The EU Wants All Phones to Work With Interoperable Chargers, Here’s What That Means for Apple’s Lightning Port

Despite pushback from Apple, the European Parliament in January voted overwhelmingly for new rules to establish a common charging standard for mobile device makers across the European Union. This article explores what form the EU laws might ultimately take and how they could affect Apple device users in Europe and elsewhere.


What Exactly is the EU Calling For?


To reduce cost, electronic waste and make consumers' lives easier, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) want "binding measures" that ensure chargers fit all smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices.

According to a 2019 impact assessment study on common chargers of portable devices conducted by the EU, almost a fifth of people surveyed reported having faced "significant issues" because of non-standard chargers. Such issues included incompatible chargers between devices, variable charging speeds between different chargers, and having to have several chargers available to cover all needs.

In addition, the EU claims that by agreeing on a common charger standard, it will put an end to charger clutter and 51,000 tons of electronic waste annually.

The recent 582-40 parliamentary vote in favor of a common charging standard came about because the European Commission's previous approach of merely "encouraging" tech companies to develop a standardized solution "fell short of the co-legislators' objectives," according to a briefing on the European Parliament website.


How Did the EC's Earlier Approach Play Out?


The European Commission's efforts to establish a common charging standard for smartphones span more than a decade. In 2009, the EC estimated that 500 million mobile phones were in use in all EU countries. It found that the chargers used often varied according to the manufacturer and model, and that more than 30 different types of chargers were on the market.

In a bid to harmonize standards, the EC negotiated a 2009 Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by 14 tech companies including Apple, Samsung, Nokia, and other prominent smartphone manufacturers.

According to the MoU, phone makers agreed to adopt a micro-USB connector standard for smartphone chargers in the European Union that would allow full charging compatibility with mobile phones to be placed on the market.

The plan was for new phones to be sold with micro-USB chargers for a period of time, after which phones and chargers would be sold separately in order to allow customers who already owned chargers to continue using their existing ones.

There was considerable speculation about whether Apple would be able to meet the requirements of the micro-USB standard. At the time, Apple used a proprietary 30-pin dock connector compatible with both the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

However, the wording of the MoU offered Apple a loophole: For those phones that did not have a USB micro-B interface, an adapter was allowed under the agreed terms. And that's exactly what Apple did. In 2012, Apple introduced the ‌iPhone‌ 5 with a new Lightning proprietary connector to replace its 30-pin connector, and additionally offered a separate Lightning to micro USB adapter to comply with the 2009 EU agreement.

Apple's micro-USB to Lightning adapter

Consequently, Apple ultimately wasn't required to abandon its proprietary connector or include a separate micro-USB interface directly on the device for charging purposes.

Why Was the 2009 MoU Considered a Failure?


A progress report provided by the MoU signatories in February 2013 indicated that 90 percent of the new devices placed on the market by the signatories and other manufacturers by the end of 2012 supported the common charging capability. But that statistic was so high only because it took into account the fact that Apple offered a Lightning to micro-USB adapter.

One member of the Commission would note: "The perception among the citizens and the European Parliament is that the common charger does not really exist, and looking at what we find among the most popular smartphones, we have to agree with them. The future MoU must be clear in its outcome, we cannot afford to admit adaptors."

The lack of progress frustrated the Commission, and in 2014, the European parliament passed the Radio Equipment Directive, which called for a "renewed effort to develop a common charger." The directive gave the commission the power to directly set technical standards by means of a delegated act – in this case, a legislative act implementing EU rules.

By 2016, the Commission acknowledged that micro-USB had become dated and that USB-C had become the de facto standard across most devices. The Commission was advised by MoU facilitators that all manufacturers were ready to sign a new agreement in line with different approaches but keeping the solution of using solely USB-C connectors – except Apple.


Why is Apple Against the Idea of a Common Charger?


