The European Union (EU) mandate that manufacturers of most mobile devices use USB-C by fall 2024 has increased pressure on speculation that Apple could use wireless technology in future models of its iPhone and AirPods.

While the directive from a committee of the European Parliament applies to all manufacturers of mobile electronic devices, this unprecedented requirement is expected to directly affect Apple, whose products, including the popular iPhone, use Apple's proprietary Lightning connector protocol. .

The mandate is clear: “Mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, headphones, digital cameras, earphones and headphones, handheld game consoles, and portable speakers rechargeable via a cable must be equipped with a USB Type-C port, regardless of manufacturer. ». .

This decision means that iPhones and AirPods are sold in the EU and have USB-C ports and cable connectors that are subject to automne 2024. Apple mandates additional options, and purchases the passage through without strings.

iPhone 8 carga inalámbrica con RavPower IDG/Ken Mingis

An iPhone 8 charged with a RavPower wireless charger, capable of transmitting up to 7,5W of power.

Forrester Senior Analyst Andrew Cornwall said the EU decision leaves at least three paths for Apple to follow.

  • Apple may provide a separate USB-C charging port from the Lightning charging and data port on iPhones and iPads. This is probably the least aesthetically pleasing option, and Apple is unlikely to choose a two-socket solution for this reason.
  • Apple could develop a hybrid port that accepts USB-C (for charging only) or Lightning (for charging and data). While it is possible that Apple will develop a hybrid port, it is unlikely that it will want to build a new connector.
  • Apple could do away with the port entirely and go wireless using the Qi charging standard, the capability of which has been built into its iPhones since 2017.

"It's in Apple's character to completely remove the Lightning/Charging port in favor of wireless charging, bypassing European legislation," Cornwall said. “Since their wireless charger supports an open standard, they will not violate future delegated acts.

"Apple appears to have anticipated European legislation and is ready to move to wireless charging with the Qi standard," Cornwall said. “Data transfer will be wireless only. The Lightning port will disappear from future iPhones, just like the headphone jack did.

However, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes that Apple is already planning USB-C in the iPhone 15 when it launches in the second half of 2023. Therefore, in this scenario, the shipment of a phone should follow. with completely wireless charging. The iPhone 14 lineup, expected in September, will almost certainly continue to use a Lightning connector, he tweeted.

The EU directive also allows manufacturers not to include a charger with their devices. Indeed, once all manufacturers have the same charging standard, it would be superfluous to ship a charger with each product. This is an attribute that the European Parliament recalled in its statement on the directive.

This will undoubtedly hurt some buyers: the few without chargers will have to pay more, Cornwall said.

“There is an increased risk of warranty repairs being denied due to 'defective chargers.' Some may buy poor quality chargers that cause fires,” he said. "Travellers will need to use a dongle for charging until Qi is widely implemented by hotels."

And if Apple's Lightning port goes away for data transfer, Apple users will lose some privacy because it's much harder to intercept wired traffic than something live, Cornwall said. Also, some iPhones can become more difficult to repair and updating an iPhone or restoring it to its original firmware can become impossible. And jailbreaking a completely wireless iPhone, that wouldn't work either.

On the other hand, iPhones may be easier to waterproof if the port is removed.

"I find the EU legislation a bit inconvenient for consumers," Cornwall said. "This is slightly favorable for device vendors, who no longer need to include a charger with every sale."

Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates, wondered if the EU directive would allow Apple to remove a port altogether, since the mandate calls for vendors to switch to USB-C. Furthermore, wireless charging still presents several challenges, the first being that it is not as energy efficient.

“There is a lot of loss in wireless charging, up to 50%,” Gold said. "And you're limited in how much power you can use with the wireless charger. Therefore, the fast charging that we have all become accustomed to is very difficult to do wirelessly. That's probably why Apple hasn't made much progress with wireless." charging for their phones.

So the question is, would users accept slower charging?

“I guess Apple will be very resistant to full wireless charging until they can fix some of these issues. But physics is against him and it would take some major breakthroughs to turn things around. Apple users hope they can't cater to wireless charging as the only option.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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