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Europe's USB-C deadline: Lightning must be struck from iPhone by December, 2024

Single market's worth $95.12 billion to Apple, so it's not like it had a choice

OEMs, start your assembly lines as the European Commission (EC) has published its USB-C rules, and an official date for enforcement has been set for December 28, 2024.

When the law comes into effect, any newly made radio equipment that can be charged with a wire, from smartphones and tablets to earbuds, mice and keyboards, will have to contain a USB-C port instead of an old micro USB port or one of Apple's Lightning ports. 

The only exception to the law now on the books are laptops, which are being given until April 28, 2026, to comply with the rule. Devices that only charge wirelessly, like smartwatches, are exempt from the USB-C port requirements.

The EC first informed the world of its plans in June of this year, when it said it had agreed to add a single-charging solution to planned Radio Equipment Directive amendments.

It justified the proposed change by saying it would reduce electronic waste and simplify device charging for consumers. Beyond requiring manufacturers to simplify their cable landscape, the European Parliament said the standard would also eliminate confusing and variable fast-charging speeds, as all USB-C cables delivered with equipment would be required to offer 100 watts of power delivery.

Apple is the largest smartphone manufacturer to have resisted the adoption of USB-C, at least in some of its devices – the current generation of iPads have all ditched Lightning for USB-C. When talk of a planned single-charging standard in the European Union was raised again in late 2021, Apple was predictably against the move.

At the time, Apple said it was concerned that a single charging standard would stifle innovation, thereby harming consumers. Fast-forward to this past October when the USB-C law was signed, and Apple changed its tune, saying that it intended to conform with the EU's USB-C requirements.

Maltese MP Alex Agius Saliba said in June: "This is a rule which will apply to everyone. Now it's [not just a] Memorandum of Understanding [anymore] and having all the leeway that [Apple] had during the past 10 years – basically to not abide by this MoU – which was abided by the majority of manufacturers. So yes, Apple has to abide."

Apple's argument that adopting USB-C would stifle innovation simply doesn't hold much water, especially if Lightning ports are the alternative. Lightning can't offer the data transfer speeds that USB-C is capable of, it doesn't support USB 3.1 gen 2, and it's capped to just 14W of power delivery - all factors in USB-C's favor.

The vote on the proposal - 602 in favor, 13 against and 8 abstentions – may have also motivated Apple to realize it would have to leave the EU's single market before it got its way.

With Apple's typical release cycle of unveiling new iPhones in the fall, Apple will technically have a bit more time than December 2024 to get USB-C in its new devices. Apple has reportedly been testing USB-C in iPhones since earlier this year, meaning its possible USB-C iPhones could appear before the deadline.

Apple refused to comment. ®

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