In 2016, Apple supported the adoption of USB-C as a standardized interface at the power source (i.e. the charging plug), but remained against conforming to a standard on devices themselves. The company argued that conforming to a device-side standard would cost it up to €2 billion and hamper innovation, largely based on the claim that iPhones were too thin to house a USB-C port.

Apple even commissioned a study by Copenhagen Economics outlining the potential consumer harm from a mandatory move towards a common charger.

The study concluded that it would cost consumers €1.5 billion if common charger rules became law, outweighing the €13 million associated with environmental benefits. The study also claimed that 49 percent of EU households rely on different types of chargers, but only 0.4 percent of those households experience any significant issues.

Apple's stance on the issue left the Commission deadlocked, but in 2018 the Commission agreed to continue working with manufacturers in order to achieve a suitable voluntary agreement. However, a year later the Commission concluded that its previous voluntary approach and the new MoU still allowed manufacturers to use adaptors with proprietary solutions and would not result in full charger harmonization.


Where Does the EU Go From Here?


In response to the Commission's 2019 impact assessment on common chargers, Apple said regulations that would force all smartphones to have the same charging port would "freeze innovation," be "bad for the environment," and be "unnecessarily disruptive for customers."
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. We want to ensure that any new legislation will not result in the shipment of any unnecessary cables or external adaptors with every device, or render obsolete the devices and accessories used by many millions of Europeans and hundreds of millions of Apple customers worldwide. This would result in an unprecedented volume of electronic waste and greatly inconvenience users. To be forced to disrupt this huge market of customers will have consequences far beyond the stated aims of the Commission.
The EU parliament's January 2020 vote on the matter was overwhelmingly in favor of bringing in rules to standardize chargers, but the manner in which it plans to enforce them is anything but clear. The Commission's impact assessment laid out several possible options for the proposed legislation:

  • Option 0: Cables can have either a USB-C or a proprietary connector at the device end, and adapters continue to be available for purchase (the current status quo).

  • Option 1: Cables must have a USB-C port at the device end (effectively outlawing Apple's Lightning connector).

  • Option 2: Cables must have a USB-C port at the device end, or any manufacturers that wish to use a proprietary port on their device must include an adapter from USB-C to the proprietary connector (in Apple's case, a USB-C to Lightning adapter) plus a USB-C AC power plug.

  • Option 3: Cables can have either a USB-C or a proprietary connector at the device end. Manufacturers that choose to use a proprietary connector must include a USB-C AC power plug in the box (Apple provides a USB-C AC power plug, but the ‌iPhone‌ can continue to have a Lightning connector).

  • Option 4: All connectors at both the device-end and on the AC power plug must have USB-C interoperability (Apple must make USB-C chargers).

  • Option 5: All connectors at the device-end must be USB-C and manufacturers must include a new fast-charging 15W+ AC power plug (Apple must make a USB-PD-compliant power plug).
In considering wireless charging as a potential solution, the Commission concluded that it was an "incipient technology" with around 60 percent energy efficiency, whereas wired technologies are close to 100 percent efficiency.


Overall, the Commission's impact assessment suggests the most effective approach would be to pursue option 1 (common connectors) in combination with option 4 (interoperable external power supply). If the Commission were to go with this recommendation, Apple would no longer be able to make new mobile devices that use its proprietary Lightning connector. But whether the Commission accepts the recommendation of its impact assessment and enshrines it in EU law remains to be seen.

Can the Initiative Work?


The EU initiative aims to limit fragmentation of the charging solutions on the market without hampering future technological innovation. By standardizing chargers, it hopes to lower prices and increase quality, therefore reducing the presence of counterfeit chargers and increasing user safety.

It also expects a reduction/minimization of e-waste, by reducing the necessity to purchase different types of chargers and by giving the possibility to reuse already owned ones. This would also increase consumer convenience, argues the impact assessment, since users would be able to charge not only mobile phones "but potentially also other portable devices with a common cable (and charger), as well as being offered the option of retaining existing chargers and purchasing mobile phones without chargers for a lower price."


