For many years now the EU has been determined to force tech companies to use a single, universal port. The idea behind this push is to reduce e-waste, make it easier for customers to switch between manufacturers, increase consumer choice and reduce prices. Now it seems the EU is finally taking action by proposing new legislation that if implemented in 2022, would require Apple and others to adopt USB C connectivity in its future products.
There are various benefits to a switch to a universal connector but there are also disadvantages. There are 1.5 billion active Apple devices that use the Lightning connector and likely billions more lightning cables. If Apple were forced to adopt USB C the e-waste problem would be partially mitigated as consumers upgrade. But it doesn’t change the fact that this change creates a disgustingly high amount of e-waste as collateral damage. All those existing cables are rendered obsolete.
Apple isn’t entirely innocent in this. They of course ditched the famous 30 pin iPod connector with the iPhone 5 in favour of Lightning back in 2012. But it’s worth pointing out that Apple was worth $496 billion in 2012 compared to the $2.5 Trillion valuation it has in 2021. Between 2007 and 2011 Apple sold 210 million iPhones in total. From 2013 to 2020 the company has sold a further 1.45 billion iPhones. There is a huge difference between making 210 million 30 pin cables obsolete and 1.45 billion. And that doesn’t even count this years iPhone sales or iPad, AirPods, various models of iPod, Magic Keyboards, Mice and Trackpads, Apple TV remotes etc which have sold in huge numbers over the past decade.
Lightning has its fair share of haters and perhaps rightfully so. It isn’t as fast as USB C for instance and Apple has been slow at times to update it. But Lightning was born out of necessity. The iPhone 12 couldn’t exist without it (because of physics). USB C didn’t exist in 2012 and there weren’t any other small, reversible connectors. Lightning is still a slimmer connector than USB C even in 2021.
I fully support reducing e-waste and I agree with the EU that manufacturers need to stop bunding chargers in the box. It isn’t necessary and if people genuinely don’t have one they can easily buy one separately. Apple adopted this stance with the iPhone 12 and predictably Samsung and others have followed suit to varying degrees. But I’m not sure forcing Apple to switch to USB C is actually a good thing for the environment. We also know Apple doesn’t like being forced into a corner. And you can bet they’ll go all-in on wireless 60.5Ghz technology. It enables data transfer through Magnetic inductive Qi chargers. But time will tell.
Featured Image: Mika Baumeister via Unsplash