USB-C on iPhone is good - but not as an excuse for a bad law

Posted:
in iPhone edited October 8
A single charger for a modern set of iPhone and iPad would be great, but the way the EU has decided to force the issue is short-sighted and its law is a poor compromise.




The European Union is, in theory, a force for good across Europe -- just ask anyone in Britain now they've found out how much the EU used to do for that country. But it is still a political bureaucracy and it is still capable of making incredibly poor decisions, such as its new requirement for USB-C.

Apple protested the plan, and lost anyway. It can still turn this from a defeat into a possibility of a win.

Decisions and the short term

What the new law was specifically created to do was to reduce the amount of electronics or e-waste being created by there being a range of incompatible chargers. Users might get a new charger with a new phone, they might buy a new one when they change phones, but either way, there's a lot of chargers in the world, and a lot of cables.

That was another issue, the surfeit of chargers and cables that EU lawmakers complain are incompatible. According to them, people are so incompetent, that borrowing a friend's charger will indubitably suffer from the scourge of incompatibility. As well as e-waste, then, the EU wants to relieve the populace of this burden, by legislating any inconvenience over chargers out of existence.

It may succeed in one of those. If all goes to the EU's plan, and its timetable, then at some point no new smartphone user will need think about what cable they need.

Except the EU expects companies to move to USB-C and for this to remove user confusion. Even now, though, USB-C is already a confusing mess of speeds and standards, and that isn't going to improve just because the USB-C governing body really wants every firm to label their cables better.

Admittedly, it's less of an issue on mobile given the relatively lower power demands. Still, that labeling and lack of clarity on what cable can do what will make a difference to folks trying to transfer data across the cable to or from the device.

And of course as Apple itself has pointed out, the EU law will create more e-waste in the short term.

For instance, accessories that use Lightning cables do get a pass because they were bought before the law comes into force. Yet if users have moved to USB-C cables by then, they'll either end up discarding the accessories and creating more e-waste, or they'll continue having the confusion of incompatible cables for a long time.

There is an argument that an increase in e-waste in the short term is worth it if it means we never again see the current volumes of it. If we accept an e-waste rise today, maybe tomorrow things will settle down to better than they were.

The trouble with this is that, even if correct, it will take years before we can see a real reduction in e-waste, because Lightning and Lightning accessories are everywhere. To see an older example of this, every thrift store that we've been in for the last five years has been awash with 30-pin clocks and the like.

It's no longer a short-term issue then, it's long term - and long term has its own problems.

Long term problems

Lightning was better than the old 30-pin charging standard and, for most situations, USB-C is better than Lightning. Each was excellent in its day, but days pass. USB-C could at some point be superseded by a charging cable standard that is dramatically be better and it seems that's going to be tough luck.

USB-C is 10 years old. At about the same time that USB-C launched, there were movements to standardize on micro USB.

The EU has stated that its new law is a "future proof" one, and it has explicitly said that it "allows for the development of innovative charging solutions in the future." But the law is predicated on USB-C and all references to future technologies are feeble.

Chiefly, the full working EU document makes gestures toward how future technologies could be negotiated, and then keeps presuming that future options will be wireless. Specifically, the EU refers repeatedly to a need to "harmonize interoperability requirements" for wireless charging -- meaning that it isn't covered under this law yet.

That would suggest that there would have to be a new law covering wireless, and given how the new wired one has taken a decade to reach this stage, it could be in the 2030s before there is one.

Plus there is already a harmonized wireless standardard. It's called Qi, and even Apple's own MagSafe is based on it.

So a new law about a common wireless charging standard would be pointless, yet the EU continues to press for it. Money will be spent, legislative time will be spent, research will be undertaken, and it will be years of totally worthless time wasting.

There are parts of the new law that feel like they could either be down to the lawmakers being technologically uninformed, or more likely that they've been negotiated down through politics. Using this new law to lead into one about wireless charging is simply ignorant.

It's all about the charging port
It's all about the charging port

Apple's issue

The EU did not explicitly target Apple with its new law, but it might as well have, because it is the company most affected by it. As well as the iPhone, the EU law covers devices such as keyboards, trackpads, and mice that Apple currently uses Lightning for.

Apple could drag its feet and perhaps pay fines, but at some point it will have to adopt USB-C on iPhones -- unless it goes for an all-wireless edition first. On the other hand, it's hard to ever see the Apple Magic Trackpad becoming wireless, but it too -- if it ever gets a new version -- will have to be USB-C.

