The European Union’s (EU) mandate that manufacturers of most mobile devices use USB-C by the fall of 2024 has fueled speculation that Apple may simply switch completely wirelessly to future models of its iPhones and AirPods.
While the directive of Committee of the European Parliament applies to all mobile electronics manufacturers, an unprecedented requirement is expected to directly affect Apple, whose products – including the popular iPhone – use the company’s own Lightning connector protocol.
The mandate is clear: “Mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, headsets, digital cameras, headphones and earphones, handheld video game consoles and portable speakers that are recharged via cable will need to be equipped with a USB Type-C port, regardless from their manufacturer. “
This move means that iPhones and AirPods sold in the EU will have to move to the more ubiquitous USB-C ports and cable connectors by the fall of 2024. The mandate leaves Apple with several options, including switching to all wireless.
Forrester senior analyst Andrew Cornwall said the EU’s move leaves at least three paths for Apple.
- Apple can provide a USB-C charging port separately from the Lightning charging and data port on the iPhone and iPad. This is probably the least aesthetic of the options and Apple is unlikely to choose a solution with two connectors for this reason.
- Apple may develop a hybrid port that accepts either USB-C (for charging only) or Lightning (for charging and data). Although it is possible that Apple will develop a hybrid port, it is unlikely that it will want to build a new connector.
- Apple can discard the port together and move to a wireless connection using the Qi charging standard, the capability of which has been built into their 2017 iPhone.
“Apple’s nature is to completely eliminate the charging / Lightning port in favor of wireless charging, thus evading EU law,” Cornwall said. “As their wireless charger maintains an open standard, they will not face future delegated acts.
“Apple seems to be in line with EU law and is ready to move to wireless charging with the Qi standard,” Cornwall said. “Data transfer will only be wireless. The Lightning port will disappear from future iPhones, just as the headphone jack did.
But Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes Apple is already planning USB-C on the iPhone 15 when it launched in the second half of 2023. So the delivery of a phone with fully wireless charging will have to follow in this scenario. The iPhone 14 series, which is expected in September, will almost certainly continue to use a Lightning connector, he tweeted.
The EU directive also allows manufacturers to omit the inclusion of any charger in their devices. This is because since all manufacturers are on the same charging standard, supplying a charger with each product would be redundant. This is an attribute that the European Parliament has called for its statement on the directive.
This will undoubtedly hurt some buyers – the few who do not have chargers will have to pay more, Cornwall said.
“There is an increased risk that warranty repairs will be canceled due to ‘poor chargers’. “Some can buy shoddy chargers that cause fires,” he said. “Travelers will have to carry a charging key while hotels widely implement Qi.”
And if Apple’s Lightning port disappears for data transmission, Apple users will lose some of its privacy, as it’s much harder to intercept cable traffic than anything over the air, Cornwall said. Additionally, some iPhones may become more difficult to repair, and it may not be possible to flash or restore the iPhone to its original firmware. And the jailbreak of an all-wireless iPhone – that, too, may no longer work.
On the other hand, iPhones may be easier to waterproof with an eliminated port.
“I see that EU law is a little inconvenient for consumers,” Cornwall said. “This is slightly advantageous for device suppliers, who no longer have to include a charger at every sale.”
Jack Gold, chief analyst at J. Gold Associates, questioned whether the EU directive would allow Apple to remove the port altogether, as the mandate requires vendors to switch to USB-C. In addition, there are still several challenges with wireless charging – the first is that it is not as energy efficient.
“There’s a big loss on wireless charging – up to 50%,” Gold said. “And you’re limited in how much power you can get through the wireless charger. So the fast charging we’re all used to is very difficult to do wirelessly. This is probably why Apple has not continued to charge wirelessly for its phones. “
So the question is, would consumers accept slower charging?
“I guess Apple will resist full wireless charging for a long time until some of these issues are resolved. But physics is against them, and it will take some serious breakthroughs to change things. Apple users expect Apple that it may not be able to meet wireless charging as the only option. “
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