The European Union has declared war on the different types of chargers Although the community institutions have been searching for a universal charger for a decade, this summer points to the definitive date to make it a reality, according to a document leaked by the Commission. This is an initiative that was backed last Friday by a very large majority in Parliament, but has run into Apple’s opposition. Its exclusive Lightning charger falls outside of Europe’s plans to find a universal solution.
From the technology they ensure that the decision undermines innovation instead of encouraging it and harms European consumers and the economy in general. “The legislation would have a direct negative impact by interrupting the hundreds of millions of active devices and accessories used by our European customers,” says Apple. For Guillermo de Haro, professor of the IS / IT area of IE, Apple’s main reason for hindering this project is none other than the economic one. Last year, technological accessories, including chargers, kept billing despite the drop in sales of the iPhone, its flagship product. “It is the category that grows the most, 41%. Although not everything is cables, it is a negligible part, ”he says.
Apart from helping users leave different cables behind, the Commission understands that the time has come to reduce the environmental impact of technology. Estimates at 51,000 tons per year the electronic waste generated by already obsolete loaders. A position seconded by manufacturers such as LG, meaning completely in favor of the proposed changes. For the South Korean company, the standard has to start from the most used solution in the industry, which would be the USB-C (Apple only uses it since 2018 on the iPad Pro). “We would modify what was necessary to adapt to a universal charger, which would save on the consumption of resources,” explains Nacho Ángel, director of mobile communications for LG Spain.
This last week, the chargers war has returned to the scene, although it is a battle that has been going on for more than a decade. Already in 2009 the big technology, among which were Apple, Samsung and Nokia, promised to solve this problem. They began to manufacture adapters and the end result is that, of the more than 30 connections available in the market, they have only withstood three: Lightning, USB-C and Micro USB. “This approach has shown that it works. We hope that the Commission will continue to look for a solution that does not restrict the ability of the industry to innovate and provide new technologies to customers, ”says the organization founded by Steve Jobs.
Taxation, the one-year warranty and mobile repairs represent other controversies in which Apple has collided with the community institutions. The rejection of the universal charger, apart from for economic reasons, is closely related to the exclusivity in the design of its devices. As De Haro explains, the Lightning cable is thinner, which allows them to include more elements in highly optimized products. “This is not just about manufacturing new ports. The standard placed on the table is up to 20% larger, something that would affect both the hardware and its design line ”, ditch.
In the absence of going through all the slow bureaucracy of Brussels, in which the member countries will have the last word, the advantages and will of the European organizations seem very clear after so many years. De Haro is more skeptical of the changes that are to come. It does not rule out that there are large companies that acquire a dominant position and that adaptation costs are high before generating any type of value. “We would have to really assess whether, beyond the comfort for users and the discomfort for Apple, there are other factors that justify this change. If the standard is more or less well thought out, which does not always happen, they make life easier, ”he concludes.
In the heart of community decisions, no one would understand that this struggle would take longer. Some MEPs have come to affirm, in an obvious allusion to Apple, that further delaying the regulation would place the interests of a company above that of European consumers. “There is a need to urgently adopt a standard on a common charger. We have to ensure that citizens do not buy a new cable with each new device, ”recalls Parliament.
An open possibility in Europe to reach this universal charger, in case the USB-C cable is no longer the preferred option by the community institutions, is precisely to dispense with the cables. Wireless charging appears as a third way to circumvent the opposition shown almost exclusively by Apple. However, as Nacho Ángel, director of mobile communications for LG Spain, reasons, the user is not yet too inclined to use such solutions. “There are many devices that do not give all the security required when we talk about wireless chargers. I see it difficult for them to be standardized for final consumers, ”he says.