It is unknown whether any changes Apple might have to make to comply with the European regulations will also be made in other markets around the world, for financial or practical reasons. Regardless, however the proposed legislation plays out, all the signs are that Apple's stance will remain firm and it will continue to lobby against the EU's intention to regulate the market.

"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," said Apple following the recent parliamentary vote. "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."


This article, "The EU Wants All Phones to Work With Interoperable Chargers, Here’s What That Means for Apple's Lightning Port" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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Barclays: iPhone 12 Models Will Have ‘Refreshed’ Face ID System, Lightning Connector Could Be Dropped in 2021

iPhone 12 models will feature a "refreshed" front-facing TrueDepth system that benefits Apple supplier Lite-On Semiconductor, according to Barclays analysts Blayne Curtis, Thomas O'Malley, and Baylie Harri. This suggests that Face ID could be improved on iPhone 12 models, but no specific details were provided.


In a research note provided to MacRumors, the analysts added that the rear-facing camera system on iPhone 12 Pro models will feature 3D sensing based on a time-of-flight solution, as widely rumored. They also expect iPhone 12 Pro models to be equipped with 6GB of RAM, up from 4GB in iPhone 11 Pro models.

The biggest change of all could come next year, as the analysts said they see potential for Apple to remove the Lightning connector from at least one iPhone model in 2021, echoing a prediction shared by fellow analyst Ming-Chi Kuo last month. This could result in wired EarPods being removed from the box, they said.

Kuo has said that Apple plans to release five new iPhone models in 2020, including a lower-end "iPhone SE 2" or "iPhone 9" by the end of March and four higher-end, 5G-enabled models in the fall.

Related Roundup: iPhone 12

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2019 iPhones ‘Likely’ to Have Faster 18W Charger and Lightning to USB-C Cable in Box

Apple is widely expected to release three new iPhone models later this year, and each device will "likely" include a faster 18W USB-C power adapter and a Lightning to USB-C cable in the box, according to Japanese blog Mac Otakara.

18W USB-C power adapter bundled with 2018 iPad Pro, also sold separately

This rumor is a big "finally" if true. Despite adding fast charging support to the iPhone 8 and newer, allowing for a 50 percent charge in just 30 minutes via USB-C Power Delivery, Apple has continued to include the same old 5W power adapter and Lightning to USB-A cable with iPhones for many years.

For now, to take advantage of fast charging, customers have to spend a total of $48 to purchase a standalone 18W USB-C power adapter and Lightning to USB-C cable from Apple, although cheaper options are available on Amazon.

A bundled Lightning to USB-C cable would also mean that customers who paid at least $749 for a new iPhone would finally have a cable that connects with the latest MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro models out of the box.

Last year, we heard a similar rumor about Apple bundling a faster 18W USB-C power adapter with 2018 iPhones, but it ended up being for 2018 iPad Pro models. This is the second time Mac Otakara has shared this rumor in as many months, so hopefully there is truth to it this time around.

Mac Otakara also rehashes several other rumors we've heard before, including the next iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max having triple-lens rear cameras, and the next iPhone XR having a dual-lens rear camera. All three iPhones are also expected to feature two-way wireless charging like the Galaxy S10.

Related Roundup: 2019 iPhones

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MacRumors Readers Hoping for USB-C Instead of Lightning in 2019 iPhones

This morning, we asked our readers on Twitter if they'd prefer to see USB-C ports or Lightning ports in the 2019 iPhone lineup, and the results so far are clear -- MacRumors readers are ready to transition to USB-C.

With more than 15,000 responses across both platforms at the time this article was written, 74% of Twitter users have chosen USB-C over Lightning, as have 71% of Facebook users.


There have been some rumors suggesting Apple is at least considering transitioning to USB-C in the 2019 iPhone lineup, with USB-C prototypes supposedly floating around, but the most recent information from Japanese site Mac Otakara suggests Apple will continue to use Lightning for the 2019 iPhone lineup.


