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EU sends jolt to Apple's Lightning port with proposed law mandating USB charging for all phones

The European Union is hoping to say goodbye to junk drawers full of different charging cords by forcing all smartphones sold in the continent to use one standard: USB.

EU wants to cut down on 11,000 tons a year of e-waste generated by obsolete tech

Apple is the main holdout to using USB chargers, insisting that its proprietary Lightning port technology is better. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

The European Union unveiled plans Thursday that would require smartphone makers to adopt a single charging method for mobile devices.

The EU Commission proposed legislation Thursday that would mandate USB-C cables for charging, technology that many device makers have already adopted. The main holdout is Apple, which has resisted the bloc's efforts for a unified standard. iPhones come with the company's own Lightning charging port, though the newest models come with cables that can be plugged into a USB-C socket.

The push by the EU will certainly be cheered by the millions of people who have searched through a drawer full of cables for the right charger. But the EU also wants to cut down on the 11,000 metric tons of electronic waste thrown out every year by Europeans.

The commission said the typical person living in the EU owns at least three chargers, and uses two regularly, but 38 per cent of people report not being able to charge their phones at least once because they couldn't find a compatible charger. Some 420 million mobile phones or portable electronic devices were sold in the EU last year.

WATCH | Why Europe wants one charging standard for cellphones

EU planning one charging port for all mobile devices

1 month ago
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In what may be a setback for Apple, the European Union is planning to introduce the USB-C connector as the standard charging port for all smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld video game consoles. 0:29

"Chargers power all our most essential electronic devices. With more and more devices, more and more chargers are sold that are not interchangeable or not necessary. We are putting an end to that," Thierry Breton, the EU's internal market commissioner, said. "With our proposal, European consumers will be able to use a single charger for all their portable electronics — an important step to increase convenience and reduce waste."

Under the proposed law, which must still be scrutinized by the European Parliament, phones, tablets, digital cameras, handheld video game consoles, headsets and headphones sold in the European Union would all have to come with USB-C charging ports.

After attempting for more than a decade to cajole the industry into adopting a common standard, the EU's executive commission is pushing the issue.

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