EU Regulators Mull Action On Universal Smartphone Chargers

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Frustrated at lack of progress towards universal phone charger, EU to consider whether to take action

The European Commission is to launch an assessment over whether there is a need to take action to ensure an universal smartphone charger.

The Commission, citing the ‘unsatisfactory progress’ of the current system, said it would shortly launch an impact assessment study to evaluate costs and benefits of a genuine universal charger.

It comes after years of pressure to get smartphone makers to standardise on one universal charger design to put an end to charger clutter and reduce 51,000 tons of electronic waste yearly from old chargers.

Two camps

At the moment, smartphone chargers are effectively split into the Android or Apple camp.

The majority of smartphones and tablets are powered by a MicroUSB cable, but others such as Apple use the Lightning proprietary connector for their devices.

This is despite the fact that the majority of smartphone manufacturers (including Apple) adopted the MicroUSB standard back in 2009, and the final micro-USB design charger was officially agreed in 2010.

And in 2014, the European Parliament also gave its formal support for an universal charger for smartphones, tablets and other portable electronics.

But the difference between the two camps (Android and Apple) necessitates the use and purchase of additional equipment.

It remains to be seen whether the EU will seek to force Cupertino-based Apple to comply with the universal standard connector.

European study

And now according to Reuters, EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager has said that EU regulators plan to study whether there is a need for action in the push for a common mobile phone charger following a lack of progress by the two camps.

The EU executive said it was not happy with the status quo.

“Given the unsatisfactory progress with this voluntary approach, the Commission will shortly launch an impact assessment study to evaluate costs and benefits of different other options,” Vestager reportedly said in an 1 August response to a query from an EU lawmaker.

An ‘impact assessment study’ will help the European Commission decide whether there is a need for action and analyse the impact of various options.

Apple last year finally added the ability to its iPhone 8 and iPhone X handsets to be charged wirelessly, after it formally adopted the Qi specification, promoted by the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC).

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