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Apple going to war with the EU over iPhone Lightning charger

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  • The EU has been trying to make all smartphone producers use the same charging ports for over ten years, but Apple has always held out.
  • The European Parliament launched a fresh attempt to force Apple to ditch its bespoke Lightning port last week and conform to the industry-standard USB Type-C port.
  • Apple fought back in a statement on Thursday, saying forcing conformity in phones “stifles innovation.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Apple is fighting to keep the Lightning port on the iPhone.

The iPhone maker is locking horns with the European Union over the bloc’s push for a standard charger that works for all smartphones in an effort to cut down on electronic waste. 

Most current smartphones use a USB-C port, while some older ones use micro-USB ports. Most modern Samsung Galaxy smartphones, for example, charge with USB-C.

Apple is the big exception and has consistently produced phones and devices that only work with bespoke Apple chargers.

It introduced its current Lightning setup in 2012, in a shock update that meant anyone repeat iPhone or iPad customer had to buy new cables and compatible accessories. At the time, the slimmer port design gave Apple greater freedom with play around with its devices’ design.

Apple also managed to circumnavigate a law stipulating all phones use one kind of port by offering an adapter.

And the move was also seen as another Apple price-gouging move, forcing iPhone and iPad owners to buy expensive new chargers that only worked with Apple devices. 

European lawmakers renewed their attack on Apple last week, claiming that consumers throwing out old and obsolete chargers generates over 51,000 tonnes of electronic waste per year.

In a statement released on Thursday Apple fought back.

“We believe regulation that forces conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, and would harm consumers in Europe and the economy as a whole,” the company said. It also argued that by nullifying the chargers already in circulation the EU would be creating “an unprecedented volume of electronic waste.”

Still, the tide may be turning against Lightning chargers. Apple’s iPad Pro dropped Lightning for USB-C, and critics argue that the inconsistency in Apple’s hardware ecosystem is frustrating for customers.

The European Parliament wasn’t immediately available for comment when contacted by Business Insider.

Here is Apple’s full statement:

“Apple stands for innovation and deeply cares about the customer experience. We believe regulation that forces conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, and would harm consumers in Europe and the economy as a whole.

“More than 1 billion Apple devices have shipped using a Lightning connector in addition to an entire ecosystem of accessory and device manufacturers who use Lightning to serve our collective customers. The legislation would have a direct negative impact by disrupting the hundreds of millions of active devices and accessories used by our European customers and even more Apple customers worldwide, creating an unprecedented volume of electronic waste and greatly inconveniencing users.

“We do not believe there is a case for regulation given the industry is already moving to the use of USB Type-C through a connector or cable assembly. This includes Apple’s USB-C power adapter which is compatible with all iPhone and iPad devices. This approach is more affordable and convenient for consumers, enables charging for a wide range of portable electronic products, encourages people to re-use their charger and allows for innovation.

“Prior to 2009, the Commission considered mandating that all smartphones use only USB Micro-B connectors which would have restricted the advancement to Lightning and USB Type-C. Instead, the Commission established a voluntary, industry standards-based approach that saw the market shift from 30 chargers down to 3, soon to be two — Lightning and USB-C, showing this approach does work.

“We hope the Commission will continue to seek a solution that does not restrict the industry’s ability to innovate and bring exciting new technology to customers.”

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