Given the mixed rumors, it's looking like we may not be seeing a shift to USB-C in 2019, but it's still possible, and the rumors are encouraging because it means we may see a transition away from Lightning in the near future. iPhones in 2020 or 2021 could feature USB-C, even if the 2019 iPhones don't.

Many current iPhone users may be reluctant to shift from Lightning ports because they've spent years collecting Lightning-based accessories, but there are some benefits to be aware of. With USB-C, iPhones would charge faster than with the current 5W iPhone adapter and Lightning cable setup, and cables would be interchangeable with cables for the MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and iPad lineup.

With USB-C support for the iPhone, a single cable could be used to charge all of the above listed devices, and existing power adapters for these devices would fast charge the iPhone, providing at least 50% power in 30 minutes and 80% power within an hour.


MacRumors readers on social networks have weighed in, but we also want to hear from those who are visiting the site. Our Twitter and Facebook polls are open for the rest of the day, so go vote! USB-C or Lightning?

Also, if you don't already, make sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, where we share news stories, polls, videos, tips and tricks, and other interesting Apple-related information.

Related Roundup: 2019 iPhones

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2019 iPhones Said to Keep Lightning Connector With Same Old 5W Charger and EarPods in Box

While it was recently reported that Apple has at least considered switching to USB-C on the iPhone, Japanese blog Mac Otakara believes that 2019 models will stick with the Lightning connector as a cost-saving measure.


Based on its conversations with various accessory manufacturers, the blog also predicts that 2019 iPhones will continue to be bundled with the same old 5W power adapter, forcing customers to spend extra on a faster charger like the 18W USB-C version that ships with the latest iPad Pro models.

Likewise, the blog predicts that 2019 iPhones will continue to ship with a Lightning to USB-A cable and Lightning-based EarPods.

Related Roundup: 2019 iPhones

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CES 2019: Griffin Releasing USB-C to Lightning Cables and Chargers Later This Year

Apple-certified accessory maker Griffin today at CES 2019 announced that it will be releasing a collection of USB-C to Lightning cables and power adapters for the latest Apple devices in the second quarter of 2019.


Griffin will offer basic USB-C to Lightning Cables in four-foot and six-foot sizes for $19.99 and $29.99 respectively in the United States, along with a five-foot option with a more premium braided aluminum design for $34.99. All three cables are pending certification under Apple's Made for iPhone program.

By comparison, Apple offers USB-C to Lightning cables in 3.2-foot and 6.5-foot sizes for $19 and $35 respectively in the United States.

In tandem, Griffin will be releasing three new PowerBlock and PowerJolt power adapters: a wall charger with an 18W USB-C port for $39.99, a wall charger with an 18W USB-C port and 12W USB-A port for $49.99, and a car charger with an 18W USB-C port for $39.99. Each comes with a USB-C to Lightning cable.

USB-C to Lightning cables and power adapters can be used with the 2018 iPad Pro and to fast charge the iPhone 8 and newer.

Last month, Apple informed members of its Made for iPhone program that third-party Lightning to USB-C cables are now permitted to be manufactured, and we're now seeing the first options from Griffin and Belkin and likely others.

The cables and power adapters will be available on Griffin's website.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Griffin. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission, which helps us keep the site running.



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Apple-Certified Third-Party Lightning to USB-C Cables Expected Early Next Year

Apple-certified Lightning to USB-C cables should be available from select third-party accessory makers starting early next year.


Last week, Apple informed members of its Made for iPhone or "MFi" licensing program that Lightning to USB-C cables for charging and syncing are now permitted to be manufactured. These cables require a new Lightning connector with part number C94, which Made for iPhone program members can now order.

Apple is selling the new Lightning connector to eligible hardware manufacturers for $2.88 per, and it is estimated to ship in six weeks, according to documentation shared with MacRumors by Hong Kong website ChargerLab.



