What does Europe’s mandate for universal chargers mean for you?

Most of us have multiple types of chargers to complement our devices. That’s because many products, such as Apple phones and Microsoft Surface computers, are connected with wires that use unique connectors.

Soon that may no longer be the case.

This month, the European Union announced a mandate requiring all new wearable devices such as smartphones, earbuds and wireless keyboards to use a regular charger by 2024. Two years later, the same rules will apply to new laptops.

While the law will be enforced across Europe, it could affect consumers around the world. That’s because it will most likely be costly for tech companies to make products with different charging technologies only for European countries.

The legislation, which regulators say will reduce e-waste, appears to target Apple, whose iPhones, iPads and Macs use a range of charging technologies. Apple, which declined to comment, sent a letter to the European Commission in November objecting to the mandate, arguing it would stifle the introduction of new charging technologies. Terence Zakka, a spokesperson for the commission, said the legislation could be updated quickly to ensure it keeps pace with new technology.

Long story short, no matter where you live, most devices you buy in the coming years will likely include a charging port known as USB-C. The shift could be a frustrating transition for many, and perhaps most acute for iPhone customers who have been collecting wires and accessories using Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector since its introduction a decade ago. Those products will become impractical to use once the mandate goes into effect and people start buying new products that don’t have Lightning connections.

So it helps to prepare for this transition to avoid waste. Here’s what you can do.

Future-proof your charging setup

Let’s talk about USB-C first. It’s that oval connector that works with many modern Android phones and laptops. It’s not the same as Apple’s flat rectangular Lightning connector or the bulky USB rectangular connector, an older technology called USB-A.

European law requires all devices to use USB-C by 2026. We need to plan accordingly to include that connector in the products we use to charge our devices, including power blocks and wires.

When purchasing a power brick that is wired to your computer or phone, make sure to get one with the oval USB-C port. This allows it to accept a USB-C power cable, which can be plugged into your future phone or computer.

Many Android phones and computers already use USB-C power cables, so keep buying them if you need to. But let’s say you’re using Apple phones, which use the Lightning connector. If your wired Lightning charger for your iPhone breaks, it’s still a good idea to buy a replacement cable, as those wires are relatively inexpensive. High-quality third-party Lightning cables cost as little as $15. The safest bet is to buy a Lightning cable with a USB-C connector on the other end, to ensure it plugs into your next laptop or power supply. -stone.

Another option is to go wireless, says John Bumstead, the owner of RDKL Incorporated, a company that sells refurbished Apple hardware. Most modern smartphones, including iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones, work with a newer wireless charging technology known as magnetic induction, which uses an electrical current to generate a magnetic field and create voltage that powers your device without that a wire needs to be inserted.

Wireless chargers come in many shapes and forms, including mats and docks. Since they don’t need to be plugged into a port on your phone, now is a good time to consider wireless chargers.

Avoid Expensive Lightning Accessories

A trickier conundrum involves buying accessories such as keyboards and mice, Bumstead said. Some new products, such as Apple’s $200 Magic Keyboard or the $150 Magic Trackpad, include Lightning ports.

It would be wise to wait a few years for future versions of those products, Bumstead said. Once the USB-C mandate comes into effect, carrying a USB-C cable for your phone and computer and a Lightning cable for your keyboard or mouse will be a hassle. It is more convenient to carry one cable that charges everything. That is the whole point of European law.

But if everything uses the same type of connector in a few years, that doesn’t mean you should throw away your devices that use proprietary connections. One option to make them more user-friendly is to buy an adapter, such as a dongle that allows a Lightning connector to accept a USB-C connection, Bumstead said. That way, if you only have one device that uses a Lightning connector, you can use the dongle to connect that device with a USB-C cable.

Dongles are an inelegant solution, however, as they are small and easy to lose, so don’t buy accessories with their own connectors. Instead, opt for the ones that come with USB-C ports.

What it comes down to:

With some premeditation, this transition won’t be that bad. USB-C is a solid technology that allows devices to be topped up quickly. And because so many products already use a USB-C connector, most of us already have many of these cables, said Jeff Ravencraft, the president of the USB Implementers Forum, a standards organization that partners with companies like Apple, HP and Microsoft to develop USB devices. developing ports. technology.

“This train has already left the station,” Ravencraft said. He added that USB-C is designed to have a longer lifespan, meaning it should still be a useful technology by 2026, when the law goes into full effect.

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