it every year around the world. That figure suggests each person is roughly responsible for 30 pounds of e-waste annually. Of course, it is skewed by the fact that a large percentage comes from businesses and not individuals.

Nonetheless, it is a problem that only continues to worsen as old technology ages and is replaced. Considering the fact that most people replace their smartphone every two or three years, they are adding to the e-waste statistics by tossing their old charging supplies.

Though it might be a hassle right now, and will cause headaches for device manufacturers, moving to a universal charging standard is probably a good thing. Just imagine being able to ask a friend with a different type of phone for a charger and knowing it will work.


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