This means that third-party accessory makers enrolled in the Made for iPhone program, such as Anker, Aukey, Belkin, and Incipio, should have the part necessary to create MFi-certified Lightning to USB-C cables by mid-January and, allowing time for production, could be available to purchase by February or March.

A Lightning to USB-C cable is required to fast charge the iPhone 8 and newer with an 18W-plus power adapter. Otherwise, the new C94 connector is expected to provide a maximum of 15W of power with a standard power adapter.

Apple is currently the only retailer of certified Lightning to USB-C cables at a cost of $19 for the one-meter option and $35 for two-meters in the United States. The one-meter cable was originally $25, but it received a price cut in November 2016 alongside some of Apple's other USB-C adapters and cables.

The biggest advantage to third-party Lightning to USB-C cables is that many will likely be significantly less expensive than Apple's own, while still meeting Apple performance standards under the Made for iPhone program. Many third-party options will likely have more durable designs too, such as a braided cable.

Apple first informed its Made for iPhone program members about its plans to allow third-party Lightning to USB-C cables earlier this year.


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Apple Will Soon Let Hardware Developers Make MFi-Certified USB-C to Lightning Cables

Apple will soon allow hardware developers to manufacture Made for iPhone (MFi) certified USB-C to Lightning cables, reports Japanese site Mac Otakara. Apple is said to have recently informed developers who participate in the MFi program about the change.

Right now, there are no Apple-approved USB-C to Lightning cables available for purchase, which means customers who want a USB-C to Lightning cable must purchase one directly from Apple for $19. With the new MFi update, third-party hardware manufacturers will be able to create USB-C to Lightning cables.


These cables are necessary for fast charging the iPhone X, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and Apple's upcoming 2018 iPhones when paired with an 18W+ power adapter.

Rumors have suggested that Apple is planning to ship its 2018 iPhones with an upgraded power adapter and a USB-C to Lightning cable, enabling fast charging right out of the box with no need to make an additional purchase.

The approval of Made for iPhone USB-C to Lightning cables indicates that this rumor could be true, with Apple and third-party manufacturers starting to make a shift from standard USB-A Lightning cables to the new fast charge compatible USB-C version.

According to Mac Otakara, developers who want to manufacture a Lightning to USB-C cable will need to use a new C94 Lightning connector provided by Apple, which offers a maximum of 15W of charging with a non-fast charging compatible power adapter and 18W with a compatible power adapter.

Apple has also upgraded its other Lightning connectors, charging about 50 cents more for the new technology.
Apple plans to move C48 Lightning connector to C89 Lightning connector, C68 Lightning connector to C78 Lightning connector, ​​C12 Lightning connector to C79 Lightning connector, the price will also be about $ 0.5 higher.
Mac Otakara expects the first third-party USB-C to Lightning cables to start appearing in mid-2019.


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Gurman: Apple Considered Removing Lightning Connector on iPhone X

As a side note in his report about technical challenges facing the AirPower, expected to be released by September, well-connected reporter Mark Gurman also noted that Apple considered removing wired charging from the iPhone X.


From his Bloomberg News story:
During the development of the iPhone X, Apple weighed removing the wired charging system entirely. That wasn't feasible at the time because wireless charging was still slower than traditional methods. Including a wireless charger with new iPhones would also significantly raise the price of the phones.
Just to be absolutely clear, Gurman confirmed to me that this would have included removing the Lightning connector from the device. In fact, his report notes that Apple designers eventually hope to "remove most of the external ports and buttons on the iPhone," although this is likely multiple years away.

A few years ago, it was reported that Apple's design chief Jony Ive's end goal is for the iPhone to resemble a "single sheet of glass," while Apple has repeatedly expressed its ambitions to "create a wireless future," so the eventual removal of the Lightning connector should perhaps come as no surprise.

