The EU’s USB-C proposal might give us a portless iPhone instead

The European Commission has announced plans to force smartphone and other electronics manufacturers to fit a common USB-C charging port on their devices. Given that most Android-powered smartphones now ship with a USB-C port, the proposals could see Apple finally be forced to move to USB-C on the iPhone. Or they might not, as they could instead force Apple to deliver a portless iPhone.

Today’s proposals from the EU only cover wired charging and don’t seek to enforce rules on wireless charging just yet. A spokesperson for the Commission has confirmed to The Verge that if a device charges only wirelessly, then there is no requirement to integrate a USB-C charging port.

If the European Parliament adopts the proposals, manufacturers will have 24 months to comply with the new rules. That gives Apple a lot of time to create a portless iPhone if it wants to avoid USB-C altogether.

Apple’s Lightning connector has existed for nearly 10 years.

Apple has notoriously avoided USB-C on the iPhone, despite adopting it on many iPad and MacBook models. While the EU says its proposals are driven by environmental incentives, Apple has argued that a switch to USB-C would actually be worse for the environment because it renders hundreds of millions of Lightning accessories obsolete. These arguments might be irrelevant if Apple goes portless, instead.

Rumors of an iPhone without any ports have circulated for years after Apple had the “courage” to kill off the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 and make it clear wireless was the future for headphones. In fact, analysts originally predicted that this year’s iPhone would ship without any ports, ditching the Lightning port in favor of wireless charging.

That clearly hasn’t happened with the iPhone 13, but it doesn’t mean it’s not far off. The world of wireless charging is increasingly complicated, and interoperability isn’t always guaranteed, but things are moving quickly. The OnePlus 9 Pro supports 50W wireless charging, meaning the phone will fully charge in 43 minutes. Xiaomi also announced its next salvo in the wireless charging wars last year, thanks to an 80W wireless charger. Xiaomi claims it can charge a 4,000mAh battery fully in just 19 minutes.

AirPower didn’t work out for Apple.
Image: Apple

Apple’s experiences with wireless charging haven’t been as impressive, though. Apple’s AirPower wireless charger was supposed to arrive with the unique ability to charge an iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods all at the same time. Unfortunately, Apple canceled AirPower in March 2019, citing difficulties in bringing the product to life.

The new iPhone 13 Pro supports wireless charging over the Qi standard at up to 7.5 watts and up to 15 watts using MagSafe wireless charging. Both of these are still slower than the fast-charge capable cables you can use to charge an iPhone with. Like anything Apple, the company is probably prototyping better wireless charging methods that will follow years after the Android competition.

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has suggested that Apple has no plans to ditch the Lightning port on the iPhone in “the foreseeable future” and could move straight to a portless iPhone that relies exclusively on its MagSafe wireless charging standard instead. “If the ‌iPhone‌ abandons Lightning in the future, it may directly adopt a portless design with ‌MagSafe‌ support instead of using a USB-C port,“ said Kuo earlier this year.

The iPhone 13 Pro ships with a Lightning port.
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Such a move could be driven by Apple’s desire to protect its MFi licensing business instead of moving to USB-C. Apple makes money off of every Lightning cable and accessory sold by way of licensing fees from the MFi accessory program. Apple also controls the MagSafe standard through its MFi program, ensuring it captures licensing fees on some wireless charging accessories for the iPhone.

If Apple is able to move to a portless iPhone before the two-year grace period from the European Commission, it could still be on a collision course for future clashes over charging standards, though. While the EU admits wireless charging is “not seen as a replacement for wired charging at the moment because of the efficiency rates of such chargers,” it does leave the door open to look at this technology at a later date.

“It is also necessary to provide the basis for adaption to any future technological progress by introducing a harmonization of the charging interfaces and the charging communication protocols with respect to radio equipment that may be charged via any means other than wired charging, including charging via radio waves (wireless charging),” says the Commission.

If Apple continues to support the Qi wireless charging standard, then it could avoid further scrutiny if it does move to a portless iPhone in the future. But if MagSafe comes to dominate, we could be back in an EU battle over charging standards once again.

Comments

1 thing with a portless iPhone. How do they accommodate people that just bought new cars that do not support wireless CarPlay but support wired. Not everyone trades a brand new car in, in two years. Seems like you’d really be limiting who could use that feature.

Probably a data transfer only connection/port akin to the smart connector on iPads.

While I’m not sure about the agreements they have with car manufacturers involving CarPlay (so this might not be possible in a legal sense), they could make an official version of those Wireless CarPlay adapters (like Cplay4air). Although I’m sure it would be pretty expensive.

I actually like wired CarPlay because at the end of a journey my phone always has more charge than what I started with.

Presumably once both CarPlay and the iPhone are fully wireless, you’ll be able to drop your phone on a wireless charger and have everything Just Work and still have your phone charge while driving. All without having to plug in any cables. There may be some issues while people still have older cars without wireless CarPlay, but a wire isn’t necessary for charging.

A 2021 car isn’t an old car though. And we are talking about within 2 years. So. 3 year old car is considered an older car cause it doesn’t support wireless CarPlay? Seems to be an oversight on apples part if they go this route.

