The European Union is planning to require uniformity in phone cord chargers.
The European Union announced plans Thursday to require the smartphone industry to adopt a uniform charging cord for mobile devices, a push that could eliminate the all-too-familiar experience of rummaging through a drawer full of tangled cables to find the right one.
The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, proposed legislation that would mandate USB-C cables for charging, technology that many device makers have already adopted. The main holdout is Apple, which said it was concerned the new rules would limit innovation, and that would end up hurting consumers. iPhones come with the company’s own Lightning charging port, though the newest models come with cables that can be plugged into a USB-C socket.
I am a user of Apple products and am often irritated by the fact that the chargers and other peripherals for my old devices can no longer be used when I buy a new one, requiring the purchase of dongles if I want to continue using them. It raises the suspicion that this is being done for commercial reasons, to force people to spend more. So on one level, I am pleased by this move.
But on the other hand, I can see the argument that forcing all manufacturers to adopt the same standard can inhibit innovation. The question is at what point widespread interchangeability provides more benefits than what is lost by eliminating individual differences. Plenty of devices now have to conform to a uniform standard. Car batteries, for example, all come in the same size. A car brand that used batteries that were different and thus required owners to only buy the company’s own batteries would face howls of outrage, however good those batteries might be,
Have phone chargers reached that same level of ubiquity, where the benefits of standardization outweigh the limits placed on innovation?