The European Parliament decides to use a universal charger for electronic devices from autumn 2024

The last uncertainty about the common European charger was removed on Tuesday 4 October with the European Parliament’s vote in Strasbourg on the “Universal chargers for electronic devices” directive. Manufacturers have two years to comply: in autumn 2024, most new models of mobile electronic devices must be equipped with the same USB-C standard power connector, which allows them to use the same charger.

This applies to smartphones, tablets, portable consoles, e-readers, cameras, as well as Bluetooth speakers and rechargeable headphones. Laptops will have to upgrade by early 2026. As for connected watches, at the moment they elude due to their compactness. MEPs approved this measure on Tuesday with an overwhelming majority, with 602 votes in favour, 13 against and 8 abstentions.

Practical and ecological

The goal is twofold. From an ecological point of view, the European Union (EU) wants chargers to have a longer service life than the devices equipped with them. Manufacturers must also offer new devices in a version without a charger. In addition, the EU wants to make life easier for consumers by avoiding juggling different chargers.

The EU directive will phase out old power adapters and the special cords they come with, while trimming the forest of cords that line our outlets. However, this simplification will take a few years, the time when older generation devices with non-standard connectors will be scrapped.

The regulations also stipulate that the charging speed for devices that enable fast charging will be harmonized to prevent it from being restricted when used with a device from another brand.

Also read: The European Union has voted for a universal charger for electronic devices by autumn 2024

Robust and easy to use

The USB-C standard power plug chosen by the EU is anything but an unknown. Since 2015, it has established itself with the constant conquest of new electronic devices thanks to three advantages: compactness, robustness, ease of insertion. However, two product categories still refuse: Devices with an outdated design – for example top-of-the-line smartphones, low-end PCs – and many of the latest generation of Apple products.

The California manufacturer’s smartphones, headphones and some tablets use a brand-specific connector, the Lightning, which is flatter than the USB-C connector. However, Apple is not opposed to USB-C: this power connector has been built into its Pro tablets and some of its computers for a number of years. But the California company is notoriously opposed to the requirement to generalize this outlet for all of its mobile electronic devices. Apple points to the ecological waste caused by the disposal of Lightning cables, which hundreds of millions of people own, and by putting away certain accessories, headphones or charging stations, for example.

A brake on innovation?

In addition, Apple believes that the requirement to use USB-C is a barrier to innovation. However, the EU seems determined not to block the development of mobile devices. It is currently refusing to standardize on an alternative power delivery method, wireless charging, as the technology is young and has room for improvement. A lack of maturity that belies the USB-C power connector, a proven technology that seems to have no urgent need to evolve in depth.

In addition, Apple is not completely prevented from innovating. The manufacturer will continue to be able to use a new type of charging connector for some of its devices: those that have enough space to integrate several of them. On a laptop, for example, Apple can also place a second charging socket in addition to a USB-C connection. So MacBooks don’t necessarily lose their magnetic connector, the MagSafe.

With more compact devices such as smartphones, it is likely that there is not enough space to fit two sockets. If Apple wants to innovate and replace the USB-C connector, the company will be forced to coordinate its efforts with the rest of the industry to convince the EU of the merits of this potential advance. A strategy that would deprive the brand of the exclusivity of this technology and therefore a commercial argument.

Fifteen years to graduate

After the vote of the European Parliament, the Council must in turn approve the text, which is then signed by the President of the Parliament and the Council Presidency before it is published in the Official Newspaper. For the EU, this directive completes a long line of regulations that began in 2009 when the European executive urged manufacturers to self-regulate by self-standardizing their connectors. An initiative that had already led to the disappearance of some “exotic” chargers.

This process restarted in a more restrictive spirit in 2018, resulting in today’s success. No one will regret the proliferation of chargers in the 1990s, when each brand used a range of different cables depending on their range, often incompatible with competitor brand plugs.

Also read: Article reserved for our subscribers Europe wants to push through a universal charger for smartphones regardless of the brand

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