Recently, the European Union mandated the exclusive use of USB-C ports for charging gadgets from 2024. Hence, it will end USB-A and micro-USB-powered accessories like headphones, portable speakers, etc. On the other hand, laptops must follow this mandate from 2025. Fortunately, consumers worldwide welcomed this news, except Apple users with new Lightning ports. The reason is that, in compliance with the new rule, users wouldn’t have to deal with different cables and chargers for various devices. Additionally, EU directives claim that using USB-C ports universally will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, material use, and e-waste. However, using universal USB-C ports doesn’t solve the issue of one cable for everything.
USB-C is a powerful and flexible connector, but it is not the only factor. The Alternate Mode standards support on devices at both ends of the cable is also a factor. For instance, USB-C headphones will only work if a phone, tablet, or laptop supports USB-C audio. It is similar to Ethernet and DisplayPort monitor support over USB. In addition, data transfer speeds depend on the sub-rating of ports like USB 3.3 Gen 1, 2, USB 4, or Thunderbolt 4. Besides, users need a suitable cable to maximize data and power transfer between devices.
However, many gadgets do not follow these standards. For example, many USB-C devices like Insta369 Go 2 and the Bob & Brad Q2 massager gun only charge with a C-to-A cable instead of a C-to-C cable. Plus, many gadgets do not work or support out-of-spec cheap cables. For instance, OnePlus cables did not charge the Pixel phone in 2015, and some still don’t. In addition, the OnePlus phone does not support Google’s 3.5mm adapter and USB-C earbuds.
Hence, USB-C feature support is opaque. Plus, poorly implemented cables and accessories eventually increase e-waste as well. In any case, the EU is doing its best to develop a more seamless charging method. But, even though its mandate will reduce the need for multiple plugs and e-waste, it wouldn’t wholly eradicate duplicate plugs.
Hence, some phones and gadgets might continue to charge much faster with some plugs than others. In addition, many phones have already switched to the more flexible USB Power Delivery PPS variant for more efficient charging. Thus, the USB-C charging landscape will become more varied and confusing for consumers going forward. Lastly, the EU’s move to mandate USB-C ports, though well-intentioned and welcomed, is too little too late.