EU wants to introduce standardized mobile phone charging socket

Brussels (dpa) – One charging cable for the mobile phone, one for the tablet and one for the headphones – the tangled cables in German households are hard to keep track of.

This is also due to the fact that a cable often cannot be used for several devices. In particular, the iPhone company Apple with its in-house Lightning connector has made a uniform solution difficult so far. This should soon be over – at least if the EU Commission has its way. The Brussels authority wants to present a legislative proposal for uniform charging sockets on electrical devices this Thursday. An overview:

Why has there not been a uniform solution for a long time?

The various charging cables and sockets have long been a nuisance for consumers – even if they are the situation has already improved considerably. More than ten years ago 14 mobile phone manufacturers – including Apple – agreed to a uniform standard for power supply units under pressure from the EU Commission There were still three sockets in smartphones and tablet computers of what were once several dozen types: the now outdated Micro-USB, the newer USB-C and the thinner Lightning connectors from Apple. The group refuses to completely renounce its standard. The competition from Samsung to Xiaomi to Oppo, OnePlus and Motorola now usually uses USB-C sockets on their devices.

How does the EU Commission now proceed?

If the EU Commission has its way, USB-C should become the general standard for the sockets in the devices, as the authorities said in advance. In addition, customers should no longer be obliged to buy a power supply unit if, for example, they buy a new cell phone. Among other things, this is what the EU Commission intends to propose in a draft directive, which the EU states and the European Parliament will then have to negotiate. With this demand, the Commission is lagging behind the market trend because Apple, Samsung and other manufacturers are now delivering their smartphones without a power supply.

For which devices should this apply?

The specifications should apply to six device categories, as it was said. In addition to cell phones, these include tablets, headphones, speakers, portable consoles and cameras.

Why is this advance?

On the one hand, standardized charging sockets make it much easier for consumers to because they require fewer different cables. On the other hand, it should also avoid huge amounts of electronic waste. The municipal waste management welcomed the move: “Cable clutter is neither consumer-friendly nor beneficial to the environment,” said a spokesman for the Association of Municipal Companies of the German Press Agency. “Uniform charging cables help to avoid unnecessary waste.”

Why is Apple reluctant to standardize?

Apple wants to keep its Lightning connector, which is currently in all iPhones is installed, but also some tablet models such as the current iPad 9 or the AirPod headphones. In the beginning, the main thing was that with Lightning extremely flat devices could be built to be dust- and waterproof, which would not have been possible with micro-USB. In the meantime, however, there is a viable alternative with USB-C, which is also used by Apple in some cases. The more expensive iPad models already have a USB-C socket.

Apple has also abandoned the proprietary MagSafe connection in favor of USB-C for laptops (MacBooks). When it comes to power supplies – which can be separated from the charging cables – USB-C is used anyway, argues Apple. With the compulsory abolition of the Lightning socket, a huge amount of electronic waste will be created.

Does Apple also have economic reasons to hold onto the Lightning cable?

Yes. The group generates income with its “Made for iPhone / iPad” (MFI) program. Third-party manufacturers of Lightning cables have to have their products certified in the MFI program.

What’s next?

First of all, EU states and the European Parliament will be aware of the proposal advise, which the EU Commission presents. Then both sides have to find a common line.

Parliament in particular should put pressure on it, as it has been pushing for uniform charging cables for years. After an agreement between the EU Parliament and EU states, the national governments would have one year to implement the new rules in national law.

The Commission proposal should also provide for a two-year transition period for companies, such as it said from the authority. At the earliest 2024, the uniform charging socket would be mandatory for companies – and the cable clutter in households would decrease.

Until then, charging cables may only play a subordinate role because the devices will be charged wirelessly more and more frequently in the future.

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