Financial Times: ‘Apple Hits Out at EU Plans for a Universal Smartphone Charger’

Tim Bradshaw, writing for The Financial Times:

Earlier this month, the European Parliament revived a decade-long argument about mandating a so-called “common charger” for mobile devices. Maros Sefcovic, vice-president of the European Commission for inter-institutional relations and foresight, said in a recent speech that such a scheme would be more convenient for consumers and reduce electronic waste. […]

In its first statement in response to the latest proposals, Apple said on Thursday that forcing it to ditch Lightning would inconvenience hundreds of millions of its customers and create an “unprecedented volume” of waste.

“We believe regulation that forces conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, and would harm consumers in Europe and the economy as a whole,” Apple said. “We hope the Commission will continue to seek a solution that does not restrict the industry’s ability to innovate and bring exciting new technology to customers.”

The idea of a universal charger sounds good. Wherever you go, whatever phone you have, you can charge it. But there’s no reason to regulate it, and good reasons not to. It would stifle innovation. If this regulation had been on the books seven or eight years ago, wouldn’t we have been stuck with shitty micro-USB chargers for years to come? Regulations change slowly, if at all. The market has naturally universalized itself; there are only two chargers for modern phones, Lightning and USB-C. Put Apple aside even — surely there will, within a few years, be something better than USB-C for non-Apple phones. Regulations mandating USB-C will slow adoption.

Here’s the nut paragraph, buried deep within the article:

A study by consultancy Copenhagen Economics, commissioned by Apple last month, found that while 49 per cent of households rely on different connector types, only 0.4 per cent of European consumers said they “regularly experience any significant issue” with charging their devices due to incompatible cabling.

That’s a study commissioned by Apple, so I’ll take it with a grain of salt. But it rings true to my ears. This is not an issue most people have, and nerds be damned, most iPhone users would be angry if their next iPhone had a USB-C port instead of Lightning because they already have Lightning cables.

Monday, 27 January 2020