How the EU's new rule on USB-C chargers will impact Apple and your iPhone

Credit: Unsplash

Apple will need to change the connector on iPhones sold in Europe after European Union countries agreed to a single charging port for mobile phones, tablets and cameras.

The European Commission said the move would make life easier for consumers, but the changes could be a headache for some Apple users who do not have the right type of port.

Here is everything you need to know about the new provisional EU directive:

When will the changes come into effect?

The EU’s agreement will apply from autumn 2024 for all smartphones sold in the bloc.

The move needs to be approved by the European Parliament and European Council later this year, but that is expected to be a formality now the outline of the proposals has been agreed.

Apple's lightning USB cables will be replaced across Europe. Credit: Unsplash

Why is the EU bringing in the change?

It's the first time worldwide such a law is set to come into place and the EU says the move will save consumers around £213 million, reduce electricity waste and make life easier.

Apple is yet to comment on the move, but it argued against the proposal when it was first introduced in September 2021, telling the BBC it would "stifle innovation".

Will the common charger rules apply to the UK now it is outside of the EU?

The UK government says it is not "currently considering" copying EU plans for a common charging cable, though it would apply to Northern Ireland under the current post-Brexit arrangements.

So while the ruling doesn't immediately apply to the whole of the UK, it does raise the prospect Apple could phase out its current ports in the UK too.

The EU has provisionally agreed all new portable electronic devices must use a USB Type-C charge by autumn 2024. Credit: AP

What devices will the new rules apply to?

The rules will apply to "all small and medium-sized portable electronic devices," which will include mobile phones, tablets, cameras, keyboards, speakers, headphones, headsets and earbuds.

Laptops will have to be adapted to fit the requirements 40 months after they come into force.

"We are proud that laptops, e-readers, earbuds, keyboards, computer mice and portable navigation devices are also included in addition to smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld videogame consoles and portable speakers," European Parliament spokesperson Alex Agius Saliba said following the announcement.

Why will iPhone users be particularly affected?

The rules will have a substantial impact on Apple's iPhone, as the only major smartphone not to already use the USB-C port for charging.

USB-C ports were, however, introduced in Apple’s 12in MacBook model in 2015 and in the iPad Pro in late 2018, while other iPads have come with the port since 2020.

The iPhone uses Apple’s own bespoke Lightning port for wired charging instead.

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Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight, said the announcement could become a "non-issue" for Apple, though, as the firm already uses USB-C on a number of other products.

"Having one common charging standard would be a victory for common sense in the eyes of consumers.

"Although Apple has made a strong argument for it keeping its Lightning connector, given the one billion active iPhone users, some of its products including Mac and iPad Pro now support USB-C.

"Hopefully it will eventually become a non-issue if Apple keeps adding USB-C to more devices and that means ultimately we could see USB-C coming to iPhone."