European Parliament and Council negotiators approved the law on Tuesday, saying in a statement that the move aims to “make products in the European Union more sustainable, reduce e-waste, and make consumers’ lives easier”.
The law, which still needs to be formally approved, requires all smartphones, tablets, e-readers and portable speakers — among a long list of other small electronic devices — sold in the EU to use the USB-C charging port. The requirements for laptops will come into effect in early 2026.
The mini pill-shaped port is already in use in many smartphones and laptops, as well as Apple’s latest iPads and some previous generation MacBook laptops.
But the authorization puts Apple in a tight spot, as it clung to its Lightning port on its iPhones and charging cases for its in-ear AirPods. Technology news site The Verge described the European law as a “huge blow to Apple’s Lightning port”.
Much like how California’s environmental and safety standards often lead to changes across the United States due to the logistical difficulty and financial infeasibility of creating different products for different countries, European shipping law can have a widespread impact on portable consumer electronics worldwide.
In Germany, the European Union’s largest economy, the three most popular smartphones were the iPhone, according to consumer research site Counterpoint, and the fourth and fifth were Samsung Galaxy phones that used USB-C ports. In France, the bloc’s second largest economy, iPhones occupy the top four positions in the smartphone market, according to Counterpoint’s calculations.
Apple also recently brought its MagSafe magnetic charger back to the MacBook Pro, and on Monday announced that it would do the same with thinner MacBook Air laptops.
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Apple has clearly been preparing for the crackdown: Bloomberg News reported last month that amid the looming prospect of European law, the company has been testing iPhone models that use USB-C instead of its own port.
Technology critics have long bemoaned Apple’s insistence on maintaining its own ports, pointing out that while many device makers have complied with the USB-C port, Apple’s unique charging medium leaves consumers stuck in a tangle of different cables.
Benedict Evans, an industry analyst, said the EU’s move could stifle innovation efforts toward eliminating charging ports altogether, such as using chargers with magnetic contact instead of ports to allow ultra-thin devices. he is Wrote On Twitter, he said it was “hard to see any feasible consumer benefit” from the law, which he said bans “certain ideas” such as the sole use of magnetic chargers.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday evening. When the European law was proposed in September, the company said in a statement: “We remain concerned that strict regulation forces rather than encourages only one type of connector style innovation, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world.”
When Apple stopped providing wired headphones and wall plugs with its iPhones in 2020, it said the reduction was for environmental reasons, although some suggested it was better for the company’s bottom line.