What's easier to see is Apple taking advantage of another aspect of this new law. It might have to be challenged in court eventually, but strictly speaking the new law appears to mean Apple could stop including charging cables with iPhones.

The company has already stopped including chargers, but it could now remove the included cable. It could switch the iPhone to USB-C and then not include a USB-C cable, instead making it a separate purchase.

That might even count as good in the eyes of the EU, who might argue that people will therefore only get new cables because they elect to buy them.

And it would benefit Apple financially because losing the cable means a yet smaller box, after the cut in size after it stopped supplying an AC to USB charger. Apple saves on the size of packaging, and the weight, even by ounces, so therefore it saves a lot on transport costs.

Apple could conceivably produce a Lightning to USB-C adapter that it then sells separately, with the cable and charger. There is precedent for this as until a change in the law, the French government made Apple bundle wired headphones.

Depending on how it was bundled with the iPhone, a separate charger and cable could meet the law's requirements in Europe, make Apple some extra cash, and not mean a change for anywhere else in the world.

USB-C iPhones in America

Possibly, Apple could carry on using a Lightning port for the US and everywhere else but the EU. It's perhaps more likely that Apple would move all its iPhones to USB-C for the iPhone 16 -- although America's closest bill to this new EU law does not specify USB-C. Still, no company wants to have to produce different versions of its hardware products in different countries, but many do -- and Apple already chooses to.

Apple is even increasing how much it does that, with European iPhones lacking mmWave 5G, for instance, and now US models abandoning the SIM -- and the SIM tray.

But if Apple does elect to make a US iPhone with USB-C charging, it also has the political advantage that it can say it's all the EU's fault. Hopefully Apple is too classy to do that, and anyway it's not very persuasive argument outside of the EU, but it's possible.

So Apple could dodge some of the regular criticism it gets about proprietary cables. Apple could possibly make some money out of bundling chargers and cables separate, plus it would then also save on freight costs.

It's not as if Apple will relish this new law. The new law in the EU is both a short-term and long-term lemon, yet it's possible Apple will make a little lemonade.

Read on AppleInsider
dewmegilly33strongy
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 81
    sirdirsirdir Posts: 144member
    Sure, but without the bad law we would never get it. And if Apple hadn’t dragged their feet, we wouldn’t have the bad law.
    caladanianmiguelghslkruppWhiskeyAPPLEcideralgrwilliamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 81
    xiao-zhixiao-zhi Posts: 109member
    THEY HATE OUR FREEDOMS 🤬
    watto_cobraselleringtonwilliamlondon
  • Reply 3 of 81
    xiao-zhi said:
    THEY HATE OUR FREEDOMS 🤬
    Lol. Yeah, right. 
  • Reply 4 of 81
    MadbumMadbum Posts: 305member
    The EU is a Un -elected group of bureaucrats

    but they act like communists  
    edited October 7 lkruppwatto_cobraselleringtonstrongyelijahgsteven n.williamlondon
  • Reply 5 of 81
    This article is wrong in so many levels. I keep seeing media and blogs obsessing about Apple but what they fail to see is that I have to keep a cable for my phone, a cable for my headphones, a cable for my computer, a cable for my watch, a cable for my tablet, etc etc… and as me, there’s many others. 

    I wish this law was approved many years ago and we wouldn’t have to deal with this mess. 
    netroxWhiskeyAPPLEciderHedwaremichelb76muthuk_vanalingamalgr
  • Reply 6 of 81
    This is a disappointing article.

    Let’s just start with the simple truth: a tech behemoth is STILL using an ancient standard they once invented that is slow and forces us to deal with many cables, and refuses to change.

    Even more so, this behemoth is using both standards throughout their own product portfolio for several years now. It’s highly inconsistent. Their new AirPods Pro still have the lighting cable. Their iPads: USB-C. Why? Why??? The argument of “more e-waste short-term” is a moot point since it’s already the case today - Apple designed it.

    Secondly, there is nothing that prevents the EU from amending their own laws with the acceptance of a future standard, granted it actually IS a new standard (not another propriety AppleConnector or SamsungSpeedyCable).

    EU was very slow with this law - it took years and years. Apple had even more time to prepare for the inevitable, seeing this law being drafted. If they were truly innovative in this respect (because they argue it blocks innovation, right?), they would have abandoned Lightning years ago for a true standard or join a consortium for the USB-C follow-up. 
    Instead, their arrogance and priority to keep a profitable business around cables alive kept them on this course. Sustainable products my ass - that’s just marketing. 

