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Since the EU is finally fixing USB-C, the rest of the world can relax

USB-C Cables
USB-C Cables (Image credit: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

The European Union plans to make USB-C connectors the standard charging port for all smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices. Its proposal would come into effect in 2024, assuming the European Parliament approves it; at that point, manufacturers would then have to adopt USB-C to sell their products in the European market of 30 countries.

Experts say that this decision could immediately impact the global market, whether or not other countries follow suit and mandate a USB-C standard. If everything goes as planned, manufacturers will develop products for international markets that follow EU guidelines. In time, they say, the decision will help eliminate e-waste and prove "dramatically more convenient for consumers."

"Chargers power all our most essential electronic devices. With more and more devices, more and more chargers are sold that are not interchangeable or not necessary. We are putting an end to that," Thierry Breton, the EU's internal market commissioner, said last week.

The move would let consumers decide if they want to buy new devices with or without a charger, which means you will be able to take advantage of buying the best USB-C cables.

It is the logical time to make this change

pixel-charger-apple

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Apple has argued that making USB-C the standard would harm innovation.

In a statement to the press, Apple said that it will "remain concerned that strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world."

Anshel Sag, a senior analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, argues this is not the case.

"Absolutely not. Apple is the only one that doesn't have it so naturally so they would say that. I don't expect anyone will create a new connector any time soon," he says.

"Absolutely not. Apple is the only one that doesn't have it so naturally so they would say that. I don't expect anyone will create a new connector any time soon," Anshel Sag says.

The change would drastically affect Apple, which currently uses its proprietary Lightning charging port for iPhones. The company has used the charging port on every iPhone since 2012, but several of its other devices use USB-C, including the iPad Pro, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and iPad Air. For comparison, almost all Android devices use USB-C charging ports.

Sag notes that now is the logical time to make this change. In the past, consumers would have had to buy new chargers for everything. Now, many of Apple's products already have USB-C cables and chargers, simplifying their charging setups.

"[Consumers] would also have a much broader array of choices when it comes to cables and charger opportunities. This means cheaper and better cables," he says. "Standard charging means everyone can share the same chargers and people aren't left stranded without power."

Sag suggests that the European Union's actions won't require other countries to follow suit unless they choose to, because the move will "force nearly every manufacturer to move in that direction if they want a piece of the EU market." And so far, he says that includes nearly every manufacturer.

Neil Shah, vice president of research at Counterpoint Research, agrees with Sag and notes that the final decision will set a precedent "which will anyways force manufacturers to implement for global models as well."

"So other countries don't have to follow the way unless they have bigger buying power and it affects them in a big way," he says.

"So other countries don't have to follow the way unless they have bigger buying power and it affects them in a big way," Neil Shah says.

Shah also notes that while Apple may feel this will stifle competition, it would be the opposite.

"USB Type-C is a very capable industry standard and as a result, it fosters more interoperability while lowering the costs because of the sheer scale it can offer across billions of devices sold every year," he says.

All accessories will be available to Android users, even Apple-exclusives

USB-C Phone Chargers Nov 2020 Aukey Ravpower Oneplus Samsung

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Sag explains that there are so many more accessories available to Android users because of USB-C.

"However, some accessories choose Apple first because of the size of the ecosystem and simplicity of its lineup," he says.

Shah notes that USB-C sees almost 75-80% penetration across the global smartphone market.

"Even the peripherals, accessories for other IoT devices have been adopting Type-C as a defacto port for the new designs," he says.

Bryan Ma, vice president of device research at International Data Corporation, explains in an interview that proprietary connectors have helped device vendors with "ecosystem stickiness," because users might not want to abandon the accessories they have already spent money on.

And this was the case in the PC industry, he adds:

"Vendors like Dell and Lenovo, for instance, used to have proprietary connectors for their laptop chargers and docking stations, which were not only high-margin accessories that IT departments would purchase, but would also motivate IT departments to keep purchasing laptops from the same vendor since they would work with their existing accessories. These days though, the PC industry has largely moved over to USB-C, and yet vendors continue to post huge gains in their quarterly earnings."Bryan Ma, vice president of device research at IDC.

But USB is just the connector; will it work with every device across the board?

Time to upgrade

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

While USB-C is found in devices across the board, from laptops to hard drives to smartphones, not every USB-C charger will offer the same charging speed and function.

USB is the industry-standard connector that transmits data and power in a single cable. But within the USB, different ports allow for different charging capabilities. These variants include micro USB, mini USB, Type A, and Type C. Type C, also known as USB-C, is designed to deliver power to charge devices like laptops and smartphones.

All USB-C ports are the same size and shape, but different generations of ports allow for different speeds of data and charging. USB-C cables and ports can be labeled as USB 3.2 Gen 1 or Gen 2, for example, and a newer generation usually means it's a faster port. But an emerging port variant is starting to be seen in 2021, which is USB 4.

