Apple would have to redesign iPhone under proposed EU rule

Apple’s current slate of iPhones would be illegal to sell in the European Union under a new proposed rule requiring smartphones and electronics to come with standardized charging ports.

The EU edict, proposed Thursday, would require all devices sold in the bloc to have USB-C ports, which are already used for many Android and other smartphones.

The EU said the proposal was designed to cut down on electronic waste and prevent consumers from wasting money on chargers that do not work with all their devices.

Apple, which did not immediately reply to a request for comment, installs Lightning connectors in iPhones rather than USB-C ports.

The EU rule must be approved by the European Parliament in order to take effect. Smartphone makers would then have two years adapt to the new rules, so they would not take effect until at least late 2023 at the earliest.

“European consumers were frustrated long enough about incompatible chargers piling up in their drawers,” said Margrethe Vestager, European Commission executive vice president. “We gave industry plenty of time to come up with their own solutions, now time is ripe for legislative action for a common charger.”

Half the chargers sold with mobile phones in Europe in 2018 had a USB micro-B connector, while 29 percent featured a USB-C connector and 21 percent had a Lightning connector, according to an EU study reported by Reuters.

The European Union said the proposal was designed to cut down on electronic waste.
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Beyond phones, the legislation proposed Thursday would also apply to chargers for tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld gaming devices. It would not affect wireless charging features.

Benedict Evans, a venture capitalist and former partner at Andressen Horowitz, blasted the EU proposal as “profoundly stupid.”

“What happens in 5 years when someone wants to use a better connector?” Evans wrote on Twitter. “It is a truly terrible idea for implementing a new feature in a field that changes as fast as consumer electronics to need to go through a multi-year legislative process.”

Thursday’s charger proposal is not the only dust-up between the EU and Apple.

Lightning and USB chargers
“What happens in 5 years when someone wants to use a better connector?” asked venture capitalist Benedict Evans.
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One ongoing EU antitrust probe is examining whether the fees Apple charges developers who use its app store violate the bloc’s competition rules. Another is considering if the company’s Apple Pay feature unfairly squashes competition.

Regulators could fine Apple up to 10 percent of its annual revenue if they find the company broke competition law.