The EU wants to mandate USB-C ports on smartphones

(Image credit: Joe Maring / iMore)

Pixel 4 XL bottom frame showing USB-C port and speakers

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • The EU is moving towards mandating USB-C adoption on electronics.
  • The bloc had previously adopted a voluntary directive back in 2014, but the results were less than satisfactory.
  • Now, USB-C might be made a mandatory inclusion irrespective of the price-point or OEM.

USB-C is more or less a standard in 2020. Smartphones like the Pixel 4 come with it, Apple's iPads have adopted it, and even laptops are powered with USB-C ports. Yet, while it's everywhere, it's not entirely ubiquitous. Some lower-end devices from brands as storied as Huawei and Nokia still ship with Micro-USB ports. So while it's a standard on all flagships, it hasn't reached the saturation point where the EU is satisfied.

The bloc had pushed for the establishment of a common charging standard that would fit "all mobile phones, tablets, e-book readers and other portable devices" back in 2014, and adopted a policy of gently nudging industry leaders towards USB-C adoption. It's now 2020 and said policy hasn't been entirely successful.

"The Commission's approach of "encouraging" industry to develop common chargers fell short of the co-legislators' objectives. The voluntary agreements between different industry players have not yielded the desired results," the EU said. The measure was intended to decrease electronic waste, with chargers generating 51,000 tons of waste annually.

While smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and the OnePlus 7 Pro are more popular and visible, it is other low-end smartphones that drive and dominate the market due to their low-cost.

Huawei's P-Smart 2019 and the Nokia 3.2 will sell in high enough amounts that they'll end up keeping Micro-USB alive for years longer. XIaomi's Redmi 7A, one of 2019's top-selling phones, is also equipped with a Micro-USB port. That's not even accounting for the industry of replacement cables which will also serve to generate more waste as users buy spares and replace faulty ones.

With that perspective, it's little wonder the EU is looking at adopting more binding measures.

  • If all OEM’s used the same USB-C standard then I’d say yes but considering Samsung’s USB-C coed has a different charging rate than OnePlus or Google then what’s the point. Cords are still going to end up in the trash.
  • I'm pretty sure that's exactly why the EU is doing this, it means that all manufacturers will have to use the exact same port so that every consumer can use cables from any phone
  • This is why big government is trash. If they have the ability to mandate this, what if a smaller company can't afford to license it? What if Apple wants to "innovate" without a port at all? What if something better than USB-C comes out, that requires a redesign internally for most phones, but the EU decides to mandate that, then FairPhone can't afford to redesign and boom, they're out. F the EU govt and their involvement in everything.
  • Are you telling me that a smaller company would find it much more expensive to put a USB-C port on their phones rather than, whatever other alternative? When you enter into business, you have to do your research into what the consumer wants and in the technology industry you have to constantly be on the ball and be up to date. If these smaller companies aren't already using USB-C by the time that the EU puts this into place, then the onus is on the company, USB-C has been out far long enough for all companies to have converted. It's nice to see a government actually take an interest in legislating technology, it seems that nobody but the EU will. This is a breath of fresh air and I'm all for the EU forcing all smartphones to have USB-C ports.