Science

Members of the European Parliament decide on universal charging ports

Multiple chargers could be a thing of the past - Circe Denyer via Public domain pictures

By Liv Davies

From android, to Windows to Apple, many phones have a great variation in the charging port that is used within the phone. Sometimes even portable devices of the same brand can sustain many different charging ports. This can cause an issue when at a friends or families house and your phone runs out of battery, but your particular charging port is nowhere to be seen! 

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted on a motion of 582 votes to 40 which calls for the European Commission to abandon this issue in favour of adopting singular charging port. This would mean that one wire could effectively be used for all devices. Furthermore, this would mean that the devices would be “uncoupled” from the charger, and pre-existing chargers could be used, even when a new phone has been purchased. The commission understands that this would massively reduce waste from the mobile devices industry. 

Currently, Apple who are leading the market with their sale of mobile devices, currently use a lightning connector and would require an adaptor to be charged with the new regulation connections. Most likely, all portable devices will aim to use the new USB-C connections – used on many modern Samsung phones, however the details have not been finalised.  Polish MEP Roza Thun stated “The commission has to show leadership and stop letting tech giants dictate our standards, we expect a proposal to establish a standard common charger for smartphones, digital cameras, e-book readers and tablets and similar devices within the next six months.”

The decision to make a universal charging port has been cautioned against by Apple. Apple released a statement in response to this motion, stating ““Regulations that would drive conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones freeze innovation rather than encourage it. Such proposals are bad for the environment and unnecessarily disruptive for customers” Apple argues that this vote would stifle innovation that would prevent the changing of technologies into faster, and more efficient portable devices. 

Apple has conducted a study that shows this move would not only prevent innovation, but could cost the consumer money. Copenhagen Economics was commissioned by Apple and found that only 0.4% of Europeans experience significant issues when charging their devices due to the lack of compatibility in cable specifications. Furthermore, this study revealed that this change could cost up to 1.5 Billion euros. This is in contrast to the suggested 13 millions euros in environmental benefits if this change were to occur. 

Despite the improvements in waste reduction, there would certainly be a short period of increased waste as new adaptors for older phones would have to be purchased. However, longer term, the EU would see a reduction in technology related waste, as obsolete cables are estimated to produce around 51,000 tonnes of waste per year. This move could however see an end to the common problem that many users of non-Apple smartphones come into daily.  

It is unclear when we can expect to see these changes in place but the vote confirms politicians are moving towards a universal charging port for Europe.

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