Global standard for charging sockets is possible

Global standard for charging sockets is possible

24. January 2020 0 By Horst Buchwald

Global standard for charging sockets is possible

By Horst Buchwald

Berlin, 24.1.2020

Brussels wants to standardise the chaos in charging systems for mobile phones, tablets, e-book readers and similar devices. The fiercest opponent is Apple. The iPhone manufacturer claims: this would slow down innovation and harm consumers in Europe.

The European Parliament had declared in mid-January that manufacturers must offer uniform charging systems because this would reduce electronic waste and make life easier for consumers. A study is due to be published at the beginning of February which will outline the consequences of a uniform charging standard for consumers and industry. On this basis, a legislative proposal will be prepared in the coming months.

The situation: About ten years ago, the EU made the first push in this direction – with modest success. But still, the number of systems has decreased. What remained: 1. the micro-USB format. But it is on the decline. 2. it is being replaced by the more modern USB-C. 3. Apple is sticking with the in-house Lightning port on the iPhone, iPod Touch and most iPad models, but is relying on USB-C for some devices such as the iPad Pro or Macbook laptops.

Assuming the EU sets a standard, many consumers would be forced to replace their non-compatible charging cables. This, Apple rightly says, would result in an “unprecedented amount of electronic waste”. But this is a killer argument. If you want to standardize the Choas, you have to accept that when you replace the old charging systems, they will have to be scrapped. The argument that innovations are impaired does not count. No producer has yet distinguished itself with intelligent charging systems. Not even Apple. So it would be time for EU representatives and industry to sit down at one table and find the best solution.

But neither side seems to think about it. Instead, Apple says: “We hope that the Commission will continue to look for a solution that does not limit the industry’s ability to offer innovation and new technologies to consumers”.

Apple is thus passing the buck to the EU Commission, twiddling its thumbs, waiting and saying no to every solution.

There is one solution that could be agreed upon. For example the wireless charging standard “Qi”. The device is simply placed on the station and the charging process starts. The only disadvantage: charging takes longer than by cable. But there is no more electronic waste. Google quickly recognised these advantages and therefore uses Qi in its Nexus devices. The result: LG and Samsung (S and Note series) followed suit. The “Wireless Power Consortium”, to which the manufacturers Samsung, LG and Nokia and Microsoft, among others, belong, monitors the development of the Qi industry standard.

Qi is not the only standard for wireless charging – the so-called “Power Matters Alliance” under the leadership of the US company Starbucks (which already installs charging stations in the furniture of its coffee shops) wants to establish the competitor standard “PMA”. So far there are no well-known supporters in the smartphone world. In the background, however, a protracted dispute over the dominant standard is to be feared.

Conclusion: Since the majority of producers rely on Qi, it is obvious to strive for this system as a standard. If this succeeds, and Apple and Starbuck stay with their systems, this would very likely weaken their position on the market. Because qi is clearly superior to Lightning. But this presupposes that the EU thinks globally and tries to bring all sides together.

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