Could EU USB-C prompt Apple to cut the connection entirely?

Could EU USB-C prompt Apple to cut the connection entirely?

Apple has included wireless charging on all of its current iPhone models, and it also works on AirPod headphones. So if you can avoid swapping the Lightning port for a USB-C port, why not switch everything to wireless charging?

Lucas Mirian

A European Union (EU) decision requiring most mobile device makers to use USB-C charging cables by fall 2024 has sparked speculation that Apple may switch to wireless charging on all iPhone and AirPods models.

While the directive from a European Parliament committee applies to all mobile electronics manufacturers, the unprecedented requirement is expected to directly affect Apple, whose products – including the popular iPhone – use the company’s proprietary Lightning connection protocol.

The mandate is clear: “Mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, headphones, digital cameras, headsets, handheld video game consoles, and portable speakers that charge over a wired cable need to be equipped with a USB Type-C port, regardless of their manufacturer.”

The move means that by fall 2024, iPhones and AirPods sold in the EU will be required to switch to the more ubiquitous USB-C port and cable connector. The order gives Apple a variety of options, including the ability to make everything available wirelessly.

“The new rules only cover charging over a wire. If a device is not charging over a wire, there is no obligation to have a USB Type-C port,” a source in the European Parliament told Computerworld in an emailed response. “As wireless technology still takes time to develop, 24 months after the Directive comes into force, the European Commission will ask European standards bodies to also set standards for wireless technology – so this may change in the future. In the future, but not now”.

Forrester senior analyst Andrew Cornwall said the EU move leaves Apple with at least three options.

– Apple can provide a separate USB-C charging port from the Lightning charging port on iPhones and iPads. This is probably the least aesthetically pleasing of the options, so Apple is unlikely to opt for a dual-connector solution.

– Apple could develop a hybrid port that could accept either USB-C (for charging only) or Lightning (for charging and data). While Apple could develop a hybrid port, it’s unlikely that it wants to build a new connector.

– Apple could ditch the port and switch to the Qi charging standard, a feature built into its iPhones since 2017.

“Apple may circumvent EU law by removing the charging/connection port entirely in favor of wireless charging,” Cornwall said. Since their wireless chargers support open standards, they won’t violate future licenses. “

“Apple seems to have foreseen EU law and is preparing to move towards Qi-standard wireless charging,” Cornwall said. “Data transfer will be wireless only. The Lightning port will disappear from future iPhones, as will the headphone jack. .”

However, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes that Apple is already planning to use USB-C on the iPhone 15, which will be launched in the second half of 2023, so in this case, wireless charging phones must be adopted. The iPhone 14, expected to launch in September, will almost certainly continue to use the Lightning connector.

The EU directive also allows manufacturers to distribute any chargers in their equipment. This is because since all manufacturers use the same charging standard, it would be redundant to provide a charger for every product. This is an attribute cited by the European Parliament in its directive statement.

Cornwall points out that this will undoubtedly hurt some buyers — the few who don’t have a charger will have to pay more.

“There’s an added danger that warranty repairs may be rejected for ‘bad chargers’. Some people may buy poor quality chargers that cause fires,” he said. “Until hotels widely implement Qi, travelers will have to carry dongles to charge.”

Cornwall points out that if Apple’s Lightning port disappears for data transfers, Apple users will lose some privacy, since intercepting wired traffic is much harder than intercepting air traffic. Also, some iPhones may become more difficult to repair, and it may become impossible to replace or restore an iPhone.

On the other hand, with the ports removed, the iPhone may be more likely to be waterproof.

“I think EU law is a bit of an inconvenience for consumers,” Cornwall said. “It’s a bit of a boon for device sellers who no longer have to include a charger with every sale.”

Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates, questioned whether an EU directive would allow Apple to remove a port entirely, as it would require suppliers to switch to USB-C. Also, there are still some challenges with wireless charging — first and foremost, it’s not very energy efficient.

“There’s a lot of wireless load loss — up to 50 percent,” Gold said. “And how much power you can use with a wireless charger. So the fast charging we’re all used to is hard to do on a wireless system. That’s probably why Apple isn’t doing mass wireless charging on phones.”

So the question is, will users accept slower loading?

“My hunch is that Apple is going to have a massive wireless load until they can fix some of them. But the physics is against them, and some major progress is needed to turn things around. Apple users expect that Apple may not be able to meet wireless charging as the only choose.”

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