European Commission Unveils Long-Awaited Stupid Proposal to Mandate USB-C on All Cell Phones and Devices

Elian Peltier, reporting for The New York Times:

The European Union unveiled plans on Thursday to make USB-C connectors the standard charging port for all smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices sold across the bloc, an initiative that 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.

Benedict Evans:

This is a profoundly stupid way to approach product design and standardisation. What happens in 5 years when someone wants to use a better connector? What if they’d picked USB 3 five years ago?

How stupid? This stupid:

But Apple has also argued that if the European Union had imposed a common charger in 2009, it would have restricted innovation that led to USB-C and Lightning connectors. In a statement, Apple said that although it welcomed the European Commission’s commitment to protecting the environment, it favored a solution that left the device side of the charging interface open for innovation.

Mr. Breton said on Thursday that he was familiar with Apple’s concerns. “Every time we try to put a proposal, such companies start to say, ‘It will be against innovation,’” he said.

“It’s not at all against innovation. It’s not against anyone,” he added. “It’s for European consumers.”

Mr. Breton said manufacturers, including Apple, could choose to offer two charging ports on their devices if they wanted to keep a non-USB-C connector.

Two charging ports on the same phone, what an elegant idea. This is like a parody of overzealous regulation of something that is not in need of any regulation at all. Why not mandate that all phones, tablets, and cameras have to run the same operating system, too? Oh, you say, it’s only about reducing waste? Why not mandate that all phones must be the same size and shape, so that they’re all compatible with the exact same cases? Great idea.

These E.U. meddlers have indeed been clamoring for this legislation since 2009 — Apple didn’t pick that date out of the air. At the time, iPhones used 30-pin iPod USB 1 adapters and most other phones used adapters like Micro-USB and (gag) Mini-USB. You don’t have to be a computer engineer to look back at your lifetime and realize that computer plugs and adapters keep getting smaller and better. Do they really think no one is going to come up with an adapter better than USB-C? Ever?

And don’t even start with any sort of argument that legislation like this won’t impede progress, but will instead force the industry to work together via committee to agree upon new better standards in a prompt fashion. Almost everything that goes through such committees takes years longer than one company can do on its own, and comes out worse — often far worse. Look at all the horrendously shitty USB plugs the USB consortium has come up with over the years.

And people in the E.U. wonder why England wanted out, and why nearly all the major tech companies are from the U.S. and Asia.

Thursday, 23 September 2021