Setting the standards

The European Union is putting its weight behind a single charging port standard. Good news for the environment, except for the billions of cables that will become obsolete.

01 December 2022

There were 602 votes in favour, 13 votes against, and eight abstentions, which is about as definitive as parliamentary decisions get. This wasn't a vote to relieve child hunger or increase ministers’ pay – it was to codify a standard for charging cables. The European Parliament has decreed that by the end of 2024, most small electronic devices sold in the EU, such as smartphones and tablets, must use the same standard port for charging – the USB-C.

This may seem like a bizarrely inconsequential decision, but it has enormous downstream effects on the billions of devices sold around the world each year, and on tens of thousands of companies of all sizes. Apple, for example, is rumoured to already be retooling its next line of iPhones (the 15, launching in late 2023) to use the port. The iPhone vendor is highly unlikely to maintain two different charging standards for its devices, which means several billion Lightning charging cables (the Apple standard since 2012) are about to become obsolete.

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