More importantly, USB-C supports Thunderbolt 3 and 4 (which is emerging recently), which allows for speedier charging speeds while reducing power consumption. This also means you only need one cable for charging and transferring information. It's also worth noting that not all USB-C supports Thunderbolt, but that's okay because of USB 4.

Ma says that this will be a challenge to know what the underlying interface will be, but that is more about data transfer rates rather than charging.

"For charging, one needs to make sure that the charger's power is of the appropriate wattage for the device, with larger devices like laptops, for instance, generally requiring more power. Moreover, certain fast-charging solutions from vendors like OPPO use their own proprietary chargers to achieve such fast charging, even if the connector is also USB-C."Bryan Ma, vice president of device research at IDC.

Sag agrees with Ma, adding that in the past we've seen other versions of technology like Qualcomm's Quick Charge. According to the Commission, there is the proposal to have a charging technology that would be compatible with all Type-C chargers. This would be very similar to Qualcomm's Quick-Charge technology, which was created as a standard and ready-made solution to be adaptable with USB-C to charge phones faster.

With Quick Charge, Qualcomm set out to create a fast charging standard that phone makers could leverage with little to no effort of their own. While the standard was one of the first to hit 18W, it has plateaued in recent years as manufactures rolled out their own solutions that go up to 65W and 120W (with the Xiaomi 11T Pro).

"However capabilities of USB 4 using Type-C continue to make these things unnecessary with continued new capabilities and features," Sag says.

Will standardizing USB-C actually reduce e-waste?

Lusb C To Lightning Cable Blue

Source: Luke Filipowicz (Image credit: Source: Luke Filipowicz)

The EU's announcement also means the possibility of reducing e-waste by encouraging consumers to use their existing chargers when buying new devices. According to the Commission, over 11,000 tonnes of chargers are wasted every single year from incompatibility problems.

Shah explains that this element of the shift to USB-C will prove beneficial for many manufacturers.

"Many manufacturers will stop shipping the power adaptor, which alone will reduce millions of tonnes of plastics, reduce packaging, and thereby carbon footprint. Also, having a common 75 Watt charger in your home, which can fast-charge phones, tablets, or even your laptop will further reduce the need of having multiple chargers in your home," he says.

But while Sag believes this will be a positive step in reducing e-waste, it will take time.

"Initially, [it won't help reduce e-waste], but long-term, yes, I believe it will. We need more sustainability across the industry," he says.

Shruti Shekar
Managing Editor

Shruti Shekar is Android Central's managing editor. She was born in India, brought up in Singapore, but now lives in Toronto and couldn't be happier. She started her journalism career as a political reporter in Ottawa, Canada's capital, and then made her foray into tech journalism at MobileSyrup and most recently at Yahoo Finance Canada. When work isn't on her mind, she loves working out, reading thrillers, watching the Raptors, and planning what she's going to eat the next day.

