Skip to content
Thoughtful, detailed coverage of everything Apple for 32 years
and the TidBITS Content Network for Apple professionals
30 comments

European Union to Mandate USB-C in Electronic Devices by the End of 2024

It’s finally official. After years of discussion and failed attempts to get the industry to standardize, the European Union has mandated that new rechargeable electronic devices sold in the EU must have USB-C charging ports by the end of 2024. The law applies to mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld videogame consoles, portable speakers, e-readers, keyboards, mice, portable navigation systems, and earbuds, and it will extend to laptops in early 2026. The new law’s goal is to encourage more reuse of chargers and reduce electronic waste.

The general assumption is that this legislation will cause Apple to redesign iPhones—and iPads, AirPods charging cases, Apple TV Remotes, and all other Lightning-based products— to use USB-C instead of Lightning. Mark Gurman reported in May 2022 that Apple is already testing iPhones with USB-C ports and is pondering an adapter for existing Lightning-based accessories. And it’s somewhat unlike Apple to support three different wired charging technologies: Lightning, USB-C, and MagSafe. We don’t know if MagSafe will be allowed to continue past 2026, given that Apple laptops can also charge over USB-C. One thing is clear: the rule will not apply to products put on the market before the date the rule is applied in each country, so Apple would still be able to sell older Lightning-based products even after switching new ones to USB-C.

Read original article

Subscribe today so you don’t miss any TidBITS articles!

Every week you’ll get tech tips, in-depth reviews, and insightful news analysis for discerning Apple users. For over 32 years, we’ve published professional, member-supported tech journalism that makes you smarter.

Registration confirmation will be emailed to you.

Comments About European Union to Mandate USB-C in Electronic Devices by the End of 2024

Notable Replies

  1. It occurred to me another thing Apple could do is keep the Lightning port but just remove the ability to charge through the port, relying on wireless charging instead. Lightning could be kept around for peripherals and for slowly moving data (just to irk @Simon).

  2. So far I don’t see why you can’t add USB-C and keep Lightning and enable charging via one or the other (space would be an issue of course).

    Anyways, I have argued before that one and the same port on all chargers is sensible, but on the equipment to be charged not so much. You still need the cable for charging and you will be able to charge anything with your USB-C charger; I’ve been doing that for years now with my Apple chargers. In fact, Apple was one of the first to achieve what the EU said they wanted, charge anything with one kind of charger. The number of discarded cables in the future will not become less, but they will simply be of different kinds.

    BTW, the larger number of discarded chargers will be the cheep ones that fail earlier than the high quality ones like those from Apple.

  3. Ray

    Are you able to make the USB-C port waterproof? It could definitely be an improvement in speed if utilized.

  4. Lightening is dead but killing MagSafe. OK it’s time for Apple to standup to the EU. Tell’em if they don’t like it they can by a Dell.

  5. MagSafe saved the life of my MacBook Pro on quite a few occasions, so I hope that Timmy will do so.

  6. ??? MagSafe is not affected. And Qi charging isn’t going anywhere in the EU. Qi is an industry standard and Apple is actually one of its many supporters.

  7. LOL there are two MagSafes. Anyway Lightening is a pain in the ass. In fact, Apple has a long painful legacy of connectors. We would have all been better off if VGA and 25-pin serial connectors had lived forever! Who needed DB9, DB8, SCSI 25, SCSI Centronics, SCSI II, AppleTalk, PhoneNet, FireWire, FireWire 2 and all the beloved video and video combo cables that Apple has created for vintage computer museums anyway?

    …the European Union has mandated that new rechargeable electronic devices sold in the EU must have USB-C charging ports by the end of 2024. The law applies to mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld videogame consoles, portable speakers, e-readers, keyboards, mice, portable navigation systems, and earbuds, and will extend to laptops in early 2026.

  8. As others have implied, I don’t see that Apple is being given an order to stop doing anything it’s currently doing. Compliance means there must be a USB-C connector on the device capable of charging it. I don’t see a mandate to drop all other charging mechanisms or any additional connectors.

  9. Especially on an iPhone or iPad, having two different versions of connectors will significantly increase size, weight and cost.

  10. Again ???

    Nobody is telling Apple to put USB-C in addition to Lightning. Apple will replace Lightning ports on iPhones with USB-C ports just like they did on iPad. Done.