    And what about this pretentious introduction in respect to the EU? The author has clearly no understanding because it dramatizes this topic so much that it apparently needs to emphasize the EU is “political bureaucracy”. Even if that’s true, it’s so juvenile in how it’s worded.
    edited October 7 miguelghscaladanianWhiskeyAPPLEcidermichelb76HobeSoundDarrylmazda 3smuthuk_vanalingamalgrafterhourswilliamlondon
  • Reply 7 of 81
    Piss off the EU by suppling a lightning to usb-c adapter with an iPhone purchase. 
    baconstangAnilu_777watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 81
    macminion said:
    Piss off the EU by suppling a lightning to usb-c adapter with an iPhone purchase. 
    Not possible. Covered by the law already. 
    caladanianlkruppmuthuk_vanalingamFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 9 of 81
    XedXed Posts: 1,521member
    This is a disappointing article.

    Let’s just start with the simple truth: a tech behemoth is STILL using an ancient standard they once invented that is slow and forces us to deal with many cables, and refuses to change.

    Even this behemoth is using both standards throughout their own product portfolio for several years now. It’s highly inconsistent. Their new AirPods Pro still have the lighting cable. Their iPads: USB-C. Why? Why??? The argument of “more e-waste short-term” is a moot point since it’s already the case today - Apple designed it.

    Secondly, there is nothing that prohibits the EU from amending their own laws with the acceptance of a future standard, granted they actually ARE a new standard (not another propriety AppleConnector 2.0 or SamsungSpeedyCable).

    EU was very slow with this law - it took years and years. Apple had even more time to prepare for the inevitable seeing this law being drafted. If they were truly innovative in this respect, they would have abandoned Lightning years ago for a true standard. Instead their arrogance and priority to keep a profitable business around cables alive kept them on this course (sustainable company my ass - that’s just marketing).

    And what about this pretentious introduction in respect to the EU. The author has clearly no understanding because it dramatizes this topic so much that it apparently needs to emphasize the EU is “political bureaucracy”. It’s so juvenile.
    You mean the tech behemoth that used the same 30-pin Dock Connector for a decade before replacing it with the Lightning connector that they used for another decade? Are you really too young to remember the many retail display stands that had nothing but phone chargers that included PSUs fused with the cable that varied not only by manufacture, but also model number? Even the original iPod had the PSU and cable as separate elements. I remember having a Sony cell phone that I replaced with a newer model of the same series that didn't use the same charging setup. Hate all you want, but no company has been more consistent with their cables than Apple over the decades.
    diz_geekbaconstangthtAnilu_777sireofsethstompywatto_cobragilly33mattinozStationGrey
  • Reply 10 of 81
    “The European Union is, in theory, a force for good across Europe -- just ask anyone in Britain now they've found out how much the EU used to do for that country.” This is a joke? The EU is a bureaucratic nightmare. All they do is come up with pathetic legislation such as cookie consent notices. The user experience of browsing the web is worse than ever. Even if you only spend a tiny amount of time online, it’s impossible to escape cookie consent notices. They’re the intrusive banners and blocks that appear each time you visit a new website that collects data about you through cookies. Each is asking the same question: will you allow this website to collect your information?

    I am glad to be out of the EU. Unfortunately we still suffer their nonsense.
    watto_cobrastrongysaarekwilliamlondon
  • Reply 11 of 81
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,553administrator
    This is a disappointing article.

    Let’s just start with the simple truth: a tech behemoth is STILL using an ancient standard they once invented that is slow and forces us to deal with many cables, and refuses to change.

    Even this behemoth is using both standards throughout their own product portfolio for several years now. It’s highly inconsistent. Their new AirPods Pro still have the lighting cable. Their iPads: USB-C. Why? Why??? The argument of “more e-waste short-term” is a moot point since it’s already the case today - Apple designed it.

    Secondly, there is nothing that prohibits the EU from amending their own laws with the acceptance of a future standard, granted they actually ARE a new standard (not another propriety AppleConnector 2.0 or SamsungSpeedyCable).

    EU was very slow with this law - it took years and years. Apple had even more time to prepare for the inevitable seeing this law being drafted. If they were truly innovative in this respect, they would have abandoned Lightning years ago for a true standard. Instead their arrogance and priority to keep a profitable business around cables alive kept them on this course (sustainable company my ass - that’s just marketing).