29 Comments
  • Great article...I am tired of multiple chargers and cables. This will be beneficial on so many levels...
  • Thanks so much for reading!! I appreciate it :)
  • Yeah agreed, well written article.
  • Hate the idea of government intervention, but so long as it is the EU it has no requirement for USA or other countries.
    However, to save costs of manufacture, I'm sure all will just adapt the USB-C, including Apple. Cheaper to produce one design of a power plug for ALL phones/tablets/etc. for the entire world vs making two unique; one for EU the other for the rest of the world.
    As a consumer, I prefer one; but probably have as many micro plugs as C plug laying around.
  • You hate it when they're right? Never understood this curiously American obsession against governments doing anything that's positive to help its people. A national health service so the poor don't have to needlessly die. No thanks, not for us.
  • So you are OK with a body of people that nobody voted for making rules for your country? Even if you think they get some right that's a very scary thing.
  • What a brain surgeon...Who is going to make decisions then? Trump? Angry white people? Go back to Texas please.
  • You mean how the US decision to block Google from providing services to Huawei only affected the people in the US? But do educate us how a EU rule is also automatically a rule for every other nation outside of the EU? Oh and as a little side note, this Body of People are actually all elected by their constituents who then form the European Parliament, who ratify this law. Maybe your utter lack of understanding of how pretty much anything works is the scary thing here?
  • >> So you are OK with a body of people that nobody voted for making rules for your country But that's not the case. The proposals will be put to a vote in the european parliamant, where MEPs who are democratically elected will vote on them
  • I wouldn't be so sure. The EU is made up of 27 countries, 445 million people. More people than there are in The USA. Yes Apple could make two iPhones one with Lightening one USB-C, but would they?
  • It's Apple, they would absolutely do that. They already have a different phone box (that includes earbuds) for France ALONE.
    You can bet that they'll make an EU only iPhone that has USB-C ports, all the money they get from licensing out Lightning connectors outside of the EU is simply too large to let go to waste, especially since in countries like the US the lightning charger is seen as the standard, rather than USB-C.
  • This is wrong and should not happen in a free society. This puts the government in the position of dictating how businesses are to be run. What happens if a new standard comes out that is better but the law states that USB 3 is mandated? The government will have to be petitioned to update the standard. Large companies with deeper pockets will work to surpress competition when a better idea will cut into their profits. This reduces competition and as a result reduces innovation.
  • I agree. If you look at the history, in 2011 the EU proposed a voluntary program to unify chargers. That lead to many manufacturers settling on USB 2.0 micro-B. To the point that by 2018 they had brought the connector assortment from some 30 to just three. Those were 21% lightning, 29% USB C, and 50% micro USB. Yes micro USB. That's where we would be, had the EU managed to mandate what they intended. Those that went USB C would likely have been prevented from doing so by EU mandate. Hard to tell what the process and time frame would be for the EU to consider a change in the future. Took them 10 years to get to this point. Apple is often taken to task for going with lightning, but you need to keep in mind that they did that in 2012, a full two years before the USB Type-C Specification 1.0 was even published. If you think back the 1.0 spec wasn't all that well received. Still Apple started including USB C on MacBooks in 2015, and it is now common on Apple devices and peripherals. It's what all their chargers support already.
    [https://finance.yahoo.com/news/eu-propose-legislation-common-mobile-1619...
  • It is not mandating USB 3. It is mandating USB C which is the connector. USB 4 will still use the USB C connector.
  • Yes, but it does refuse moving to a different physical connector. If something better arises, it will either be snuffed out due to inconvenience or we'll need another legislative act to make it accessible. Were USB-C new, this wouldn't be so bad. However, the connector is a decade old, and the idea that no one could do better in the next few seems questionable.
  • Then they'd update the law. USB-C wasn't even in consideration when this was first mooted. The policy's already been updated to reflect USB-C's dominance. Beside as if USB-C is going to be replaced any time soon. It's only Apple still not using it and even then only on their iPhones and base iPad. Even Apple use it on the majority of their line up.
  • And all their headphones/earphones. Also on the #1 pencil, but that would go away if lightning on the base iPad went C.
  • It's exactly what should be happening in a free society. What's the role of government? To make citizens, not big business, life better. This is that. You just dislike it, because as an American, you have an obsession to governments doing anything due to the make-up of how your country formed. There's nothing "wrong" in mandating a standard that's clearly of benefit to its citizens. So interesting that only commenting on American websites seem to think this is wrong. Knew these sorts of comments would be here when I clicked on this article.
  • Wake up, this isn't a country government. This is a body of people that nobody voted for making rules for several countries. So yes when people you can't vote for or against its making rules it is not good.
  • Here's an idea...why don't you move to Afganistan? There's nobody in charge there, you'd get along just fine. Drop us a line once in a while.
  • @bradavon Well stated. The U.S is completely broken and is circling the drain. They are decades behind when it comes to issues such as free healthcare and education along with so many other policies that help the general population. The U.S is an example of what we can't allow our inclusive and compassionate nations to become.
  • "This puts the government in the position of dictating how businesses are to be run." that has been the government's role aver since inception. From safety regulations to food standards to employment law, they all dictate how a business is run. It is the very definition of governance.
    It also boosts competition rather than reduce it as it opens the market up to supply connectors and accessories to all devices rather than having to pick a segment or cost money catering for multiple connectors.
    As for some magical new standard, there is absolutely nothing in the pipeline to replace usb-c for the foreseeable future and chances are there never will be with tech moving to wireless standards eventually.
  • Nice Anker gear in this write up, good job!
  • The law simply states all must use common port. It doesn't designate USB-C
    The USB-IF is allowed to make the standard and can change at any point, so any comments about taking 10 years to pass a new law to change it would be invalid.
    As much as I hate for government to regulate anything, Apple just refuses to cooperate with anyone on this, because money. There just isn't any other valid reason.
  • Exactly. Sometimes regulation is needed, we'd literally have lawless societies without governments regulating.
  • 27 countries in the EU, not 30. 50 countries in Europe.
  • "According to the Commission, there is the proposal to have a charging technology that would be compatible with all Type-C chargers." This important point is somewhat burried in the article. It's also expecting there to be a charging speed standard. So you can expect your cable will work with both your phone but also laptop tool.
  • This won't happen for a while.. this USB 4 JUST made it to the point where it supports 240W. So we can JUST now with bleeding edge tech be able to charge gaming laptops with USB c. This type of mandate forcing all USB c chargers to be a certain wattage won't happen for a couple more years at least.
  • I own ipads iPhones imac m1 Samsung Pc and numerous devices to things such as torches and peripheral. Lightning was great when it first came out but now it is the time. It will cause an increase in ewates initially but in long term it will cut down on alot of waste and time wasted figuring out which cable is which wverytime you want to connect a device. Needless to say frying to distinguish between usbc/usba to lightning and all those bss! Full support!