Under new rules proposed by the European Commission, all portable electronics will have to use USB-C for wired charging.
The proposal also says that consumers should have the option to buy new devices without a charger, furthering the goal of reducing e-waste. If approved by the European Parliament—which seems likely—the rules would take effect within two years.
Much of the attention around the proposal has understandably fixated on Apple’s iPhones. While practically every new Android phone already includes a USB-C charging port, Apple still uses its proprietary Lightning connector for the iPhone, even as it’s moved to USB-C on MacBooks, higher-end iPads, and certain AirPods models.
But as my colleague Mark Sullivan has argued, Apple may already be moving toward an endgame in which the iPhone has no ports at all, relying only on wireless technology for charging and data transfer. The introduction of MagSafe wireless charging in the iPhone 12 seems like the strongest indicator yet of a port-free future for iPhones; the EU’s proposal may only accelerate it. (As The Verge reports, the rules wouldn’t apply to wireless charging systems.)
For that reason, the bigger impact in the EU’s proposal would be on all the other gadgets that it affects. The rules call for USB-C as the wired charging standard for all portable electronics, including tablets, portable speakers, cameras, and headphones. That should come as a huge relief to anyone who’s tired of juggling multiple cables for their myriad devices.
Just looking around through my gadget collection reveals lots of recently-launched devices that still use the older Micro USB standard, including several Roku players, a cheap pair of wireless Bluetooth earbuds, a Bluetooth speaker, and Amazon’s Kindle e-reader. My Blue Yeti microphone even uses the even older Mini USB standard, as does one of my mechanical keyboards.
With the exception of the Yeti, all of these devices launched after 2015, when USB-C first started arriving on new phones, computers, and peripherals. Roku’s new voice remote only launched five months ago, and still uses Micro-USB. It’s exasperating, and it definitely encourages more e-waste given the finnicky nature of Micro-USB cables. (I’ve had more than my fair share of cables fail to hold a connection after a couple years of steady use.)
USB-C enables faster charging, is easier to use thanks to its reversible connection, and in my experience is less prone to connection failure over time. While I’d like to see Apple embrace USB-C in future iPhones, it doesn’t strike me as an urgent problem given that Lightning has all the same benefits. But for everything else, a USB-C mandate can’t come soon enough.