Following a move by the European Union to force all smartphones and small electronics to use USB-C for charging instead of proprietary methods such as Lightning, U.S. lawmakers are urging the Commerce Department to enact a similar strategy.
In a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pressed for the agency “to coordinate with offices and agencies across the Department 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 move is clearly aimed at Apple and the iPhone. While the letter calls out smartphones, tablets, portable speakers, and e-readers, the biggest device by far is the iPhone, which uses the proprietary Lightning cable over USB-C. The senators point out that the average consumer owns approximately three mobile phone chargers, while 40 percent of consumers report that, on at least one occasion, they have been unable to charge their mobile phone because of a lack of compatible chargers.
Therefore they want to establish “uniform charging accessory standards” that, if enacted, would force the iPhone to switch to USB-C. Apple already uses USB-C on most of its other devices, including the Mac and iPad, and there are rumors that even the entry-level iPad will switch to USB-C this fall. That leaves the iPhone and a handful of accessories that still use Lightning.
The senators say the policy “has the potential to significantly reduce e-waste and help consumers who are tired of having to rummage through junk drawers full of tangled chargers to find a compatible one, or buy a new one.”
By the time it makes its way through the legislative bodies, however, it might be a moot point since the EU is expected to enact its own USB-C rules later this year.