Axing Lightning for iPhone would mean unprecedented e-waste, Apple says

The tech giant argues that "hundreds of millions" of customers would be affected by a forced switch to USB-C.

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Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
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Corinne Reichert

Apple's iPhones still use Lightning ports.

Angela Lang/CNET

Forcing  Apple  to change iPhones from Lightning to USB-C connectors would cause "an unprecedented volume of electronic waste," the company said Thursday. The remark follows a European Commission call earlier this month for a common charger for all mobile phones, an effort to reduce waste and make life easier for consumers. Apple argues, however, that this would create even more waste, because its Lightning accessories would become obsolete.

"More than 1 billion Apple devices have shipped using a Lightning connector in addition to an entire ecosystem of accessory and device manufacturers who use Lightning," Apple said. Any European laws insisting on USB-C would therefore negatively affect "hundreds of millions of active devices and accessories used by our European customers and even more Apple customers worldwide."

Conforming to a single connector would also stifle innovation, Apple argues.

Micro-USB was first declared the standard in 2010, with Apple complying by supplying adaptors for its proprietary ports. With the current shift to USB-C charging, Apple now uses USB-C connectors in its MacBook and iPad Pro devices, but the iPhone continues to rely on Lightning.

Apple previously made its own accessories obsolete when it switched from its 30-pin connector to Lightning in 2012.

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