European Parliament and Council negotiators agreed on the law Tuesday, saying in a statement that the move is intended to “make products in the EU more sustainable, to reduce electronic waste, and make consumers’ lives easier.”
The law, which still needs to be formally approved, requires all new smartphones, tablets, e-readers and portable speakers — among a long list of other small electronic devices — sold in the EU to use the USB-C type charging port. The requirement for laptops will take effect in early 2026.
The small, pill-shaped port is already used in many smartphones and laptops, as well as Apple’s latest iPads and some of its previous-generation MacBook laptops.
But the mandate puts Apple in a difficult position, as it has clung to its proprietary “Lightning” port on its iPhones and the charging cases for its AirPods in-ear headphones. The Verge, a technology news site, called the European law “a major blow to Apple’s Lightning port.”
Much like how California’s environmental and safety standards often lead to changes across the United States because of the logistical difficulty and financial impracticality of creating different products for different states, the European charging-port law could have a widespread impact for handheld consumer electronics across the world .
In Germany, the European Union’s largest economy, the top three most-popular smartphones are all iPhones, according to consumer research site Counterpoint, with the fourth and fifth being Samsung Galaxy phones that use USB-C ports. In France, the bloc’s second-largest economy, iPhones hold the top four spots in the smartphone market, Counterpoint calculates.
Apple also recently brought back its proprietary “MagSafe” magnetic charger to its MacBook Pro, and announced Monday it would do the same with its thinner MacBook Air laptops.
Apple has apparently been preparing for the crackdown, however: Bloomberg News reported last month that amid the looming possibility of the European law, the company has tested iPhone models that use USB-C instead of its proprietary port.
Technology critics have for years bemoaned Apple’s persistence in maintaining its proprietary ports, noting that while many device-makers have conformed to the USB-C port, Apple’s unique charging medium leaves consumers stuck with a tangle of various cables.
But the EU’s move could stifle efforts to innovate toward the abolishment of charging ports altogether, such as the use of magnetic-contact chargers instead of ports to allow for extremely thin devices, said Benedict Evans, an industry analyst. He wrote on Twitter that it was “hard to see any meaningful consumer benefit” from the law, which he said outlawed “some ideas” such as the sole use of magnetic chargers.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday evening. When the European law was proposed in September, the company said in a statement: “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.”
When Apple stopped providing wired headphones and wall plugs with its iPhones in 2020, it said the cutback was for environmental reasons, although some pointed out it was better for the company’s bottom line.