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Could the EU’s USB-C edict push Apple to cut the cord altogether?

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The European Union (EU) mandate that makers of most mobile devices use USB-C by fall 2024 has turned up the heat on speculation Apple might just go all wireless in future models of its iPhone and AirPods.

While the directive from an EU Parliament committee applies to all manufacturers of mobile electronics, the unprecedented requirement is expected to directly affect Apple, whose products — including the popular iPhone — use the company’s proprietary Lightning connector protocol.

The mandate is clear: “Mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, earbuds, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld videogame consoles and portable speakers that are rechargeable via a wired cable will have to be equipped with a USB Type-C port, regardless of their manufacturer.”

The move means iPhones and AirPods sold in the EU will be required to switch to the more ubiquitous USB-C ports and cable connectors by the fall of 2024. The mandate leaves Apple with several options, including going all wireless.

“The new rules only cover charging via a wire. If a device is not charged via a wire there will be no obligation to have a USB type C port,” a European Parlaiment source said in an email response to Computerworld. “As wireless technologies still need time to be developed, 24 months after the entry into force of the Directive, the EU Commission will ask European standardisation bodies to develop a standard for wireless as well – so this could change in the future but not now.”

iPhone 8 wireless charging with RavPower IDG/Ken Mingis

An iPhone 8 being charged atop a wireless charger from RavPower, which is capable of transmitting up to 7.5W of power.

Forrester Senior Analyst Andrew Cornwall said the EU move leaves at least three paths for Apple to take.

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