Two phones side by side showing lightning port vs USB C

It’s not the USB-C port, it’s what you do with it that counts

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

The The requirement of the European Union: those gadgets only charge via USB-C ports from 2024 is a welcome move in many corners. It mainly affects Apple’s stubborn attachment to the Lightning port rather than the much more widely accepted connectors, cables and chargers. But it also means the end of new USB-A and micro-USB-powered accessories, ranging from headphones to portable speakers. The exception is laptops, which have a 40-month grace period until 2025.

That sounds like good news — after all, no one wants to mess around with different cables and chargers. Plus, the EU directive It is estimated that the full move to USB-C will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by about 180 ktCO2e, material use by about 2,600 tons and e-waste by 980 tons per year. So what’s not to love?

Despite the good intentions, mandatory USB-C ports won’t solve the major problem with the standard: one cable for everything does not always work well in practice.

Read more: It’s been years and USB-C is still a mess

One size doesn’t fit all

16 inch MacBook Pro USB-C ports on the left

USB-C is a powerful, flexible connector, but the port isn’t the only factor; the Alternate Mode standards supported by devices at both ends of the cable are just as important. For example, USB-C headphones only work if your phone, tablet, or laptop supports USB-C audio. Likewise for Ethernet and DisplayPort monitor support over USB. Even data transfer rates depend on the port’s sub-classification, such as USB 3.3 Gen 1 or Gen 2, USB 4, or Thunderbolt 4. Not to mention you need the right cable to transfer data and power between gadgets. maximize. Confusing is an understatement.

Related: The best USB-C cables money can buy

We’ve also seen how easy it is to break the norm. A small number of USB-C gadgets, such as the Insta360 Go 2 and the Bob & Brad Q2 Stimulator Gun of all things, only charge with a C-to-A cable instead of C-to-C. Meanwhile, other devices flatly refuse to work with out-of-spec cables that are sold cheaply in various markets. For example, OnePlus cables won’t charge Pixel phones in 2015 and some cables still fail. Followed by Google’s 3.5mm adapter and USB-C earbuds didn’t work on OnePlus phones

Poorly implemented USB-C accessories and gadgets are another source of frustration and waste.

You are not alone if you have ever become frustrated when plugging in a cable only to find that the function you want is not supported or not working properly. Support for USB-C features is frustratingly opaque, and mandating gadget charging through this port certainly won’t solve this problem. In addition, poorly implemented cables and accessories contribute to the final e-waste.

That said, the EU is doing what it can to ensure charging is seamless. The directive requires that USB-C gadgets “that are charged at voltages greater than 5 volts or currents greater than 3 amps or powers greater than 15 watts contain the USB Power Delivery charging communication protocol.” In theory, all USB-PD plugs will work with all more powerful USB-C gadgets in the future, reducing the need for multiple plugs for different gadgets and charging standards. That said, the industry has already gone quite far in this direction, but this will help cut down on e-waste a little bit faster. However, it will not necessarily remove duplicate plugs completely.

Support for USB-C features is wildly opaque and no fix is ​​forthcoming.

For example, the directive does not prevent manufacturers from using their own standards in addition to: USB power supply† That’s probably a good thing to prevent innovation, but it still means some phones and other gadgets can charge much faster with some plugs than with others. This is further complicated by the fact that many phones are already switching to the more flexible USB Power Delivery PPS variant for more efficient charging, not to mention the host of older USB-A, Fast Chargingand other plugs/accessories that many consumers already have.

While there will be some simplification in the future, the USB-C charging landscape will still be varied and confusing for most consumers from 2024 and beyond.

What to do with USB-C?

Lightning connector vs USB C cable in hand

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

The EU move is, on balance, a welcome one that will help reduce plug e-waste and some of the charging irritating factors we’ve come to live with in the eight years since the 24-pin reversible. connector was first announced. But with that time frame in mind, mandating the charging port so late in the game might be too little too late, especially since the law won’t go into effect for laptops until 2024 or later and only addresses the charging issue. In that time, millions more gadgets and chargers that make USB-C a messy and annoying standard to deal with will have been sold and most likely dumped in landfills.

Unfortunately, the EU and other regulators are stuck catching up with a standard that has mutated into something very impractical. While much of the attention has rightly been focused on Apple’s reluctance to play ball with the wider industry, that same industry has adopted the USB-C standard and often failed to implement it in a way that makes for a cohesive, easy-to-understand ecosystem. . Charging is certainly USB-C’s most consumer-friendly and wasteful shortcoming, but the wider e-waste problem won’t be solved until all the accessories work seamlessly on every USB-C port you plug them into.

Best Advices: How do you choose the right phone charger?

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