1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

EU proposes universal charging plug for all smartphones

September 23, 2021

The European Union has said it will impose a universal charger for smartphones. The switch to a standard USB-C cable would represent a blow for US tech giant Apple.

Some laptops have done away with many of the communications ports and leave only one type, USB type C standard
The USB type C charger would be the universal charger under the proposalImage: picture-alliance/NurPhoto/J. Arriens

The European Commission on Thursday proposed to mandate USB-C cables as a unified standard for charging technology across the bloc. 

The proposal sets up a potential clash between the EU and Apple, which has so far resisted efforts to impose a universal type of charger.

Why is the EU proposing this?

The EU has long wanted a standard charger for all data-enabled phones.

Brussels says the present situation, in which there are three main charger options, is "inconvenient."

"European consumers have been frustrated long enough about incompatible chargers piling up in their drawers," EU Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

"We gave industry plenty of time to come up with their own solutions, now time is ripe for legislative action for a common charger," she said.

Apple handsets use Lightning chargers, while other manufacturers use micro-USB ones. However, USB-C chargers, which are increasingly being used, would be the EU's preferred option.

What's in a smartphone?

"With more and more devices, more and more chargers are sold that are not interchangeable or not necessary. We are putting an end to that," said the EU's internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton.

The EU imposition of the USB-C as a cable standard in such a massive market of 450 million people, could have a decisive effect on the global smartphone market.

How has Apple responded?

Apple already uses USB-C connectors on some of its iPads and laptops, but it insists that legislation to force a universal charger for all mobiles in the European Union is unwarranted.

"We remain concerned that strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world," Apple said.

The present range is greatly simplified from 2009, when there were dozens of different types of chargers. The European Commission reached a voluntary agreement with the device industry, which saw a big reduction in cable types. However, Apple has refused to abide by it.

Are smartphones bad for our brains?

Under the latest proposal, which could still be significantly altered before ratification, smartphone makers would have a 24-month transition period to fall in line.

However, Apple says this could still be a major headache for the industry as it could prevent the sale of existing equipment.

rc/rt (Reuters, AFP, AP)

Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

Tank firing at night
Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage