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Explainer: What EU’s common charging norms mean for Apple

Apple must change the connector on iPhones sold in Europe by 2024 after EU lawmakers agreed to a common USB type-C cable for phones and other gadgets

FILE PHOTO: USB-C to Lightning Cable adapters are seen at a new Apple store in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., October 19, 2017. REUTERS/John Gress/File Photo (REUTERS)

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European Union (EU) officials said they inked a provisional agreement Tuesday that will require a uniform battery charging cord in the 27-nation bloc. It's part of a wider effort to make products sold in the EU more sustainable and cut down on electronic waste.

According to a report in the Associated Press (AP), the rules apply only to devices sold in the European single market, which consists of 30 countries. However, like the EU’s strict privacy regulations, they could end up becoming a de facto standard for the rest of the world. While many electronics makers have started adopting USB-C sockets into their devices, Apple has been one of the main holdouts.

Here's a look at some key pointers and what it could mean for the likes of Apple and other electronics manufacturers.

What are these new rules?

The new rules mean EU consumers will only need to use a common USB Type-C cable for small and medium-sized rechargeable, portable electronic devices. EU member states and MEPs believe a standard cable for all devices will cut back on electronic waste, an AFP report explains.

What devices will fall under this new USB-C rule?

The devices covered include mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, earbuds, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld videogame consoles, keyboards and mice, portable speakers and navigation devices. Laptops also are covered, but manufacturers will have extra time to comply, the AP report adds.

When do these new rules come in to effect?

For most portable devices the requirement for charging via a USB Type-C port will come into effect from late 2024. The decision will be formally ratified by European Parliament and among EU member states later this year before entering into effect, the AFP report explains.

How does Apple get affected by this new rule?

Apple has previously said it is concerned these rules would limit innovation and hurt consumers, the AP report explains. The company's iPhones come with its own ‘Lightning’ charging port, though some newer models include cables that can be plugged into a USB-C socket. Most Android smartphones and devices come with USB-C connectors.

The Cupertino-based company must now essentially change the connector on iPhones sold in Europe by 2024. But could this be a bad move at all? A recent Reuters report, based on comments from analysts, said the move could become a sales driver for Apple in 2024, encouraging more Europeans to buy the latest gadgets instead of ones without USB-C. Moreover, a Bloomberg report last month had said that Apple was already working on an iPhone with a USB-C charging port that could debut in 2023.

Is electronic waste – or e-waste –  such a massive problem?

According to the AP report, the EU estimates that disposed or unused chargers account for 11,000 metric tonnes of e-waste in Europe every year. Globally, the amount of e-waste generated has been surging in recent years. A record 53.6 million metric tonnes of electronic waste was generated worldwide in 2019, up 21 percent in just five years, according to the UN’s Global E-waste Monitor 2020 report. The report also predicted that global e-waste (discarded products with a battery or electrical plug) will reach 74 metric tonnes by 2030.

Also read: Is a personalised lock-screen the best Apple can offer in iOS 16?

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