Apple may be forced to ditch Lightning charge cable amid new EU rules

Apple may be forced to ditch Lightning charge cable amid new EU rules

On September 7th Apple will release the highly anticipated iPhone 7. Design changes to the new model are suggested to affect the 3,5mm headphone jack, to be replaced with the proprietary Lightning jack.

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The European Union (EU) is revamping plans that could force smartphone makers, such as Apple, to share the same charging method.

European policymakers want to make life easier for consumers as well as to reduce electronic waste across the 28-country region. As a result, they are looking at introducing a single universal charging cable. This would be particularly relevant for Apple given its different charging options.

“We are drowning in an ocean of electronic waste,” Roza Thun und Hohenstein, a European lawmaker said at the European Parliament Monday. “We cannot continue this way,” she added.

Old chargers generate more than 51 000 metric tons of electronic waste per year, according to the European Parliament. Lawmakers want one single charger that fits phones, tables, e-books and any other portable device. Apple’s Lightning connector cable, which is used to charge and sync different devices, would therefore be at risk.

However, Apple believes that the EU’s plan would hurt innovation.

“Regulations that would drive conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones freeze innovation rather than encourage it. Such proposals are bad for the environment and unnecessarily disruptive for customers,” Apple said in a feedback form issued to the European institutions last year.

Apple, of its own choice, has already stopped using Lightning on the 2019 version of the iPad, moving to the USB-C port used on MacBooks. USB-C and micro-USB are also used on Android devices.

“This has been a long-term objective of the industry,” Dexter Thillien, a senior industry analyst at Fitch Solutions, told CNBC Friday. “Most Android devices already use the same charging system (USB-C and micro-USB), so it would impact Apple more than anybody else.”

However, Thillien also noted that Apple is already using USB for some iPads, “so it wouldn’t be completely new for them, and would only apply to future models.”

The EU pushed for a single charging mechanism back in 2014. At the time, the European Commission – the EU’s executive arm, tried to encourage smartphone makers to develop a solution among themselves. However, the voluntary scheme did not achieve what European policymakers wanted and they are now looking at putting it into law.

“It is never too late for industry to come up with a suitable proposal, but we now must consider the legislative approach,” a Commission source told CNBC via email.

The future is wireless

Smartphone developers, including Apple and Samsung, have presented devices that are charged wirelessly. Though the technology is still at its early stages, analysts believe this is the future.

“As tech wants to prove it’s becoming greener, (implementing a common charger system is) a move they might make without too much opposition. And obviously the future is wireless charging, so no need for cables,” Thillien told CNBC.

Apple shares are up by more than 100% over the last 12 months.

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