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Why the death of Apple's lightning connector is a good thing

It’s received mixed responses, but the move towards USB-C is a benefit for all.

When Apple introduced the lightning connector in September 2012 to its iPhone and other products, it was another example of the company attempting to lock in users to a proprietary format that wasn’t compatible with other hardware out there. User response was mixed but tended towards the negative. People didn’t like the idea that they couldn’t simply buy a third-party alternative to the lightning port easily, instead being compelled to pay Apple’s premium prices for the hardware.

The morality of that decision has long been challenged – but now has been picked up by official authorities. The European Union has said that smartphones sold in the territory from autumn 2024 must legally use a USB-C connection for charging the devices, a big step forward for standardization but a blow to Apple’s bottom line.

A number of Apple’s other devices, including iPads and MacBooks, have USB-C chargers, but Apple has clung on to the lightning cable for its phones, knowing how important they are to the company’s income. Now, the EU’s rules will apply to “all small and medium-sized portable electronic devices” – a definition that covers mobile phones and tablets, among other devices.

A moment of pride

“We have made the common charger a reality in Europe,” says European parliament spokesperson Alex Agius Saliba. “European consumers were long frustrated with multiple chargers piling up with every new device. Now they will be able to use a single charger for all their portable electronics.”

Saliba continues: “We are proud that laptops, e-readers, earbuds, keyboards, computer mice, and portable navigation devices are also included, in addition to smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld video game consoles, and portable speakers.”

It's a significant shift for consumers and something that has been welcomed by many. Ben Wood, the chief analyst at CCS Insight, told The Guardian that “having one common charging standard would be a victory for common sense in the eyes of consumers. Although Apple has made a strong argument for it keeping its lightning connector… some of its products, including Mac and iPad Pro, now support USB-C.

“Hopefully, it will eventually become a non-issue if Apple keeps adding USB-C to more devices, and that means ultimately we could see USB-C coming to iPhone.”

Dissenting voices

Given the huge price disparity between official Apple chargers and those that aren’t manufactured by the Cupertino tech giant, it seems like a win-win for consumers. But not everyone is overjoyed by the decision.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a UK politician and noted technophobe, has said “Thankfully we left the EU before it decided to mandate what sort of phone chargers we can have, a typically short-termist and anti-innovation measure which will only have a long term negative effect for consumers.”

However, Rees-Mogg – a multi-millionaire who has set up his own fund management firm, and is estimated to have a wealth of more than £100 million, is not necessarily like most people. While he may be able to afford to buy Apple peripherals at full price, plenty of other people aren’t, and will welcome the ability to swap out pricey connectors for others that can be used in more than one device.

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