European Union Will Force Apple to Use the Same Charger as Everyone Else

A new 18 page directive from the European Commission outlines a beautiful future where everything runs on the same charger.
the chargers and cables that lurk in all our homes.
Images: Getty Images
Screen Shot 2021-02-03 at 12
State of Repair is Motherboard's exploration of DIY culture, device repair, ownership, and the forces fighting to lock down access to the things you own.

The European Union announced on Thursday that it will force manufacturers to adopt a universal phone charger, meaning the iPhone will have to use USB-C or whatever standardized charger regulators decide to use and will no longer be able to use Apple’s proprietary Lightning Charger. According to the AFP, the European Commission released an 18 page directive that outlined the new legislation it said was aimed at reducing waste and saving EU consumers millions of dollars a year.


The European Union has been threatening to make this change, which Apple has strongly fought against, for years. The move is designed to make things easier for consumers and to prevent people from owning all sorts of different chargers, which creates more trash. The directive also applies to “other small electronic portable devices.” 

“In the past, mobile telephones were only compatible with specific mobile telephone chargers. An estimated 500 million mobile phones were in use in 2009 in all EU countries,” EC research about the directive says. “The chargers used often varied according to the manufacturer and model, and more than 30 different types of chargers were on the market. Apart from causing inconvenience to the consumer, this created unnecessary electronic waste.”

The law would prevent Apple and Android from swapping chargers between phone generations. There would be no more adapters and power bricks for multiple devices. Apple was upset at the legislative move.“We remain concerned that strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world,” Apple said in a statement.

Apple famously uses Lightning Chargers on iPhones, but recently switched to USB-C chargers for iPads. Presumably, Apple will simply switch to USB-C chargers on the iPhone, which has been a move long rumored by Apple watchers anyway, and is a charging standard that many people really like.

"European consumers have been frustrated long enough about incompatible chargers piling up in their drawers," EU executive vice president Margrethe Vestager said in a statement. "We gave industry plenty of time to come up with their own solutions, now time is ripe for legislative action for a common charger.”

This is a problem that affects more than just phones. In Europe, electric vehicles have two charging networks—Tesla and everyone else. The lack of common charging stations across the EU has made it difficult to build out EV infrastructure and convert the population to electric cars.

The charging regulation has been coming for some time. The European Parliament embraced the right to repair in 2020. Europeans have been protesting manufacturers and asking them to make it easier to fix stuff for years.