Earlier this year, after an almost ten-year period of fear, the European Parliament approved binding plans for a Europe-wide charging standard. But what does this actually mean? Well, it's complicated, but it can have consequences far beyond Europe.
What does the EU do?
The reporting on this subject is confusing. For example, an article about The Verge originally argued that the EU did not focus on Apple's Lightning connector, but simply wanted to use USB-C chargers ̵
We do not yet know exactly what the EU needs. It may be that Apple will replace the Lightning connector on iPhones sold in the EU with USB-C. Apple is certainly concerned about that possibility.
What we do know is that the proposal, which was adopted with overwhelming support, will ultimately require that all devices sold within the 27-person EU block use the same charging technology. When implemented, it will affect everyone, not just those living in one of the 27 EU countries. We will explain why.
From cables and commissions
Before we can comment on the flesh of the plans, some background regarding what has led to the latest proposals from the European Commission is necessary.
This is not the first time the EU has focused on mobile charging technology. It has been a persistent pet for the European Commission, which has been calling for a common standard in the block for the past ten years
The issue raised its thorny head for the first time in 2011, when features (or "stupid") telephones always part of the mobile landscape. At the time, it was not uncommon for manufacturers to use their own chargers in their handsets that were not compatible with each other.
For example, a Sony Ericsson charger did not work with a Nokia phone. Similarly, an Alcatel plug did not work with a Samsung phone.
There were a few problems with it. Firstly, it was difficult for consumers who (at a given moment) had to contend with 30 different charging standards. Secondly, it produced an enormous amount of waste. Every time you switched phones, your old charger became outdated and almost certainly ended up in a landfill.
The rapid rise of ubiquitous smartphones solved this problem. They largely relocated functional telephones for ordinary consumers and united around the micro-USB standard. By 2013, 90 percent of all telephone suppliers had switched to micro-USB.
The only outlier was, of course, Apple, which has always preferred internal standards. iPhones and other various devices used the 30-pin format before Apple switched to the smaller Lightning port in 2012.
In 2018, the former European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, launched an investigation into the state of loading standards for producing concrete, Rules for the whole of Europe.
So what led the committee to reconsider the problem?
Some devices still hold to the aging micro-USB standard, while others use USB-C. And yes, Lightning is still a thing on Apple devices.
Meanwhile, there is often an unprecedented amount of variation within the USB-C sphere. Some phones support fast charging, others not. Some cables support USB-C PD, others do not. And for that matter it is USB-C or Thunderbolt?
RELATED: USB Type-C explained: What is USB-C and why will you want it  What the EU wants to achieve
The European Parliament ordered the executive element of the government of the bloc, the European Commission, to take action on this point by July 2020. It already has the power to achieve this thanks to the Radio Equipment Directive, which was adopted in 2014.
If the European Commission fails to reach a solid plan, the commission has ordered a tailor-made piece of legislation, which it will then vote on.
The European Parliament's proposals do not give a mandate or condemnation for a particular piece of technology, nor do they explicitly endorse USB-C or Lightning. However, since USB-C is the current power and data transfer standard used by many manufacturers, it is pretty clear where the chips will fall.
Of course, the common loading standard is likely to change over the years. Parliament has explicitly called for measures to allow regular review of the rules to ensure that the EU keeps pace with technology.
The EU will also introduce measures to ensure the interoperability of wireless charging systems in the coming years. This movement does not solve any real existing problems – wireless charging has become more standardized over time, but is rather a protective mechanism for the future. The European Parliament is concerned about a possible future schism.
The prospect of telephone manufacturers to "unbundle" chargers and cables from their devices is another problem that the EU wants to investigate. The intention is to reduce the amount of electronic waste produced by the mobile industry. If you already have a phone with a working charger, you don't necessarily need one.
The proposal also takes into account the end of the life cycle of charging and aims to make it easier for people to recycle their broken or outdated cables and plugs.
What does this mean for the rest of the world?
EU legislation is only binding on its member states and associated countries of the European Economic Area. As a bloc, however, the EU is sufficiently rich and large enough to influence countries far beyond its borders. It contains some of & # 39; the world's most important consumer technology markets, including France, Germany, Spain and Italy.
In most cases it makes sense for telephone manufacturers to conform to the hitherto unpublished EU standard so that they can sell their products globally, even in markets that do not require this. However, it is also possible that manufacturers follow precedent and make EU-specific versions of their phones. Apple has produced a dual-sim version of the iPhone in China and Hong Kong for several years. Samsung has also supplied more esoteric devices, such as the Galaxy J2 DTV, to Asian markets.
Only time will tell, but these proposals may be a bit tight. Although USB-C fragmentation is a real problem, it is rumored that Apple may be leaving Lightning for its smartphones.
We have seen the landslide at Cupertino. The largest consumer technology company in the world now uses USB-C to charge its new MacBooks and iPad Pro devices.
We do not yet know which charging standard the EU requires or how Apple will respond. However, despite what you could read online, the Lightning connector on iPhones is a potential target.