A common charger for your iPhone, your Android tablet and your Windows 11 laptop? That’s not quite possible yet, but this is what the future could look like.
The Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs has written to industry and other concerned stakeholders, inviting them to brainstorm a plan for having one cable for charging all your devices.
What is the reason behind the ministry’s push?
The ministry’s move comes in the backdrop of the concept of LiFE — Lifestyle for the Environment — announced by the Prime Minister at the UN Climate Change Conference (CoP 26) held in Glasgow in November last year. Besides, the Union Cabinet has also approved India’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). According to the NDC, India has committed to reducing the emission intensity of the GDP by 45% by 2030. In view of the country’s commitment to fight climate change, the ministry has taken a step in the direction to reduce electronic waste.
What does the letter say?
In the letter to the industry and other stakeholders, Secretary, Consumer Affairs, Rohit Kumar Singh, said that it has been observed that due to the incompatibility of charging ports between old and new devices, consumers are forced to buy a separate charger and cable every time they purchase a new gadget. Not only do consumers face inconvenience, this also adds to avoidable e-consumption, the letter says. Based on this rationale, the government wants to brainstorm the possibility of ending the redundancy of having multiple chargers in every household.
When is the meeting, and who all will attend?
The meeting will be held on August 17. The ministry has invited representatives of industry bodies and other stakeholders including the Electronics Products Innovation Consortium (EPIC) Foundation; Manufacturers’ Association for Information Technology (MAIT); Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI); Confederation of Indian Industry (CII); the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM); Consumer Electronics and Appliances Manufacturers Association (CEAMA); Indian Electrical & Electronics Manufacturers’ Association (IEEMA). Apart from these institutions, the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur; the Indian Institute of Technology (Banaras Hindu University), Varanasi; and the India Cellular & Electronics Association have also been invited.
Which players would be impacted if there is a rule for common chargers?
If there was a directive for a common charger for all phones, laptops, earbuds, etc., as is being considered, then Apple would be the biggest player impacted, especially in the phones segment. The reason: Apple’s iPhone is still using the Lighting port for charging, and this requires a different cable compared to most other Android phones in the market.
If you have an iPhone and a MacBook Air M1, you require two separate chargers. But if you have a new iPad and MacBook, you can charge them both from the same Type-C cable. Also while Apple has reintroduced its famed MagSafe charging on the new M2-powered MacBooks, it has continued support for Type-C charging. So regular Type-C charging can be used to keep these going as well.
Apple’s Lightning port is in stark contrast to devices from players like Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, and Realme — the top five brands in the Indian smartphone market. All five have switched to phones with Type-C charging ports. Now, while the charging speeds supported on each device might be different, given that most have a Type-C port at the bottom, the chargers can be used interchangeably.
In fact, brands such as Samsung have removed chargers and cables from their devices entirely in the name of environmental sustainability. The assumption is that people have older Type-C chargers lying around at home which can be used for the newer phones as well. While there are some older budget phones in the market with the micro-USB cable such as the basic Redmi or Realme series, these are mostly priced under Rs 10,000. The segment above Rs 10,000 has largely adopted the Type-C cable.
Some of Amazon’s older Kindle ebooks such as those in the 10th gen — still being sold — also come with the older micro-USB charging ports. Still, the newer Kindle Paperwhite Signature has switched to the Type-C USB. Even in the truly wireless stereo (TWS) and Bluetooth headphone segment, most brands are offering Type-C charging. This holds true even for the most affordable budget segment earbuds in the market.
The directive could extend to laptops as well. Many laptops come with their own custom charging ports and cables as well. But brands like Asus, Lenovo, HP and Dell have also adopted Type-C charging and many of the Type-C ports on these devices can be used to charge the laptop as well. While custom port chargers in some laptops will ensure faster charging, a regular Type-C cable will also get the job done.
Have other countries tried to pass similar laws or rules around chargers?
This idea of ‘one charger for all devices’ is not new. It was also proposed by the European Union in June. The rationale again revolved around the problem of e-waste and that users have to buy multiple chargers. According to reports, the new requirements will only apply after the law is passed — and it is expected to take place this year. The EU plans to give a grace period of 24 months, once the law is passed, to phone manufacturers. This is supposed to give them enough time to make the switch. In the case of laptops, manufacturers will be given 40 months to adapt their devices to the new standards.
Will the iPhone now come with Type-C USB charging?
Apple switching the port on the iPhone is not entirely unexpected. It happened back in 2012 when Apple introduced the iPhone 5 with the new Lightning connector. Also, with the iPad and MacBook already supporting Type-C charging, it might make for a better ecosystem fit for all key products to have a common port.
There have been talks about Apple making the switch to Type-C ports for the iPhones for a while now. It is not expected to take place this year, but if these rules are passed, Apple might well have to make the switch in 2023.