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USB-C iPhone mandate could bring the US in line with the EU

Casetify Magsafe Leather Case Mickey Mouse Lightning Port
Casetify Magsafe Leather Case Mickey Mouse Lightning Port (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

What you need to know

  • The United States could require Apple to ditch Lightning and switch to another port.
  • The EU has already told Apple it must use USB-C from 2024.
  • Apple is rumored to be using USB-C for iPhone 15.

Hot on the heels of the European Union telling phone and tablet makers that they must use USB-C ports for charging from 2024, the United States government has now decided to join in. A group of Senate Democrats wants the US Commerce Department to require all manufacturers to use the same universal standard, although they're stopping short of saying that it needs to be USB-C.

In a letter sent to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimond, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) — along with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), told the department that it needs to look into forcing tech companies like Apple to use a common charging port, reports The Verge. The letter says that "the EU has wisely acted in the public interest by taking on powerful technology companies over this consumer and environmental issue" before going on to say the US should do the same.

While USB-C has essentially become a standard across the Android smartphone and tablet market, Apple's iPhones and iPads use Lightning, as do its AirPods and various other accessories — including the Apple TV Siri Remote. While some of those accessories are likely to be left alone, it's smartphones and tablets n particular that are the target of this letter.

In our increasingly digital society, consumers frequently must pay for new specialized charging equipment and accessories for their different devices. This is not merely an annoyance; it can be a financial burden. The average consumer owns approximately three mobile phone chargers, and around 40 percent of consumers report that, on at least one occasion, they "could not charge their mobile phone because available chargers were incompatible."Innovation should benefit consumers. It should not come at their expense, saddle them with incompatible accessories, and compel them to purchase different charging equipment for each device they own.

The EU, just as in this letter, argues that unused charging cables add to the growing e-waste problem with people ditching old cables when buying a new phone. That's an issue that people switching between Android phones and iPhones have dealt with since forever, but a common charging port would fix that.

All of this comes as Apple is increasingly rumored to be working on bringing USB-C to its 2023 iPhone 15 regardless, and given the EU requirements, it seems likely that the United States will benefit from the switch even without the government getting involved.

Oliver Haslam
Contributor

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

1 Comment
  • "Apple's iPhones and iPads use Lightning". Guess you haven't looked at anything but the one entry level iPad lately, or any Mac. Yes iPhones still have lightning as do most peripherals, but any Apple user that buys a peripheral gets a lightning cable with it, or can use the one they got with their phone. That will continue to be the case after iPhones move to USB, which is all but a given, with or without bureaucratic intervention. The lightning connector was an innovation with superior technology when it was introduced 10 years ago. It drove the USB forum to do something to compete, and it took them years to do so. I like USB-C, but it certainly isn't as universal as it is made out to be, and still has some compatibility issues. Especially if you like to save money on cables. The reality is lightning has to go. It no longer meets the requirements of what Apple has put into the iPhone. Changing it though disrupts a large segment of 3rd party stuff manufacturers. It';s not a matter of losing the licensing revenue. Apple doesn't need that pittance, but those companies have a market which will dry up. They can just retool to USB-C, but then they enter into a wider market, not the gated community they enjoy today. Dropping lightning is going to please and tick off a lot of people. The balance is what Apple needs to manage.