Europe gives Apple a smack in the chops on USB-C power standardization

One of the many ways Apple makes its billions is by only offering proprietary software and hardware. This is not just the obvious products such as macOS or iPhones. Everything that Apple can slap a claim on — such as the shape of a tablet — so it can charge you more, it will. So it is that an official Apple 1-meter USB-C to Lightning cable will run you $19, while the best USB-C cable that PC World found in a recent round-up cost $13.

For Apple, it’s all about the bucks. But the European Union (EU) has apparently had enough.

The 27-nation European Commission decided its citizens deserve a common charger cable standard for their smartphones and all other devices. (The Commission has been working on this issue since 2019.) It argues, and I agree, that it’s a waste of money and resources to have many incompatible charging standards.

And, I might add, it’s seriously annoying. When I travel, I must take a USB-C, mini-USB, micro-USB, USB-A, Lightning, and a Qi charging pad for all my gadgets. Inevitably, I waste time trying to fit the wrong cable into the wrong port — and that’s before I start dancing the “which-way-is-up USB-A fandango?”

According to the new law, which is now slated to take effect in the fall of 2024, “mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, earbuds, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld video game consoles and portable speakers that are rechargeable via a wired cable will have to be equipped with a USB Type-C port, regardless of their manufacturer.”

That means you, Apple.

Everyone else has been moving to USB-C. You’re not that special and neither are Lightning cables.

In fact, USB-C cables and the USB-C standard are better than Lightning in almost every way.  First, there’s the obvious. Lightning only works with Apple devices. USB-C works with pretty much everyone else’s modern devices. Oh, and by the way, Apple can support USB-C just fine. It’s been used in iPad Pro third-generation models since 2018. Of course, Apple will also sell you a Lightning to USB-C cable. How accommodating.

USB-C can also support data transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps. Lightning tops out when talking to USB devices at 480Mbps. That’s a wee bit of a difference.

When it comes to power, USB-C also cleans the floor with Lightning. USB-C supports from 3-to-5 Amps with its Power Delivery fast-charging standard, making it much faster than standard Lightning cables. Lightning only supports up to 2.4 Amps. That’s why Apple offers a USB-C to Lightning Cable with most products. Used with a 20 watt or higher power adapter, USB-C enables Apple users to fast-charge iPhones.

If that sounds a little weird, have you actually looked at Apple’s charging situation? To power my relatively small Apple collection of Macs and gadgets, I need Lightning, USB-C, and MagSafe cables. Oh, and a proprietary Apple Watch charger.

It’s all much too much!

Maybe it’s just me but I expect standardization might just be a good thing for Apple’s  customers and European users.

So far, Apple hasn’t said anything about this new law. In the past, though, the Cupertino crew claimed that abandoning Lightning would create an “unprecedented amount of electronic waste.” I’m sure they’ll be singing a similar song this time around.

But we’re already wasting a lot of chargers in landfills every year. Well, except me. I have a closet full of the blasted things! Now if we could just get everyone using one standard for all chargers, wouldn’t that save waste in the long run? Why yes, I think it would.

Maybe the European Commission should tackle that particular hardware issue next.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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