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EU USB-C proposal can’t thwart Apple’s iPhone plans

On September 23rd, the European Commission put forward a proposal that the introduction of USB-C charging on electronics such as smartphones is mandatory, and while many manufacturers already offer phones with Type-C charging by default, Apple’s iPhone will be the most visible. emissions have suffered; at least it seems so at first.

However, trends, industry forecasts and rumors suggest that Apple may be preparing to simply argue about the implications of this proposal.

The e-waste argument

This latest revision of the EU Radio Equipment Directive is just one of a long series of measures initiated by EU countries to combat e-waste; the conclusion of the first “voluntary agreement” (signed by companies such as Apple, Huawei, Nokia and Samsung) back in 2009; which aimed to reduce the number of existing mobile charging standards from 30 to three.

According to a European Commission study, “Recycled and unused chargers are estimated to collect up to 11,000 tons of e-waste annually,” while in 2020, about 38% of consumers reported that they could not charge their phone because available chargers were incompatible, with about 2.4 billion euros (2.1 billion pounds sterling / 2.8 billion US dollars) spent on autonomous chargers per year to solve this problem.

Since the average person reportedly already owns three chargers (and regularly uses two of them), it’s easy to see why – in terms of e-waste – the EU is pushing phone makers to merge under one charging standard.

Almost every dominant player in the smartphone market now sells a line of phones that have standard USB-C charging almost everywhere, with the exception of the Lightning connector on the iPhone.

The Commission’s 2019 Impact Assessment Study states that in 2018 29% of phone chargers sold in the EU were USB Type-C and 21% used Lightning. The proportions have undoubtedly changed since then (probably in favor of USB-C and Lightning) – as the popularity of microUSB declined – but Lightning already accounts for over a fifth of chargers sold in the EU just three years ago, and the standard was in circulation with 2012, the move to USB-C will mean a huge shift, not only for Apple itself, but also for accessory makers and consumers around the world.

The 2018 iPad Pro is the first Apple tablet to replace Lightning with USB-C.

While the company has already implemented USB-C in the MacBook and more importantly, once exclusively in the Lightning-enabled iPad lineup, the company has shown no sign that the now widely supported port will be available on the iPhone, andhere are the obvious reasons – both explicit and unofficial – why Apple hasn’t budged.

The company’s line suggests that with such a well-established ecosystem of Lightning-based products already in use, such a move would actually result in more e-waste as the first and third-party accessories purchased by longtime iPhone owners have become obsolete in the last decade.

In a previous response from the European Commission on this issue, Apple stated: “(This) law will have a direct negative impact, disrupting the hundreds of millions of active devices and accessories used by our European customers and even more Apple customers around the world, creating an unprecedented amount of e-waste and creating significant user experiences.”

Apple retains control

There are also financial implications of this change, not in terms of tools and buying new components for future iPhones, but in terms of the revenue that the Lightning standard currently generates through the Apple MFi program.

The same board that controls Lightning to USB behavior inside the iPhone is also the gatekeeper for MFi-approved products. From cables to accessories, if a third-party product wants to perform well when connected to an iPhone via Lightning, it must be MFi-compatible, and those third parties must pay Apple a recurring license fee to qualify for this status.

While the days of Lightning may be numbered, it will be Apple, not EC, deciding when this change occurs, and oddly enough, a portless iPhone looks like a more logical and likely move than switching to USB-C at this point, according to at least from Apple’s point of view.

iPhone 12 Pro Max with iPhone Leather MagSafe Case and Magnetic Wallet

iPhone 12 Pro Max with iPhone Leather MagSafe Case and Magnetic Wallet

There’s a reason the MagSafe for iPhone-compliant accessories introduced in the 2020 iPhone 12 family have a special set of animations when connected to a compatible iPhone. While compatibility is not yet enforced in the same way that the MFi program is applied to Lightning accessories, the Apple Accessory Design Guidelines set out – in full detail – the technical standards and approvals that vendors must meet in order for their products to work with MagSafe. for iPhone.

It’s just the jump, skip and jump from MagSafe for iPhone, which is a great way to connect wireless chargers and wallets (as it is nowadays), and it’s becoming the primary method by which the iPhone gets power and data directly, whether from first time. or third party products.

In doing so, Apple will once again have the right to set its own rules and apply licensing fees at its discretion, which accessory manufacturers will have to comply with in order to enter the giant iPhone market; something the Cupertino company is completely losing out by adopting USB-C, a standard defined by the USB Developers Forum (which coincidentally includes Apple’s Dave Conroy).

This is also not just speculation. Earlier this year, Apple Insider read a report from authoritative Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, in which he touched upon Apple’s reluctance to abandon Lightning due to both the benefits of the MFi program and the increased waterproof standards it (and MagSafe) for iPhones.) occurs when compared to USB-C.

“The market expects the iPhone to ditch Lightning in favor of [sic] USB-C and equip the power button with a Touch ID sensor, “Kuo said back in May 2021.” Our latest survey shows that there is no clarity in the current schedule for the iPhone to adopt these two new specifications. “

“We believe USB-C is detrimental to the profitability of the MFi business and is less waterproof than Lightning and MagSafe,” he continued. “So if the iPhone ditches Lightning in the future, it could directly adopt a portless design with MagSafe support instead of using a USB-C port.”

Kuo also acknowledged the relative immaturity of the iPhone MagSafe platform at this stage, but Apple has a lot of potential in the technology to simply switch users directly from one proprietary standard to another, bypassing USB-C entirely, given MagSafe now supports Now on iPhone it is likely to only grow in scale, opportunity, and popularity.

If the European Commission a proposal to vote in the European Parliament, manufacturers will receive a 24-month time limit during which affected product lines will have to migrate to USB-C.

Based on Apple’s vast resources and the fact that the new iPhone 13 family represents the second generation of MagSafe phones for iPhones, we have little doubt that if the company wants to push consumers towards a portless iPhone, it can do it enough. … before this EU deadline.

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