Monday, February 24, 2020 [Tweets] [Favorites]

EU Wants All Phones to Work With Interoperable Chargers

Tim Hardwick:

Despite pushback from Apple, the European Parliament in January voted overwhelmingly for new rules to establish a common charging standard for mobile device makers across the European Union. This article explores what form the EU laws might ultimately take and how they could affect Apple device users in Europe and elsewhere.

To reduce cost, electronic waste and make consumers’ lives easier, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) want “binding measures” that ensure chargers fit all smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices.

[…]

A progress report provided by the MoU signatories in February 2013 indicated that 90 percent of the new devices placed on the market by the signatories and other manufacturers by the end of 2012 supported the common charging capability. But that statistic was so high only because it took into account the fact that Apple offered a Lightning to micro-USB adapter.

One member of the Commission would note: “[…] The future MoU must be clear in its outcome, we cannot afford to admit adaptors.”

Matt Birchler:

Second, this is addressing a problem that I think we all suspect is going away shortly anyway. Every Apple laptop charges with USB-C. The new iPad Pros released in 2018 use USB-C. Every Mac they sell is all in on USB-C (some would say to a fault). It’s just the iPhone that’s not using the standard, and we all pretty much agree that it’s only a matter of time (1-2 year max) before they switch over there too.

Third, what do we do in 5 years when there is a successor to USB-C that is better in every way? Are phone makers expected to wait for the EU to approve that new connector before they can use it?

Previously:

8 Comments

> what do we do in 5 years

Probably amend the law if necessary, the way it is actually outlined in the motion? I also can't find any mention of USB in any of the documents from the EU, so presumably, if phone makers decide to switch to a different standard, and everybody can agree on what that standard is, then they wouldn't violate these rules.

> Second, this is addressing a problem that I think we all suspect is going away shortly anyway ... we all pretty much agree that it’s only a matter of time (1-2 year max) before they switch over there [iPhone] too.

People have been confidently asserting that for about 3-4 years now. It still hasn't happened. I expect Apple is hoping to bypass USB-C and go direct to wireless at the top-end, using lightning for the next 3-4 years for iPhone SE and the like. Certainly there is no reason to presume USB-C is around there corner.

> Are phone makers expected to wait for the EU to approve that new connector before they can use it?

Yes. It's not that hard. Discussions with regulators is how we went from 4G to 5G. US citizens are often allergic to strong regulation of business, but US citizens also, for example, die of foodborne illnesses at six-times the rate of citizens in EU countries like the UK (https://www.sustainweb.org/news/feb18_US_foodpoisoning/). This is due to strong regulation of farmers and food providers insisted on by the EU farmers where poultry are vaccinated and companies cannot take shortcuts.

Having just 1 standard to rule them all is shortsighted. It limits technological progress and hurt consumers and environment in many edge cases.
Even for the mainstream devices like smartphone, tablets, ebook readers and notebooks having one standard is bad.
There should be at lease two at all times, the current one and sun-setting or a rising one.
For example let's say in 2020 the main one is USB-C
and USB-A is set to expire in 2022. Then in 2022 it could be replaced by something new, and then USB-C will get it's expiration date, let's say 2028 and so on. But not one standard.

Yet, in general this propositions is silly. Why standardize only on chargers? Why not on batteries too? Why not require all car maker use the same wheels and tires? Standards are good, they help with compatibility, but if overdone they become progress-stopping, cost-rising bureaucratic nightmares.

> Even for the mainstream devices like smartphone, tablets,
> ebook readers and notebooks having one standard is bad.

How in the world would that be bad in any way?

> Why standardize only on chargers? Why not on batteries too?

We actually do standardize batteries. There's an ANSI standard for batteries, which is a really good thing, because it means that you can go into any store and buy batteries that go into any device you own. It's like living in the future! Standards rule!

But I know you're talking about internal batteries, and you know what, it would be great if we could have some kind of standard for these batteries, too. The battery in my GPD Win 2 just died, and it was an actual figurative nightmare (not just a "bureaucratic nightmare") getting a replacement.

Sören Nils Kuklau

>We actually do standardize batteries. There's an ANSI standard for batteries, which is a really good thing, because it means that you can go into any store and buy batteries that go into any device you own. It's like living in the future! Standards rule!

That's a simplistic take and you know it.

Very few devices in my home actually use standard batteries these days. None of the consumer electronics I interact with these most do. That was different in the 90s, and yes, in some ways, that was better. But I sure as hell don't think an iPhone would be a product if it came with four standard AAA batteries. It'd be thicker, clunkier, more prone to mechanical or electrical failure, less water-resistant, and all that for the rare scenario where I run out of battery and want to fix that by going to a store.

Doesn't mean standards aren't cool. But in this case, I feel there are bigger fish to fry than "iPhones don't use USB-C".

>Very few devices in my home actually use standard batteries these days

Almost all in my home do, and that's intentional. If I have the choice between a device that has a built-in battery and thus a five-year expiration date (and will probably run out of the charge at the most inconvenient times), and a device that supports standard battery sizes, I will pick the one with standard battery sizes 100% of the time.

Particularly since low self discharge rechargeable batteries exist, there is no reason to put internal batteries into stuff like game controllers or TV remotes. I have essentially an infinite supply of fully charged AA and AAA battries available at all times.

Xbox controller runs out of juice? Swap batteries. PS4 controller runs out of juice? You're done playing.

>But I sure as hell don't think an iPhone would be a product if it came with four standard AAA batteries

I think you misunderstand what I'm saying. I'm not saying "iPhones should support AAA batteries." That would be an obviously ridiculous thing to say. Instead, I'm saying "standards for batteries can work, and AAA batteris show that, so it would be nice if phones had standards for internal batteries, too."

>I feel there are bigger fish to fry than "iPhones don't use USB-C".

This is not a useful argument. There is always a bigger fish. In this case, though, it's not even true. We're destroying the world with our waste, and all of these chargers are part of that, so this is literlly the biggest fish that could possibly exist.

It seems to me that any possible innovations in charging cables, supposedly stifled by regulation, do not outweigh the economic and environmental benefits of standardization.

"what do we do in 5 years when there is a successor to USB-C that is better in every way?"

Since this only applies to chargers, there'd be no problem adopting a new connector as long as a USB C port were retained, at least for charging. I'd imagine it would be possible to support charging from either the USB C port or the new type of port, if the new port offers some advantage for charging.

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