The European Parliament has voted in favour of binding rules that would mandate the introduction of a bloc-wide common charging standard for mobile devices. The measure passed yesterday by 582 votes to 40, with 37 abstentions, and compels the European Commission to act by July 2020.
The commission can choose to implement a delegated measure outlined in the 2014 Radio Equipment Directive, or table a brand-new legislative measure. In addition to a common hardware charger, parliament also called upon the commission to ensure the interoperability of wireless chargers. Presently, there are three main competing wireless charging standards: Qi, Powermat, and Rezence. By an overwhelming margin, Qi is the dominant standard, particularly when it comes to consumer hardware.
Electrical waste and sustainability was also on the agenda at Brussels; the European Parliament called on the commission to consider measures that would increase the number of chargers and cables recycled.
It also asked the commission to explore the possibility of vendors shipping phones without cables and chargers, in an attempt to reduce the amount of superfluous tech being manufactured. Parliament stressed that any such measures should not cost the consumer more: "Any measure aiming at decoupling should avoid potentially higher prices for consumers."
The EU lawmakers still haven't explicitly mandated the industry-wide use of USB-C. However, it's almost certain that's the direction parliament will take. USB-C has been adopted by almost all Android manufacturers, save for the cheapest models offered, which use the slightly cheaper MicroUSB standard.
What about Britain?
This decision will have dramatic implications across the entire mobile industry. Its effects will not merely be limited to the 28 (or, as of 11pm UTC tonight, 27) member nations. The EU, after all, encompasses some of the world's most important and affluent economies, like France, Germany and Italy. It presently has a population of more than half a billion, and is likely to grow in the coming years as it adds more nations, particularly from the Balkan regions.
For simplicity, many manufacturers will opt to apply the EU's standards for all their customers, no matter where they're based. It is simply less burdensome to manufacture one model of a product instead of two.
One major aberration is likely Apple, which uses its own proprietary Lightning standard instead of bog-standard USB-C. Apple is no stranger to creating region-specific variants of the products. One example is the dual-sim versions of the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max released for the China and Hong Kong markets.
It's entirely plausible that Apple will opt to create Europe-specific versions of future iPhones, leaving the rest of the world to use Lightning. This would help preserve its lucrative accessories market, which made $24.5bn in the last financial year. ®