The EU wants to mandate USB-C ports on smartphones

Pixel 4 XL bottom frame showing USB-C port and speakers
Pixel 4 XL bottom frame showing USB-C port and speakers (Image credit: 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.

Michael Allison