    And what about this pretentious introduction in respect to the EU. The author has clearly no understanding because it dramatizes this topic so much that it apparently needs to emphasize the EU is “political bureaucracy”. It’s so juvenile.
    The author was in the EU for a while, so I'm pretty sure he has a good idea how it works.
    dewmestompywatto_cobrawilliamlondon
  • Reply 12 of 81
    MadbumMadbum Posts: 305member
    miguelghs said:
    This article is wrong in so many levels. I keep seeing media and blogs obsessing about Apple but what they fail to see is that I have to keep a cable for my phone, a cable for my headphones, a cable for my computer, a cable for my watch, a cable for my tablet, etc etc… and as me, there’s many others. 

    I wish this law was approved many years ago and we wouldn’t have to deal with this mess. 
    What if they do a law next where you have to wear the same shirt and shoes as your neighbors because most of them prefer it that way so you must comply?
    watto_cobraJaiOh81gilly33
  • Reply 13 of 81
    fred1fred1 Posts: 1,010member
    Madbum said:
    The EU is a Un -elected group of bureaucrats

    but they act like communists  
    What are you talking about? Members of the European Parliament are elected. 

    In just what way are they acting like communists? Unless you mean the dictatorships in Eastern Europe that claimed to be communist. 
    sireofsethwilliamlondonFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 14 of 81
    JP234JP234 Posts: 530member
    Historically, Apple has always used proprietary connectors, or connectors rarely used by other PC makers. Thinks SCSI, ADB, RS232 serial, mini displayport/vga/DVI connectors, FireWire 400 & 800, audio Minijack, Thunderbolt, and lastly Lightning.

    Eventually, all but Lightning have been abandoned. The beginning of the end was the first gen iMac, with USB. And now, with the sole exception of the iPhone, everything Apple now makes uses USB-C ports (or Thunderbolt, which uses the same connector). Damn sure the new Mac Mini will have USB-C as well. Time to get on the right side of history and make the iPhone 15 USB-C, too
  • Reply 15 of 81
    XedXed Posts: 1,521member
    JP234 said:
    Thinks SCSI, ADB, RS232 serial, mini displayport/vga/DVI connectors, FireWire 400 & 800, audio Minijack, Thunderbolt, and lastly Lightning.
    Only one of those is licensed from Apple. All the others are industry standards, and most of them are so old they simply aren't used by anyone these days for personal computing. The only reason that the original iPod used FireWire (IEEE 1394) is because USB 1.0 was not going to have the data speeds or power delivery needed for the iPod.

    As for using USB-C on an iPhone because the Mac mini has USB-C, that's a silly argument. I still have secure cameras that use micro-USB-B, which I can use with ease with a USB-A PSU because the cable has different connectors on each end... or do you think that a micro-USB-B connected device from 5 years ago should also use a PSU with micro-USB-B on it so the cable can be reversible end-to-end. If so, I'd like to hear that argument because I've certainly never been confused on which end goes where.
    stompywatto_cobragilly33loneriderFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 16 of 81
    hmlongcohmlongco Posts: 410member
    miguelghs said:
    I wish this law was approved many years ago and we wouldn’t have to deal with this mess. 
    Depends on your definition of "many". Because "many" years ago the law would have mandated micro-USB.

    And I could make a pretty strong case that the only reason USB-C is as much of a thing as it is today is because Apple jumped in with the USB-C/Thunderbolt-only MacBook Pros years ago.

    And people screamed about that. "What about my USB-A ports!!!" "Why are we switching!!!" "Dongles? I don't want no stinking' dongles!"
    stompywatto_cobragilly33strongybageljoeyrandominternetpersoncoolfactorFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 17 of 81
    This is a disappointing article.

    Let’s just start with the simple truth: a tech behemoth is STILL using an ancient standard they once invented that is slow and forces us to deal with many cables, and refuses to change.

    Even this behemoth is using both standards throughout their own product portfolio for several years now. It’s highly inconsistent. Their new AirPods Pro still have the lighting cable. Their iPads: USB-C. Why? Why??? The argument of “more e-waste short-term” is a moot point since it’s already the case today - Apple designed it.

    Secondly, there is nothing that prohibits the EU from amending their own laws with the acceptance of a future standard, granted they actually ARE a new standard (not another propriety AppleConnector 2.0 or SamsungSpeedyCable).

