Negotiators of the European Parliament and Council agreed on the law on Tuesday, saying in a statement that the move aims to “make products in the EU more sustainable, reduce e-waste and make consumers’ lives easier”.
The law, which has yet to be formally approved, will require all new smartphones, tablets, e-readers and portable speakers – alongside a long list of other small electronic devices – sold in the EU to use the USB-C charging port . The requirement for laptops will come into effect in early 2026.
The small, pill-shaped connector is already used in many smartphones and laptops, as well as Apple’s latest iPads and some previous-generation MacBook laptops.
But the mandate puts Apple in a difficult position, as it has stuck with its proprietary “Lightning” connector on its iPhones and the charging cases for its AirPods in-ear headphones. The Verge, a technology news site, called the European law “a major blow to Apple’s Lightning port.”
Much like California’s environmental and safety standards often lead to changes in the United States due to the logistical difficulties and financial impracticability of developing different products for different states, Europe’s charging port law could have far-reaching implications for portable consumer electronics around the world.
In Germany, the largest economy in the European Union, the top three most popular smartphones are all iPhones, followed by Samsung Galaxy phones with USB-C ports in fourth and fifth place, according to consumer research site Counterpoint. In France, the bloc’s second-largest economy, iPhones occupy the top four spots in the smartphone market, Counterpoint calculates.
Apple also recently brought back its proprietary “MagSafe” magnetic charger for its MacBook Pro, and on Monday announced it would do the same with its thinner MacBook Air laptops.
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However, Apple has apparently been preparing for a crackdown: Bloomberg News reported last month that amid the looming possibility of European law, the company has been testing iPhone models that use USB-C instead of its proprietary connector.
Technology critics have bemoaned Apple’s persistence in maintaining its proprietary ports for years, noting that while many device manufacturers have adapted to the USB-C port, Apple’s unique charging medium leaves consumers with a jumble of cables.
But the EU’s move could stifle efforts to innovate towards phasing out charging ports altogether, such as using magnetic contact chargers instead of ports to enable extremely thin devices, said Benedict Evans, an industry analyst. He wrote on Twitter that it’s “hard to see any meaningful consumer benefit” from the law, which bans “some ideas” like using only magnetic chargers, he said.
Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment Tuesday night. When the European law was proposed in September, the company said in a statement: “We remain concerned that strict regulation mandating only one type of connector is stifling innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn hurts consumers in Europe and Europe around the world.”
When Apple stopped shipping wired headphones and wall plugs with its iPhones in 2020, it said the cut was for environmental reasons, although some suggested it was better for the company’s bottom line.