  11. We don’t know if MagSafe will be allowed to continue past 2026, given that Apple laptops can also charge over USB-C.

    Is there some reason to think MagSafe for laptops would go away? After all, Apple reintroduced MagSafe with the M1 MacBook Pros while retaining the ability to charge through USB. Why would Apple ditch the feature yet again?

  12. OK, so I haven’t been reading voluminous EU documents and commentary on this topic but I wonder how would this legislation impact future developments like, hm, a charging cable that allows 10 minute full charges, can transfer 1TB/min, and is shaped like a platypus bill?

  13. No need to read EU documents to know that any bureaucratic edict requiring a specific connector type for the entire future of European civilization is unlikely to be a good idea.

  14. You forgot to use the words ‘communism’ and ‘socialism’ in your comment.

  15. The EU has the right idea with this. USB-C can do more than any other connector/protocol and should be good for a long while. The constant churn of technology, and accompanying connectors, is an immense waste and headache. And Apple has certainly contributed with their insistence on using proprietary connectors, then not, then doing it again (anyone remember the ADC video connector?). Even when they come up with a good idea, like Mag-safe, they drop it. If Apple wants to keep their other ports, fine. Why is everyone so worried about what APPLE will do?

    USB-C is a giant mess to understand, but if it’s used consistently–and not replaced with something else–things will hopefully settle down.

  16. Seems pretty obvious to me that it would be prohibited until/unless the inventor of the new tech could convince EU lawmakers to permit it.

    Maybe a phone maker could use it in addition to USB-C, but they wouldn’t be allowed to use it as the only charging connector.

    There’s that “should be”. We can’t predict the future, and government agencies that try to do so almost always end up wrong.

    Although it may be a great choice for today, anyone claiming that nothing better will ever come along (which is what a legal mandate implies) will definitely be proven wrong. If not in the near future, then later on, but it will always happen.

    That “constant churn” is how stuff is invented. You outlaw it, and you outlaw innovation. Nobody is going to bother trying to come up with something better if they know it will a-priori be illegal in 1/3 of the world.

    People and industry were and are doing a great job settling down on a small number of standards (Lightning, USB micro-B and USB-C) without any government mandates. Politicians throwing their weight around will not make anything better.

    And here’s why mandates are bad. It is a giant mess. And everything is eventually replaced with something else - that’s how innovation works. Some replacements will be better (and may become the new standard) while others won’t be (and will fall by the wayside).

    But if a bunch of politicians decide that USB-C (or anything else) will be the one true connector, and that all others will be banned, it will slow down the pace of this innovation, and when we need something better than USB-C, it will be invented and deployed somewhere else, with the EU being forced to use inferior tech until someone can convince EU politicians to grant permission for something new.

  17. I seem to recall that about 10 years or so ago the EU mandated micro-USB for all cell phones, and Apple used to provide a microUSB-to-30 pin port adapter in order to comply?

    So perhaps it wasn’t a mandate, but Apple agreed to provide a way to charge with a micro-USB charging cable.

    Anyway, clearly if a better charging port is invented, clearly regulators can change there regulations?

    Personally, I don’t care what happens with this. I’m fine with lightning, I’d be fine with USB-C. It won’t affect me much - I’ll still travel with a cable to charge each of my devices, no matter what the port is.

  18. Not mandated. From the article you cited (emphasis mine):

    They met with manufacturers, who agreed to voluntarily agree on a standard. There were no mandates. So Apple had no problem complying by selling an £8 adapter. And when the industry decided to move to USB-C (for some phones - definitely not all), it wasn’t a big deal because there were no laws to break.

    This is in contrast to the current decision, which is a law and presumably will involve criminal and/or civil penalties for those manufacturers that do not comply.

  19. I agree that government mandates aren’t always the best solution. But don’t get carried away with hyperbole. We’re not talking about stifling innovation of every kind, nor are we talking about “banning” all other connectors. That’s a preposterous argument.

    USB-C can already do more than most users need, it won’t be “inferior tech” for a long time. Coming up with another incompatible interconnect tomorrow will not improve the vast majority of users’ lives, but forcing them to buy yet another car charger is just a waste. Innovation is great, but people have to use these products of innovation. And the earth has to support the people.

  20. None of the first part of your post can be proven as we have no idea what’s over the horizon or what the future might require. It could well be inferior for a long time if something vastly better appears. Innovation isn’t just great, it’s essential. The alternative is stagnation. Whatever comes in the future will require a new cable or dongle - it’s the price we pay for progress.

