What risks Apple if it does not integrate USB-C on its iPhones?

What sanctions can Apple impose if it decides not to integrate a USB-C port on its iPhones and AirPods by the end of 2024 as required by the EU? We asked the question to one of the caseworkers.

Source: Lucian Alexe on Unsplash

In advance, Apple iPhones must have a USB-C port from 2024. This is the essential point that we maintain from the agreement in principle recently concluded between the European Parliament (where deputies sit) and the European Council (which represents governments in EU Member States). The two devices have thus expressed their desire to make USB Type-C the mandatory universal wired charging standard for all small and medium-sized electronic devices. Smartphones, headphone cases, audio headsets, tablets or even laptops are therefore of concern (with a slightly later implementation for the latter).

Parliament and the Council have agreed to meet at the start of the school year to adopt this law in due form so that it can be applied from autumn 2024. Except in cases of force majeure this summer to derail everything, this project can be put on track with self confidence.

There are already a large number of devices with a USB-C port. This new law will therefore not change much for most manufacturers. Conversely, in the case of Apple, the iPhone and AirPods, as well as the entry-level iPad, have still not taken the plunge and clinging to their proprietary Lightning connectors.

Render iPhone 14 Pro cc
iPhone 14 Pro will be released in 2022 and is therefore not affected by the new measure // Source: Pigtou and xleaks7

Therefore, several scenarios are conceivable. Thus, some may imagine that the Cupertino company will not comply with the rules imposed by the EU and will resist in one way or another. With this in mind, what is the risk for Apple if it accidentally decides not to integrate a USB-C port on its iPhones?

Does Apple have that much to lose here?

Frandroid asked the question to the office of Alex Aguis Saliba, Parliament’s rapporteur, who is following this case. We wanted to know what sanctions were foreseen against a manufacturer that does not comply with this obligation on the USB-C port in Europe. From the beginning, we are told that “financial sanctions are not part of the scope of the proposed and agreed measures“. This means that if Apple enters into a standoff with the EU, the company will not be penalized with a fine, contrary to what we have already seen in anti-competitive practices.

Opposite to, “the new provisions are part of a revision of the RED Directive and any breach of the rules of the Directive will follow the provisions and steps already laid down in it.. , that a “CE” mark is affixed to any Tech product officially sold, it is proof that it complies with the conditions imposed by the EU. The Directive refers to a “cvisible consequence of an overall process including conformity assessment in a broad sense“.

CE marking ok
Reproduction of CE marking // Source: MatthiasDD (via Wikimedia Commons)

What should be remembered is that European legislators prefer to sanction upstream rather than downstream. Instead of letting Apple sell incompatible products and then messing with it by imposing financial sanctions, the EU will simply prevent the brand from selling its iPhones and AirPods in those countries if the latter retains their Lightning port to the detriment of USB-C. They will simply not be eligible for the mandatory “CE” marking.

How about a wireless iPhone?

There is still another way to explore. It is not impossible that Apple chooses iPhones and AirPods that can only be recharged wirelessly and therefore without any wired charging port. Although today it is difficult to judge its credibility, this hypothesis remains plausible. By doing this, Apple products will remain in compliance with the new rules, which apply exclusively to devices that can be recharged via cable.

AirPods 3 can be charged using an induction base
AirPods 3 has a Lightning port but can already be charged using an induction base // Source: Frandroid

But the European Commission (whose role is to enforce the law) has the task of “call on European standardization organizations to develop appropriate standards in line with the development of wireless technologies.», reminds us of Alex Aguis Saliba’s cabinet. It must perform this task 24 months after the entry into force of the USB-C Directive. The entry into force, which takes place 20 days after the publication of the legal text in the Official Journal of the European Union (at the beginning of the school year 2022), means that this mission will also begin in the autumn of 2024.

It remains to be seen how long the development of these standards will take and whether they could undermine a potential 100% wireless iPhone.


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