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TECH

What you need to know about the EU’s plan for a uniform phone charger

The European Union has approved a new regulation that would force tech companies to use a standard charger for mobile phones and electronic devices. What does this mean?

What you need to know about the EU's plan for a uniform phone charger
The European Union will require all manufacturers use the same USB Type C for charging ports in certain devices. (Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash)

The European Parliament has approved an agreement establishing a single charging solution for frequently used small and medium-sized portable electronic devices. The law will make it mandatory for specific devices that are rechargeable via a wired cable to be equipped with a USB Type-C port.

The rules have been debated for a while, and the announcement of the agreement has caused controversy, especially among tech companies and enthusiasts. US giant Apple has repeatedly lobbied against the standardisation, saying it halts innovation.

The EU says that the new rules will lead to more re-use of chargers and “help consumers save up to €250 million a year on unnecessary charger purchases”. Disposed of and unused chargers are estimated to represent about 11,000 tonnes of e-waste annually, the bloc says.

So, what exactly are the changes?

Which products will be affected?

According to the European Parliament, the new rules are valid for small and medium-sized portable electronic devices. This includes mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, earbuds, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld videogame consoles and portable speakers that are rechargeable via a wired cable.

Laptops will also have to be adapted, the EU says.

Those devices will have to be equipped with a USB Type-C port regardless of their manufacturer.

When will the changes come?

For most devices, the changes are set to come by autumn of 2024. However, the date is not yet set because the regulations need to go to other proceedings within the EU bureaucracy.

After the summer recess, The EU’s Parliament and Council need to formally approve the agreement before publication in the EU Official Journal. It enters into force 20 days after publication, and its provisions start to apply after 24 months, hence the “autumn 2024” expectation.

Rules for laptops are a bit different, and manufacturers will have to adapt their products to the requirements by 40 months after the entry into force of the laws.

Where are the rules valid?

The rules will be valid for products sold or produced in the European Union and its 27 member countries. But, of course, they will likely affect manufacturers and promote more considerable scale changes.

The USB-C cable, with the rounded edges, will be the standard for charging in the EU (Photo by مشعال بن الذاهد on Unsplash)

Why the uniform USB Type-C?

The bloc said the uniform charger is part of a broader EU effort to make products more sustainable, reduce electronic waste, and make consumers’ lives easier.

“European consumers were frustrated long with multiple chargers piling up with every new device”, EU Parliament’s rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba said.

USB Type-C is a standard of charging that has been around for a while but still is one of the best options currently in the market. Also known as USB-C, it allows for reliable, inexpensive, and fast charging. A USB-C port can also be input or output, meaning that it can both send and receive charges and data.

Unlike other ports, it can be the same on both ends of the wire (making it easier and more universal in its use). It can also power devices and sends data much faster.

USB-C can also be used for video and audio connections, so some external monitors can charge your laptop and show your screen simultaneously with the same cable.

What criticism is there?

The project is not without criticism, most vocally from US tech giant Apple, a company that famously has its own charging standard, the “lightning” connection.

Apple claims that forcing a standardisation will prevent innovation, holding all companies to the same technology instead of allowing for experimentation. Still, Apple itself has been swapping to USB-C. Its iPads have already dropped the lightning standard. Its newer laptops can now be charged with the MagSafe proprietary connector and USB-C.

Apple iPhones are still charged with the company’s lightning ports – or wirelessly (Photo by Brandon Romanchuk on Unsplash)

The company’s popular earbuds and peripherals (including keyboards and mice) all charge with lightning. And, of course, the iPhone, Apple’s smartphone, also uses the company’s connection for charging.

While there have been rumours that Apple is working on new iPhones with USB-C connection (though definitely not for the next launch this year’s), the company could go away with wired charging altogether. Instead, like many tech manufacturers, Apple is improving its wireless charging solutions, even creating products dedicated to its MagSafe charging.

It won’t be completely free from the EU regulation if it does that, though. This is because the rules approved by the EU also allow the European Commission to develop so-called “delegated acts” concerning wireless charging. The delegated acts are faster processes that can be applied directly without being put to the vote.

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For members

BASEL

13 essential apps that make life in Basel easier for foreign residents

Whether it's public transport, culture, city guides or car parking, there are plenty of apps to help international residents settle into life in Basel.

13 essential apps that make life in Basel easier for foreign residents

As Switzerland’s third most populous city (after Zurich and Geneva) – and home to a thriving jobs scene, Basel is a magnet for international residents.

But settling into new place can be difficult. The good news is that there are smartphone apps that can help make life a little easier for foreigners finding their feet in this Swiss city which lies close to the German and French borders. 