Wire is absolutely needed in certain thermal environments. Multiple attempts to use wireless charging in a dash mount in the sunlight for navigation in my car in a hot climate have lead to forced thermal shutdowns across all generations of iPhones since the 7 Plus. A wire also allows you as a passenger to hold the device in your hand and move it around instead of attached at a spot away from you. Sure you can have a MagSafe wireless charger stuck to the back, but that’s the same as a wired port.

My car has wireless CarPlay but it also has USB charging ports that I can plug a lightning cable into to charge my phone if I want to. I would think most cars with wireless CarPlay would be that way these days.

A dongle for your car.

They could always sell $299 adapter for the car for wireless charging. I am sure Apple would leave no chance to gouge the customers.

the sad truth is probably still, that car electronics age a lot faster than the rest of the car..

back in the day you had these phone docking stations in upper market cars, costing as much as the phones themselves for each individual model of phone..

my dad used to work for a phone manufacturer in the 2000s, so he regularly got new models and bought a lot of overpriced docking stations from mercedes, before eventually giving up and using a headset while driving

From the article:

"While the EU says its proposals are driven by environmental incentives, Apple has argued that a switch to USB-C would actually be worse for the environment because it renders hundreds of millions of Lightning accessories obsolete. These arguments might be irrelevant if Apple goes portless, instead."

besides it’s really bad for the environment if they ditch the port and averybody has to charge with a very lossy wireless connection.
Besides:
How many lightning accessories are really still out there and not yet on a landfill?

It means the same thing. The argument is pointless, not the fact that things become obsolete.

First thing that popped into my mind. Most corporations are hypocrites though and cite the environment when it suits them.

It’s not like switching to USB-C would mean everyone switches to new phones and all lightning accessories go to landfills.

USB-C is becoming ubiquitous already. Keeping lightning alive is harming the environment by maintaining a divide in standards and forcing homes with non-apple devices to buy two times the amount of cables.

While I’m not convinced this is something that should be legislated, I’m very cynical when I hear Apple talk about the environment. They seem to be environmentally conscious when it’s convenient or profitable to do so. They definitely weren’t too worried about it when they ditched the 30-pin connector. That was even before Bluetooth was good so most of the good speakers used 30-pin docks. My expensive Bose speaker dock became obsolete overnight. Apple got my money for the awkward adapter that didn’t work very well though.

Apple didn’t have nearly the same commitment to the environment ten years ago when they switched to lightning though. I see your point though.

I came here to say the exact same thing. Exact same issue applies if portless.

I imagine Apple would release some sort of adapter that allows you to use Lightning chargers.

So we can have USB-C on iPads but not on iPhones?

Think of the environment though. WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE ENVIRONMENT.

If apple cared about the environment they would stop releasing new devices every year incentivizing people to upgrade when they don’t need to. End the mindless consumerism cycle, Apple.

Compared to the incredible amount of needless waste our society generates, a single 4 foot cable, which can be recycled, is almost nothing. So many single use drinks and packaging sold in supermarkets and convenience stores are made from nonrecyclable plastic casing but grocery stores want you to feel guilty for not using their $3 totes so they don’t have to spend more money on paper bags.

Apple, since the beginning, has been the master of disingenuous corporate bs speak. I remember when Apple and Steve Jobs fervently claimed 3.5 inches (or whatever it was back then) was the perfect magical size for cell phones. I am old enough to remember when Apple and their fans considered the various form factors in the Android world as a bad thing…cos in iOS there was only one iPhone. One SKU. Then Apple started making iPhones and iPads of different sizes…heck there was even a couple of colored iPhones. I don’t care that a company wants to make money; it’s the lying and the insulting justifications that piss me off. Just say what we all know: Apple wants to continue making money from their proprietary port.

This is all 100% due to the licensing fees Apple collets from every accessory that supports it’s device. And of course, when they offer a new option (mag safe wireless charger), they again force accessory makers to pay a fee. I really don’t understand at all how this is legal and how no one has sued Apple over this horrible business practice. Why do iPhone users support this corporate greed?

When it comes to wireless, Apple was pretty much forced to go with Qi, but I can promise you that Qi was NOT their first option. They wanted proprietary tech so they could profit from licensing fees. Since they did go with Qi (they must have been forced to do so, but I’m not sure), they had to go ahead and cripple it to make their proprietary tech more appealing to accessory makers and their customers. By crippling the qi charging, they are pushing their customers to spend more money on a wireless charger that provides Apple with licensing fees. This is complet BS and a move that no one would ever defend if it wasn’t Apple doing this. It’s just another example of iPhone users letting Apple rip them off and defending the greedy practice. How could anyone ever defend what Apple is doing? I just don’t understand this blind love of a corporation that is taking advantage of their customers. If it was any other company doing this, these same people defending Apple would criticize the other company screwing over it’s customers.

Can they also mandate microsd slots? Then I’ll definitely buy an iphone again

People have a few charging pucks around, but wireless will never reach the sheer range of opportunities you have to charge a usb-c device, even if the efficiency improved. Borrow my laptop’s charger or plug my phone into a monitor and use it as the world’s most expensive charger for 15 minutes? Sure.

And those public charging spots that many find questionable for good reason – usb a ports on the bus. It’s less convenient to carry around a puck than a cable. I only actively use two, and they stay in place.

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