Phones, tablets, computers … Five questions about the universal charger that will soon become mandatory in the EU

“Do you have a charger for iPhone? No, sorry, only for Samsung …” This exchange should soon no longer exist in Europe. And with good reason, from the autumn of 2024, the EU will introduce a universal wired charger for smartphones, tablets, consoles and digital cameras. Apple-branded products are also affected. Franceinfo answers five questions about this little revolution coming to your closets.

1When will this charger become mandatory?

By the fall of 2024, all mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, headphones, digital cameras, portable video game consoles and portable speakers will be equipped with a single charger.

Laptops will be subject to the same requirement for single chargers in the spring of 2026, according to the political agreement reached on Tuesday (June 7). This text will be formally approved after the summer by the European Parliament and the European Council, the body representing the states.

2What will it look like?

You probably already know that. The single device chosen by the EU is none other than the USB-C charger, which already equips many devices. No, not the big rectangular plug that you always put in the wrong way (USB type A), nor its thin and still non-reversible version (micro-USB), but its latest version (type C), smaller and reversible thanks to its elongated shape.

USB-C, Lightning and micro-USB type chargers.  (DPA / AFP)

That’s not all. The text also allows you to harmonize the charging speed of devices that allow fast charging, to prevent it from being limited when using a charger of a different brand. Finally, the labeling will be improved to better inform consumers who will be able to buy a device with or without a charger.

What about wireless chargers?

Although this universal wired charger should be generalized in the fall of 2024, some manufacturers are already one step ahead. More and more electronic devices allow wireless charging, via an induction charger. The European Union is well aware of the issue andThe text also paves the way for future standardization of wireless charging technologies.

Thus, as wireless technology spreads, the Commission will have the power to develop “delegated acts on interoperability between charging solutions”that is, regulations that can be applied directly without being subject to a vote in the European Council or the European Parliament.

Even Apple will have to comply?

Yes, this time Apple will not be able to play solo. The US manufacturer will have to abandon its famous Lightning charger, introduced in 2012. Until then, Apple had always refused to use an open and standardized solution such as micro-USB or USB-C, but prefers its “proprietary” formats, not compatible with other brands of electronic equipment.

Despite this, iPhone with a USB-C port may well … never exist. How ? Simply by removing the wired charger from the smartphone. For several years, Apple has been focusing more and more on wireless (or induction) chargers, such as Magsafe, which are sold (at an additional cost) with the new iPhones. This wireless technology may well be the only way to recharge Apple products, according to an expert quoted by Numerama.

What is the meaning of this binding?

The aim is twofold for the EU: to simplify the lives of users and to limit the environmental impact of these devices. “Consumers will no longer need a different charger and cable every time they buy a new device, they will be able to use a charger for all their small and medium-sized electronic devices”which eliminates unnecessary accessories, explains Parliament.

This regulation could allow European consumers, who spend € 2.4 billion a year on charging chargers alone, the opportunity to save at least € 250 million a year, according to the European Commission. Unused magazine waste, estimated at 11,000 tonnes per year, could be reduced by almost 1,000 tonnes.

Politically, this measure seems to be unanimous. “Charging systems locked consumers into a brand and forced us to assemble cables at the expense of our wallets and natural resources”, welcomes green MEP David Cormand. Geoffroy Didier, his counterpart from European People’s Party (ranked in right), greets it “volunteering” of the EU to “obscene waste dictated by the commercial interests of a few industry groups”.

Who is against it?

These new rules do not please everyone. And initially Apple. The US manufacturer claims that its Lightning charger equips more than a billion devices worldwide and estimates that the European text “will stifle innovation” and will cut off the EU from the rest of the world because of standards “outdated”. In fact, USB-C technology could quickly become obsolete, like the micro-USB port provided in the first version of the European project. What worries some manufacturers. By disqualifying some of the chargers and smartphones in circulation, Brussels “will impose significant losses on producers, reduce consumer choice and generate e-waste” further, Apple insisted Tuesday.

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