Earlier this year, legislators in the European Union (EU) agreed on a bill to make USB-C the "common charger" for electronic devices in Europe starting in late 2024. This move has, thus far, had varying effects on the smartphone manufacturing industry. Instead of making smartphones with different charging ports to sell in different regions of the globe, smartphone manufacturers have acknowledged that they will need to produce all future models in compliance with this EU-specific ordinance. This is not an issue for companies such as Samsung and Motorola, where USB-C has become the charging port for an increasing number of devices over the past several years.
For Apple, however, things are different. Since 2012, Apple has packaged all of their iPhone smartphones with their own type of charger: the Lightning connector. At its unveiling, Apple fellow Phil Schiller described the charger as "a modern connector for the next decade." Whether the company meant it literally or not – he was correct. The company has reportedly decided to begin producing smartphones with USB-C ports, rather than the Lightning port, in late 2023.
While the move is certainly a surprise, it is also a win for consumers. Currently, and for much of the past two decades, consumers who own both Apple products and electronics owned by other companies have been forced to buy at least two chargers: Apple's Lightning and whichever charger the other device uses. In the not-too-distant future, consumers will be able to charge various devices from various brands, all with one charger. Buying more than one USB-C charger will not be required to own a variety of electronic devices.
Naturally, the integration period will be bumpy. iPhone users like myself, who use an iPhone from 2018 and will continue to do so for years to come, will not immediately benefit from this change. I will use my Lightning cord and wireless charging pad interchangeably. As time progresses, though, fewer and fewer devices containing the outdated Lightning port will be used due to their lack of relevance and production. Once the integration period ends and all iPhone users are using USB-C iPhones, the advantages will become clearer.
For instance, USB-C is more reliable than Lightning. If you currently own an iPhone or have at any point in the past, perhaps you recall your Apple-branded Lightning cord beginning to fray not long after buying it. Maybe you've even had the misfortune of the charging tip breaking off inside your phone. Whatever it is, it is very problematic that the Lightning cords produced by Apple, intended to be the best on the market as it is their own design, can break down or cause issues not long after purchase. With USB-C, there are countless producers on the market who sell reliable USB-C cords.
While the cost will certainly vary between manufacturers, one thing that should not is the charging speed. Apple's Lightning connector was significant when it was introduced as it was much faster than its previous charger. Now, a USB-C charger has put that to shame, charging Apple devices three times faster than its Lightning predecessor. This will prove to be very helpful when you're in a hurry.
There are not too many times when big industries have to adhere to a new law that benefits consumers, but this is one of those times. For too long, Apple has forced their loyal consumers' money into accessories they don't want but need to operate their products. Sure, the integration will take time and we may not reap the full benefits until the end of the decade. But it's better to begin this necessary change now rather than continuing to let companies such as Apple force our money where we don't want it.