(Photo: Mishaal Zahed/Unsplash)At long last, Apple is bringing USB-C to the iPhone—it’s just not exactly thrilled about it. During a media interview Tuesday, an Apple marketing executive confirmed the company would be complying with the European Union’s new law requiring all mobile devices to charge via USB-C.
The confirmation came during The Wall Street Journal’s Tech Live conference this week. Reporter Joanna Stern sat onstage with senior VP of global marketing Greg Joswiak and software VP Craig Federighi to discuss Apple’s overarching product innovation philosophy. Stern asked the duo how Apple planned to approach the EU’s USB-C requirement, which was solidified this month after a year of legislative work.
“Obviously we’ll have to comply, we have no choice,” Joswiak said. “We think the approach would’ve been better environmentally, and better for our customers, to not have the government be that prescriptive.”
From an environmental standpoint, Joswiak worries the EU’s new requirement (which will take effect in 2024) will result in the same amount of e-waste it aims to prevent. iPhone users who already own Lightning cables will have to dispose of those cables as soon as they upgrade their phones. Considering Joswiak’s point that over a billion people own iPhones—and that many iPhone users have more than one charger—it’s possible that 2024 will see a drastic uptick in cable disposal.
But will all of us be forced to ditch our Lightning cables, or just those upgrading within the EU? Joswiak refused to say whether Apple would be switching to USB-C on all of its future mobile devices or only those it would sell across the pond. There are some customers outside the EU who’d prefer that all iPhones charge via USB-C; after all, iPads now use USB-C, so why not go all in? On the other hand, some likely share Joswiak’s sentiment that a port change would be inconvenient and wasteful.
“I don’t mind governments telling us what they want to accomplish,” Joswiak said during the interview. He pointed to times in which mobile phone manufacturers have been forced to adopt specific hearing aid compatibilities that ended up failing more often than not. Joswiak expressed that he’d rather government entities allow tech companies to find their own ways of meeting collective goals rather than prescribing restrictive methods.
Joswiak’s concerns might stem from design autonomy, but they also might be the result of Apple’s desire to enforce brand loyalty. Lightning cables are only compatible with Apple products—they can’t be used with any other manufacturer’s devices. Once a person has invested in Apple infrastructure, they might find it too inconvenient to switch to, say, a Samsung or Google smartphone. (The same concept can be seen in Apple’s commitment to keeping Android users out of iMessage.) By switching to USB-C, iPhone users within the EU are one step closer to potentially abandoning their brand loyalty and dumping Apple for good…and from a monetary standpoint, why would Apple want that?