Apple is already well on its way towards that wireless future, with products and technologies ranging from AirPods and AirPower to its W1 and W2 wireless chips. Apple also made the controversial decision to remove the headphone jack from iPhone 7 models a few years ago, pushing users towards wireless earphones.

Still, removing the Lightning connector would certainly be another controversial decision, given it is not only used for wired charging, but also for audio and data transfer, such as syncing an iPhone with iTunes on a Mac or PC.

Removing the Lightning connector would also prevent an iPhone from directly connecting to a wide range of peripherals, including many adapters, docks, battery cases, power banks, keyboards, game controllers, audio cables, wired headphones, and other accessories authorized under Apple's MFi Program.

In many cases, however, wireless alternatives would be available. It's possible to sync an iPhone with iTunes over Wi-Fi, for example, while wired headphone users can go wireless, Bluetooth-enabled game controllers are available, and upright-positioned wireless chargers can double as a docking station.

Of course, there would be some friction with this transition, just like when Apple switched from its 30-pin dock connector to Lightning in 2012, and removed the headphone jack on the iPhone 7. In both of those cases, however, the controversy eventually died down as many users came to accept the new reality.

It's also worth noting that Apple considers a lot of different ideas internally that might never materialize in a public-facing product.

At this point, it appears like the Lightning connector on iPhones should live on for at least a few years. Rumors suggest Apple will bundle a faster 18W charger with a USB-C port with iPhones released in 2018, which would connect to the devices with a Lightning to USB-C cable included in the box.


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DigiTimes Vaguely Says 2019 iPhones Are ‘Likely to Support USB-C’

Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes has published a report today claiming that 2019 iPhones will come with USB-C support, but the vague wording makes it hard to decipher what they are referring to exactly.


Cage Chao and Jessie Shen, citing sources within Apple's supply chain:
Apple is redesigning chargers and related interface for its next-generation iPhone and iPad devices, and will likely have its 2019 series of iPhones come with USB Type-C support, according to sources at analog IC vendors.
The flashiest take would be that Apple is planning to remove its Lightning connector from iPhones, in favor of a more universally adopted USB-C port, but that perennial rumor has been proven incorrect time and time again.

A similarly vague report from The Wall Street Journal last year ignited speculation that the iPhone X would have a USB-C port, for example, but oft-reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo accurately said 2017 iPhones would retain Lightning connectors, with added support for fast charging via USB-C Power Delivery.

Given the unlikely possibility of a wholesale switch from Lightning to USB-C, and that the latest iPhones already support USB-C fast charging, the report could be referring to the type of power adapter included in the box.

The report adds:
Speculation circulated previously in the smartphone market that Apple would adopt Type-C interface in its next-generation iPhone series slated for launch later in 2018. Apple is still in its redesign phase and will not be able to equip the technology in its upcoming iPhones, the sources claimed.
The speculation mentioned in the report likely refers to a pair of rumors that have suggested 2018 iPhones will include an 18W USB-C charger and a Lightning to USB-C cable in the box, enabling much faster charging speeds than the tiny square-shaped 5W power adapter included with current iPhones.

In the end, this report could merely be suggesting that Apple will not bundle an 18W power adapter and Lightning to USB-C cable with iPhones until 2019, rather than this year. But, without further details, it is open to interpretation.

A transition to USB-C could make sense if Apple wants to use one standard across its MacBooks, iPhones, and iPads, but with Apple pushing towards a wireless future, it's unclear if the controversy of switching to USB-C would be worthwhile considering the Lightning connector might be removed entirely down the road.

It's worth noting that DigiTimes has a rather mixed track record at reporting on Apple's roadmap. The website claimed that Apple's AirPower charging mat would be available in March, and said a second-generation iPhone SE would launch in May or June, but neither release date proved to be accurate.

At this point, this report should be treated with some skepticism until DigiTimes provides more specific details, or the information is backed up by a more reliable source such as Kuo, who recently returned to the scene.


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