Apple will change the primary cable port for its iPhones to comply with new European Union rules that require every new smartphone to work with a common USB-C charging cable by 2024, a company executive said Tuesday.
Two top-level Apple executives suggested they aren’t particularly happy about the new rules when discussing them on stage Tuesday at The Wall Street Journal’s WSJ Tech Live Conference in Laguna Beach, California. Originally, Apple believed it had come to a compromise with EU regulators by offering a cord in the box with its iPhones that plugged into USB-C on one end and its proprietary Lightning cable on the other.
“We have no choice — as we do around the world, [Apple will] comply with local laws,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing. “We think it would have been better environmentally and better for our customers to not have a government be that prescriptive.”
Apple’s been steadily adding USB-C ports to its Mac computers and iPad tablets. It’s also been rumored to be working on iPhones with USB-C ports for a while now, so it’s not a terribly surprising admission.
Still, the move is a rare public acknowledgement from the world’s highest valued company about the future of its products, and in particular how new government rules are shaping its business. Though selling Lightning cables at $19 apiece isn’t what’s made Apple its billions in profits, the proprietary nature of its technology did help it create a branded ecosystem of accessories built specifically for its devices.
Over the past two decades, Apple’s licensed its 30-pin connector for the iPod, then Lightning connector for the iPhone and iPad, to accessories makers to create speakers, camera add-ons and all sorts of other items.
“It’s been a great connector and over a billion people have it already,” Joswiak said. When asked how Apple will integrate USB-C into the iPhone, he declined to discuss specifics. “The Europeans are the ones dictating timing for European customers.”