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E.U. Seeks Common Charger for All Phones, Hurting Apple

On Thursday, the European Union unveiled plans to make USB-C connectors the standard charging port for all smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices sold across the bloc, an initiative it says will reduce environmental waste, but that is likely to hit Apple the hardest.

The move would represent a long-awaited yet aggressive step into product-making decisions by the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm. Apple, whose iPhones are equipped with a different port, has long opposed the plan, arguing that it would stifle innovation and lead to more electronic waste as all current chargers that are not USB-C would become obsolete.

The new legislation is likely to come into effect in 2024 because it first needs to be approved by the European Parliament and then adopted by manufacturers. Besides phones, it would apply to cameras, headphones, portable speakers, and video game consoles.

Wireless chargers would not be affected, but the main change would come for iPhones, which currently have a proprietary Lightning charging port.

“What are we offering? More freedom, fewer costs,” and less electronic waste, Thierry Breton, the European commissioner for trade, said in a news conference on Thursday.

Many European Parliament lawmakers welcomed the announcement. “It’s completely absurd to ask Europeans to pay for a new charger every time while our drawers are full of them,” said Saskia Bricmont, a Green lawmaker.

It also received swift criticism from some tech observers. “This is a profoundly stupid way to approach product design and standardization,” a tech analyst, Benedict Evans, said on Twitter. “What happens in 5 years when someone wants to use a better connector?”

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