  21. So is standardization.

  22. I disagree. Standardisation has its place, but not at the expense of innovation.

  23. Indeed, USB-C can already do more than most users need and more than any other connectors.

    Apple added USB Power Delivery to iPhones and iPads some time ago for fast charging. I have been using this feature for my iPhone 8+ and 10.5-inch iPad Pro thanks to non-Apple USB-C PD chargers with Apple cables (USB-C/Lightning). That was the only way! Now I am glad I won’t have to pay extra Apple cables in the future for fast charging.

    USB-C and USB Power Delivery will continue to offer new features (check https://usb.org and especially this page: USB Charger (USB Power Delivery) | USB-IF).

    Apple like any other manufacturers can continue to innovate on connectors as long as USB-C (fast) charging is available on all their devices and accessories.

    BTW, I am better with my 4-year non-Apple USB-C PD chargers to fast charge my 12.9-inch iPad Pro M1 than the original one that came with it. It makes a huge difference.

  24. You’re typing this on a globe-spanning electronic network that works because of standardization – and the existence of that network has allowed enormous innovation over the last few decades. Shutting down innovation in that area allowed a massive bloom of innovation in a much more important arena – just like the standardizing of the rail gauge did in 19th century America. I don’t think that USB-C is that level, but the binary opposition of standardization vs. innovation ignores a much more complicated relationship between the two.

  25. That’s not a fair comparison.

    Internet/web standards have been developed by the technology companies that deploy the products using those standards. They were developed by the companies, and were standardized by mutual consent of those companies with little, if any, government involvement.

    Standards like this will grow and evolve over time as the companies making the products develop the next generation of tech. This is how the most successful technologies, including wireless telephony and global networking, were developed and is how they continue to be developed.

    But the EU’s USB-C mandate is not the same. That’s a bunch of politicians, who have no involvement in the design, development or deployment of the tech, deciding for themselves that everybody will be forced to use one specific standard. Companies that choose not use that standard, for any reason whatsoever, will be punished for their non-compliance. Which means the companies working on the next generation won’t be able to deploy it without getting multinational political bureaucracies to sign off on it first.

  26. It’s not a perfect comparison, but it’s certainly a fair one. The point was that standardization stifles innovation not that certain kinds of standardization stifles innovation.

    But even then, the idea that politicians can’t set standards but should leave them to the experts is belied both by history and by XKCD. First off, governments hire experts to help them out – it’s not like the EU commissioners randomly decided one morning to take up standardization. Second, historically speaking, I can come up with all sorts of standardizations imposed by governments that are so basic to the functioning of our society that they’re almost unnoticeable, including what side of the road we drive on, food hygiene, the voltage of our electricity, and so on. Thirdly, I give you how well private industry has managed standards before with the entire USB specification, which has so many sub-genres that I can hardly call it a standard. Finally, XKCD:

    At very least, the EU has narrowed it down.

    You’re stuck because this is happening now – we understand how transparently silly it would be to argue that every road owner should be able to decide how cars use it (right! left! center! sideways!) because we have lived the value of the standardization.

  27. One of the big issues with this is that USB-C is a plug and receptacle, but is not standard for power (or data delivery). It’s a fact of life that most cables between the plugs are unmarked. See Rene Ritchie’s video that discusses this and other issues with the ‘standard’.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrnz9SuZ3Os
  28. As I said earlier, I disagree.

  29. Obviously, there’s no way of anticipating what sort of innovation might emerge, but the EU is fully expecting it to happen and to update to accommodate. From the FAQ:

    Will the proposal be an obstacle to innovation?

    The Commission’s proposal aims at providing consumers with an open and interoperable solution and, at the same time, enabling technological innovation. The proposal encourages innovation for wired and wireless technology charging.

    Any technological developments in wired charging can be reflected in a timely adjustment of technical requirements/ specific standards under the Radio Equipment Directive. This would ensure that the technology used is not outdated.

    At the same time, the implementation of any new standards in further revisions of Radio Equipment Directive would need to be developed in a harmonised manner, respecting the objectives of full interoperability. Industry is therefore expected to continue the work already undertaken on the standardised interface, led by the USB-IF organisation, in view of developing new interoperable, open and non-controversial solutions.

    In addition, larger technological developments are expected in the area of wireless charging, which is still a developing technology with a low level of market fragmentation. In order to allow innovation in this field, the proposal does not set specific technical requirements for wireless charging. Therefore, manufacturers remain free to include any wireless charging solution in their products alongside the wired charging via the USB-C port.

Join the discussion in the TidBITS Discourse forum

Participants