European Union adopts USB-C port for mobile phones

The bottom of an Apple iPhone with an exposed Lightning connector port.
(Stock image, Graphic by The Desk)

A new law in the European Union will force phone, tablet and camera manufacturers to offer a USB-C port for power and charging as a condition of sale in member countries.

This week, officials with the European Union said its Radio Equipment Directive had been modified to require USB-C ports on all mobile devices starting in late 2024.

“Under the new rules, consumers will no longer need a different charging device and cable every time they purchase a new device, and can use one single charger for all of their small and medium-sized portable electronic devices,” a spokesperson for the European Parliament said in a press release.

The rule would also apply to electronic books, headphones, earbuds, portable video game consoles and portable speakers that are sold in European Union member countries. Laptops and netbooks will be governed by the same requirement by 2028, officials said.

The move is intended to help reduce electronic waste and streamline consumer choices in the European Union. Officials who support the measure said it will help products be “more sustainable” and eliminate the need to carry around multiple cables with different connection standards simply to charge a device.

Many electronics already feature USB-C ports for power, re-charging and data transfers, including headphones and popular Android phones.

Apple’s line of iPhones are expected to see the most impact by the new regulation: While Apple sells USB-C charging bricks and offers the port on its laptops and tablets, iPhones still use a proprietary port — which Apple calls Lightning — for power and data transfer.

Apple has yet to say how its future iPhone line will comply with the forthcoming European law. A spokesperson for the company said Apple shared the European Union’s desire for more global sustainability, but felt forcing companies to use a standard port “stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world.”

A recent report by Bloomberg indicated the electronics company is already quietly testing iPhones that are powered by USB-C ports.

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