Apple is in the spotlight again after a group of Senators published a letter on Thursday asking the US Department of Commerce to establish a universal charging standard for smartphones.
Signed by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), Sen.. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the document urges the Department of Commerce to take after the European Union developing a plan to create a common rate standard. Unlike the EU with its USB-C mandate, these Democratic officials are largely calling for a strategy to be developed and leaving it to the Department of Commerce to agree on a single universal port.
The politician’s arguments echo those put forward by the EU: that a charging standard can reduce e-waste, remove unnecessary costs for customers and “bring reason and certainty back to the process of buying new devices”. electronics”. Besides the environmental benefits, politicians claim that “planned obsolescence” caused by changing incompatible pricing standards is costly and frustrating for consumers.
The letter is addressed to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who has yet to respond.
“The EU acted wisely in the public interest by taking on powerful tech companies on this consumer and environmental issue,” the senators wrote. “The United States should do the same. We urge you to coordinate with Department of Commerce offices and agencies to develop a comprehensive plan that will protect both consumers and the environment by addressing the lack of a common pricing standard in the United States.
While the industry has largely moved to using USB-C (Apple being the big exception) as the universal standard, these US senators say the average consumer owns three cellphone chargers and 40% of smartphone owners say they “can’t charge their mobile phone”. phone because the available chargers were incompatible. When a cable can’t charge their devices, it’s thrown away, adding to the 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste generated in 2017 alone, according to the letter.
Read between the lines here and you see that Apple may soon be asked to switch from its proprietary Lightning connector to USB-C. Currently, Apple is the only major technology company in the United States to not adopt USB-C on its smartphones, opting instead for a long-standing proprietary cable that enables MagSafe compatibility. This legislation would likely apply to smartphones, tablets and speakers, but if it were to be extended, Apple’s MacBooks would be clear, because they already charge via USB-C.
Critics, including Apple, have denounced the EU regulation, saying it could stifle innovation. The iPhone maker says switching to a common charger could do more damage than good and forcing the switch from Lightning to USB-C will create more e-waste than it reduces. Apple pointed out that the industry has already consulted on up to two charging standards following a voluntary policy the EU introduced in 2019.
The EU estimates that the USB-C mandate could save consumers €250 million per year and reduce e-waste by 11,000 tonnes per year. It assures phone makers and consumers that legislation will be updated to keep up with changing technology.
Imposing a common charging standard could only be a formality if the rumors that Apple is moving the iPhone to USB-C are true. Reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed earlier this year that the iPhone arriving in the second half of 2023 – presumably the iPhone 15 – will be ditch the Lightning connector for USB-C. Another report says test to replace Lightning by USB-C is already underway.