We’ve put together a guide to some of the most useful apps to help you make the most of Basel – and Switzerland in general. 

READ MORE: Is Basel the best Swiss city for foreigners and Geneva the worst?

BVB App (Basler Verkehrs-Betriebe) 

The BVB app provides public transport information for the Triregion of Basel (North-western Switzerland region, South Baden and the Alsace). With the BVB app you can plan ahead of your journey and buy tickets in advance. Additionally, the app will tell you in case your tram or bus is late (a rare occurrence). 

Art Basel   

If you are an art enthusiast, the Art Basel app may be of use to you! 

Art Basel brings together the leading international gallery owners and collectors, offering visitors art from the world’s best galleries. The app also offers online viewing rooms – so you can browse artworks and create your own collection. You can also discover galleries, museums, cultural institutions, restaurants and bars and much more.

iTour Basel City guide (audio guide) 

Discover Basel’s old town through the Basel City Guide in audio format. If you are a tourist or a local wanting to find out more about Basel and its history, this app can give you more of an insight. It encourages you to walk to different stations around the city and takes you through an independent journey to discover Basel. 

ParkSmart Basel

It can be a pain to look for parking in a busy city, fearing you will lose time circling round and round waiting for a free spot. Parksmart is the official parking app of Basel Stadt. It allows you to pay for parking, find points where you can park so you can plan in advance and be sure you will find a place to park. 

A woman with a phone

Here are apps that make life in Switzerland easier for foreigners. Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

Pick-E-Bike

Pick-e-Bike is your sharing system for e-bikes and e-scooters in the Basel region. Having the choice to spontaneously pick up an E-bike will give you liberty and security to arrive to your destination on time. A map within the app will show you where the nearest bike pick-up is. The fair is charged by the minute, making it a cheap and efficient option. 

READ ALSO: 10 essential apps that make life in Zurich easier for internationals

Apps for Switzerland: 

Meteo Schweiz 

Meteo is a Swiss weather app that gives accurate weather reports up to a week ahead of time. One impressive feature of the app is the precipitation radar, which, from a satellite perspective, shows how affected you may be by upcoming bad weather. If you are planning a trip to the mountains, make sure to check on the meteo app for good weather for your skiing holidays!

SBB (public transport app) 

The SBB app is the swiss national transportation app that provides information on a ranging form of transport: whether it be by tram, train, bus, ship or even a gondola. With this app you can be sure to be recommended the best and most efficient connections for your journey. As with the BVB app, you can buy tickets ahead of time and the app will alert you of any delays. 

Uber 

As it is in other countries, Uber can be an efficient and quick way to get from destination A to B. It is especially handy in later hours as trains, trams and buses end their working day. If you decide to stay out longer, do not fret – Uber drivers are available throughout the night.

Just Eat.ch (food delivery service) 

Just Eat is one of the convenient food delivery services that will bring food right to your door. Indian, Thai, Chinese or Swiss cuisine are amongst the options offered from a range of restaurants local to you. Additionally, it will tell you how long it will take to prepare your meal and an estimated time of arrival. You can also track your delivery, so you are sure when your food is arriving. 

Vivino app (wine and reviews of wine) 

Navigating and pairing wine to food is always a challenge – especially when it comes to Swiss wines. Vivino will let you know if you’re making the right choice right away. Photographing the label will bring up information about the wine, its rating and the most important wine characteristics. This allows for you make a more accurate pairing with your rösti, raclette or fondue.

Ricardo (swiss Ebay) 

Ricardo is the place to list items, clothing, and furniture that you would like to sell. If you are interested in buying a certain product, you can select your location and filter this product out – guaranteeing that you will find what you are looking for. It could be compared to something like Ebay, as they work in a similar way. 

Mobility Car-Sharing

Switzerland’s public transport is extremely efficient and reliable, which means it is not completely necessary to own a car. But if you need a car and don’t have one, don’t panic! In the event of wanting to go for an extra large shopping trip or fetching a friend from the airport, mobility car sharing is the solution. Mobility cars can be found in various areas around – not just Basel – but in the whole of Switzerland and can be picked up spontaneously or booked beforehand. This means instead of owning a car permanently, you can own one for just a couple of hours and get your most important chores completed. 

TWINT 

TWINT is a very popular mobile payment method in Switzerland. It allows users to connect their bank account (Post-Finance, UBS, Migrobank and many more) with the TWINT app to make secure payments. Additionally, it is very easy to send money to your friends or loved ones, to pay bills and so on.

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