Uncle Sam took good note of the decision of the European institutions; senators are now considering importing the idea to the United States.
The recent decision by European authorities to impose a single charger format on (almost) all mobile devices seems to have given some ideas. On the other side of the Atlantic, the Democratic camp is now appealing to the Commerce Department; several senators are now calling for the United States to follow in the footsteps of the Old Continent by forcing manufacturers to agree on a common charger.
This is a direct reaction to the decision of the European Union. Recently, the institution decided that all manufacturers should use a common charging port on their mobile devices, namely USB-C, from the fall of 2024 (see our article).
With this decision, the EU is playing on two fronts at once. First, it seeks to decompartmentalise the digital ecosystem to make life easier for customers, who today have to juggle a myriad of different cables to charge their devices. This measure also has an ecological component; it aims to reduce the quantity of electronic waste generated by the proliferation of standards.
“Europe has shown wisdom and acted in the public interest by taking on powerful tech companies on this environmental and consumer issue”, explain the senators in a letter published Thursday. “The United States should do the same”, they suggest.
The Apple again at the heart of the debate
This decision marked the end of a long tussle, in particular with Apple, which is very attached to its proprietary Lightning port. The firm had braked four irons to prevent this decision. In 2020, its spokesperson explained that this regulation would “stifle innovation rather than encourage it, and harm consumers in Europe”.
Apple ultimately failed to win the case and will have to comply with this new standard in Europe. Some expected US lawmakers to rally behind this Big Tech national champion; but for American Democrats, the arguments put forward by Europe are simply common sense.
“Year after year, Americans pile up outdated chargers in landfills while we give more and more money to Big Tech companies to produce new ones.”, explains Senator Ed Markey in a statement collected by The Verge.
In their document, senators do not specify what type of port should be adopted. It should also be remembered that this is only a draft, and not yet an official bill. In contrast, in the event that this proposal gains sufficient traction to turn into a concrete bill, it’s a safe bet that Uncle Sam is also betting on USB-C.
Not necessarily bad news for Apple
But it would not necessarily be a dramatic decision for Apple. After all, the company will already be forced toadapt at least part of its logistics for the European market; the current models all have a Lightning port, which will be declared persona non grata on the Old Continent from 2024.
This will necessarily involve modifying certain production lines. From Apple’s point of view, it could therefore be more interesting to convert all of its devices. This could enable it to avoid the establishment of two separate production lines, with all the logistical problems that entails; we can therefore consider that Apple chooses to take this path even if the senators do not follow up on this project. But it will be necessary to follow the evolution of this affair to have the heart net.
The text of the letter to the Department of Commerce is available here.