Some U.S. lawmakers have sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to “develop a comprehensive plan that will protect both consumers and the environment by addressing the lack of a common U.S. charging standard.”
The letter continues, “We cannot allow the consumer electronics industry to prioritize proprietary and inevitably obsolete charging technology over consumer protection and environmental health.” (PDF link)
Lawmakers refer directly to the European Union USB-charger 2024 mandate that includes “all smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers, and handheld videogame consoles.” The goal is to reduce the amount of e-Waste and avoid producing unnecessary products that contain plastic.
In the U.S., lawmakers don’t directly mention the USB-C connector, but it is evident that USB-C is the most widely used standard and that Apple would be the OEM that needs to make some changes. That said, we’ve been hearing about this for many years now, and this has yet to materialize.
Even if Apple switched to USB-C, that would likely not impact its licensing business. Apple already uses a microchip to ensure that all Lighting cables are licensed and working well. The company could simply do the same with USB cables, although it remains to be seen if lawmakers would enforce complete interoperability with other brands.
Many Android OEMs such as Samsung have already stopped shipping phones with chargers and cables. The primary downside is that you don’t get the fastest possible charging unless you buy a high-power charger accessory.
But enforcing a standard such as USB-C would have tremendous advantages too. USB Power Delivery supports extremely high wattage (100W+), and owners of a high-power charger can use it with any USB-C device, from laptops down to toothbrushes.
Phones aside, there is still a large swatch of smaller electronic devices such as razors, clippers, and more that could use USB-C but don’t. Regarding e-waste, some huge gains would come from there, as the Android ecosystem is already going in that direction. However, this has yet to be quantified.
Finally, the “stifling innovation” talks don’t seem very credible regarding charging activity. Although “some” innovation exists, none has come from the connector itself. It will depend on how any legislation will be worded and how much leeway OEMs will have going forward. As long as backward compatibility is present, like with USB-C, I don’t see any innovative limitation – for charging.
Perhaps, it could be reasonable to enforce such regulations on low-wattage (65W and below) or low-speed (based on Mbps) devices, where charging and data transit innovation are less likely to occur.