    EU was very slow with this law - it took years and years. Apple had even more time to prepare for the inevitable seeing this law being drafted. If they were truly innovative in this respect, they would have abandoned Lightning years ago for a true standard. Instead their arrogance and priority to keep a profitable business around cables alive kept them on this course (sustainable company my ass - that’s just marketing).

    And what about this pretentious introduction in respect to the EU. The author has clearly no understanding because it dramatizes this topic so much that it apparently needs to emphasize the EU is “political bureaucracy”. It’s so juvenile.
    The author was in the EU for a while, so I'm pretty sure he has a good idea how it works.
    I was in the US ‘for a while’ - and I can’t claim I know “how it works”. 
    mazda 3swilliamlondon
  • Reply 18 of 81
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 6,553administrator
    This is a disappointing article.

    Let’s just start with the simple truth: a tech behemoth is STILL using an ancient standard they once invented that is slow and forces us to deal with many cables, and refuses to change.

    Even this behemoth is using both standards throughout their own product portfolio for several years now. It’s highly inconsistent. Their new AirPods Pro still have the lighting cable. Their iPads: USB-C. Why? Why??? The argument of “more e-waste short-term” is a moot point since it’s already the case today - Apple designed it.

    Secondly, there is nothing that prohibits the EU from amending their own laws with the acceptance of a future standard, granted they actually ARE a new standard (not another propriety AppleConnector 2.0 or SamsungSpeedyCable).

    EU was very slow with this law - it took years and years. Apple had even more time to prepare for the inevitable seeing this law being drafted. If they were truly innovative in this respect, they would have abandoned Lightning years ago for a true standard. Instead their arrogance and priority to keep a profitable business around cables alive kept them on this course (sustainable company my ass - that’s just marketing).

    And what about this pretentious introduction in respect to the EU. The author has clearly no understanding because it dramatizes this topic so much that it apparently needs to emphasize the EU is “political bureaucracy”. It’s so juvenile.
    The author was in the EU for a while, so I'm pretty sure he has a good idea how it works.
    I was in the US ‘for a while’ - and I can’t claim I know “how it works”. 
    I’ll be more specific. William was and is in the UK. He fully understands “how it works” contrary to your claim that he does not.
    stompywatto_cobragilly33strongywilliamlondonFileMakerFellerbeowulfschmidt
  • Reply 19 of 81
    oldenboomoldenboom Posts: 14unconfirmed, member
    miguelghs said:
    This article is wrong in so many levels. I keep seeing media and blogs obsessing about Apple but what they fail to see is that I have to keep a cable for my phone, a cable for my headphones, a cable for my computer, a cable for my watch, a cable for my tablet, etc etc… and as me, there’s many others. 

    I wish this law was approved many years ago and we wouldn’t have to deal with this mess. 
    Many years ago a similar law was proposed, not with USB-C but with mini-USB being the de-facto standard at the time.  If that law had passed then we'd all be using mini-USB connectors now. Very likely we'd never be using the lightning cable nor the USB-C cable then. With that ruling we'd even be stuck with VGA and DVI cables as mini-USB isn't fast enough for video-transport. Glad the ruling didn't pass. It would definitely have blocked innovation, just like the USB-C ruling will block innovation now even though we all feel USB-C is pretty ok at the moment.

    Before USB we'd prefer to use those heavy RS-232, SCSI and Centronics cables. Remember those? Glad no law got passed back then to set these as the standard. 
    Anilu_777watto_cobragilly33strongyrandominternetpersoncoolfactorFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 20 of 81
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,543member
    I think William’s arguments w.r.t. future proof are very sound. I’ve yet to see a “designed by committee” solution that is superior to a solution that’s designed by a person or team who is given the freedom to think outside the box. 

    Do we really believe that USB-C is good enough today to put all efforts at coming up with a better solution on the back burner for … five years, ten years, a decade?

    I don’t know what the best answer is, but if bureaucrats are allowed to take control over innovation we should be prepared to be stuck with whatever they decide for quite some time, whether it’s good or bad. 

    Just to stir to pot some more, being “forced” to conform to a mandate is not always a bad thing. One thing it does is remove the feature in question from the competitive landscape. This can free up resources to go after innovation in other areas. If the EU is hoping that forcing Apple to adopt USB-C is going to help its member companies, it could very well have the opposite effect. I don’t think this is in-play here, but taking anything off the table frees up Apple to drill deeper in other areas. 
    edited October 7 Anilu_777lkruppentropyswatto_cobragilly33FileMakerFeller
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