New EU rules on universal phone chargers will apply to Northern Ireland

Charger cables are to become universal as part of an EU move. Credit: Unsplash

A new European Union rule which would see bloc countries using a single charging port for mobile phones, tablets and cameras, will apply to Northern Ireland.

Under current post-Brexit arrangements, Northern Ireland would be required to follow the directive.

The UK government says it is not currently planning on introducing similar measures.

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.

Currently chargers used for Apple products. Credit: Unsplash

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.

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.

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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