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E.U. Seeks Common Charger for All Phones, Hurting Apple

  • September 23, 2021

“It kicks the battle between Apple and the European Union to the next level,” Mr. Ives said. “It’s like forcing Netflix to provide VCR screening alongside streaming.”

European Union officials and lawmakers at the European Parliament have been advocating a common charger since 2009, when there were more than 30 charging options on the market, now down to three. They have argued that fewer wires would be more convenient for users and better for the environment, as mobile phone chargers are estimated to be responsible for 11,000 tons of electronic waste per year across the bloc, according to estimates by the European Commission, the E.U.’s executive arm that presented the legislation on Thursday.

But Apple has also argued that if the European Union had imposed a common charger in 2009, it would have restricted innovation that led to USB-C and Lightning connectors. In a statement on Thursday, Apple said that although it welcomed the European Commission’s commitment to protecting the environment, it favored a charger-side solution that left the device-side of the charging interface open for innovation.

Mr. Breton said on Thursday that he was familiar with Apple’s concerns. “Every time we try to put a proposal, such companies start to say, ‘It will be against innovation,’” he said.

“It’s not at all against innovation, it’s not against anyone,” he added. “It’s for European consumers.”

Mr. Breton said manufacturers, including Apple, could choose to offer two charging ports on their devices if they wanted to keep a non-USB-C connector. But that is highly unlikely, as one of Apple’s main arguments in favor of its Lightning connector has been its small size on iPhones.

Critics have also charged that the European Union’s action is coming too late, because of the decline in the types of connectors in recent years. Half the charging cables sold with mobile phones in 2018 had a USB micro-B connector, while 29 percent had a USB-C and 21 percent a Lightning connector, according to study published by the European Commission in 2019. The share of USB-C charging ports is most likely to have since increased as most Android phones are now sold with it.

The European Commission said it would also require manufacturers to sell devices without chargers: If a bundled option remains available, an unbundled option of the same product would have to be offered, it said.

Adam Satariano contributed reporting.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/23/business/european-union-apple-charging-port.html

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