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European regulators are channeling their inner Marie Kondo to confront the scourge of cable clutter. One major inconvenience may be over at last.
Most the time, you don’t want the government getting involved in tech product design, for obvious reasons. Apple’s products are cool because of a design icon named Jony Ive — a bunch of DC bureaucrats could never match his output.
But Apple’s also guilty of manufacturing an infuriating number of charging cables that work only for its own devices. Lord help you if you’re an iPhone user who loves her Kindle and wears a Garmin watch. That’s three cables you’re packing for a weekend trip. Four if you bring your laptop. It’s been this way for decades, and no one likes it.
All of that could change soon.
This week, the European Union took an unusual step to reduce cable clutter and waste by requiring Apple and other smartphone makers to support a single common charging standard for mobile devices as early as the fall of 2024.
Under the legislation, virtually all of your everyday devices that are rechargeable via a wired cable — phones, tablets, e-readers, earbuds, cameras, portable speakers, etc — will have to be equipped with a port known as USB-C.
It’s not a total surprise — Apple’s been preparing for the end of its special Lightning connector for some time. The company already uses the USB-C standard in some Macs and iPads and is reportedly testing iPhone models that swap out the Lightning port. But the law could put a fire under Apple’s designers to shift fully to USB-C and potentially finally kill the Lightning charger for good.
You may be thinking, Finally! One charging cable for all my stuff!
And I hear you. We’ve all got that shoebox packed with every type of cable ever made (except for the one you need) collecting dust in the closet, and I, too, would like to confidently throw it in the garbage.
But the EU’s ruling is about a decade too late.
The environmental damage is done. We’ve all already bought the extra Apple Lightning chargers to ensure we never run out of juice on our iPhones and AirPods because we are a screen-addicted people who can’t stand the sound of our own thoughts. We can neither fall asleep nor wake up without our phones; we don’t know which route to take to work without an app’s guidance; I’ve heard of people who don’t fill every waking moment with a Spotify playlist or podcast in their ear, but I do not know, nor do I care to find out, how they manage it.
Apple (AAPL) hates the idea (shocker) because it argues it will slow innovation and render about a billion devices obsolete. But they’ve been testing new iPhone models with USB-C ports anyway, and I have no doubt that one of the world’s most valuable companies will be A-OK in figuring out how to wring more money from customers in the meantime.
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