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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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CLIMATE CRISIS

IN PICTURES: French drought intensifies as River Loire dries up

As France continues to suffer its worst drought on record, many of its mighty rivers - including the Loire and the Dordogne - have in some areas dwindled to a trickle while in other regions lakes and reservoirs have vanished.

IN PICTURES: French drought intensifies as River Loire dries up

Almost all of France is now under some level of water restrictions and in many communes tap water has been rationed or even cut off altogether as supplies run dry.

The climate crisis-linked drought – intensified by an unusually hot summer – has dried out many subterranean water supplies, but the country’s rivers are also affected.

From the Loire to the Dordogne, rivers are slowing to a trickle – as this aerial video from French TV channel LCI shows.

The dry bed of the Loire River in Saumur, western France on August 8th. Photo by GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP)

Swimmers bathe in the Adour river near Aire-sur-Adour, southwestern France, on August 9th. Photo by GAIZKA IROZ / AFP

Across France many lakes have also virtually dried up, while reservoirs are at a perilously low level.

The dry bed of Lac des Brenets, part of the Doubs River, a natural border between eastern France and western Switzerland. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

In inland areas, many lakes have ‘beaches’ that serve as leisure attractions for locals who are too far away for day-trips to the sea – complete with sun-beds, bars, cafés and souvenir stalls.

Some lake beaches have been forced to close because of the lack of water.

A man walks at the Castillon lake, partially dried out, in Saint-Andre-les-Alpes, southeastern France. Photo by Christophe SIMON / AFP

Marshland has also dried out, threatening wildlife and also the livelihood of France’s artisan salt-makers, who produce fleur de sel from salt marshes around the French coastline.

French salt worker Evan Thoby collects salt flowers in salt marshes, in Batz-sur-Mer, western France. Photo by Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

These scenes have been repeated across Europe, including in Italy where the Po river has dried up and Germany where the Rhine – which carried a huge amount of freight traffic in normal times – is perilously low and has had to restrict shipping. 

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