Chargers for phones, laptops and earbuds must use the same USB-C connector for all charging cables by 2026, the European Union has agreed this month. A formal approval from the European Parliament and the European Council is expected at the end of the summer holidays.
The ruling passed by the EU earlier this month means manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have only a few years to standardize the ports on their devices.
Since major manufacturers are unlikely to make expensive alternative versions of all devices, it’s safe to assume this ruling will also affect consumers in the US. Keep in mind that this statement applies to the connectors of the charging cord, which is the shape of the tip at the end that actually plugs into the phone, not the cable itself.
“On the face of it, what this statement should do is create a uniformity about things so that people don’t have to buy a different charger for every single device and when they upgrade that device, they throw that charger away and have to get a new charger. So it is said that this can reduce the amount of waste,” says Ted Pavlic.
Pavlic is an associate professor in ASU’s School of Sustainability. While the ruling is meant to alleviate a headache for those of us with different charging connectors and adapters, he said it could also spark a whole host of new confusions.
“Maybe we live in a future where we’re going to see USB-C, we’re going to see cables that look just like the same cables we’ve seen for years. But what we’re going to find is that the wall warts and our cables themselves need updating,” he said.
Connectors can be standardized and it seems that different cords offer the same charging options. But Pavlic said the wall wart that plugs into an outlet and the contents of the actual cable determine how much and how quickly power is transferred. Those are the parts of the charging cable that are likely to continue to improve, he said. So while you may be able to use your current USB-C connector for the phone you have now, it won’t work as well for your new gaming laptop that can handle more power and faster charging.
Pavlic said he disagrees with the idea that e-waste will be reduced. He said there will be more e-waste in the near term as users discard old cables.
“Long-term, it’s a moot point, because the devices it’s really targeting are the low-power devices that are going to go wireless,” he said.
Most personal devices must comply with this ruling by 2026.