European Union to require USB-C on smartphones

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The European Union has passed a law that will require smartphone manufacturers to adopt USB-C. The claim is that all smartphones should support the same cable type. This sounds great but it’s not and here’s why.

The most simplicity answer is that eventually a better cable will be designed but due to strict regulations it won’t be available in the EU. What about a USB-E? Will it ever be allowed on the market? Or is Europe locked into a protocol that will one day become legacy and obsolete to its western competitors.

USB-C PD is the power delivery protocol and at max can handle 100 watts at a time (this may change in a future revision see http://web.archive.org/web/20170424150037/http://www.usb.org/developers/powerdelivery/PD_1.0_Introduction.pdf ). As more power hungry smartphones and even laptops adopt USB-C they will be hit with protocol limitations. Eventually this means we will create cables that look like USB-C but ignore parts of the specification to support the more demanding devices. This could lead to bad cables on the market which fry the unfortunate soul who plugs it into their smartphone. This will harm consumers and put additional burden on the court systems in the form of class action lawsuits.

I imagine that Europe will pass a similar law requiring laptop chargers to be USB-C and then more problems start popping up. What about laptops which try to include a full desktop GPU which demands 300 watts? It simply won’t be possible to sell them in Europe. All over some law about chargers. Is this the future we want for technology in Europe?

Certain faster cables exist today. Imagine an iPad with one terabyte of on device storage for a massive amount of music and movies synced from the iTunes Store. A thunderbolt cable would be much more efficient at data transfer for it. Thunderbolt 3 can transfer at 40Gbps (see: https://thunderbolttechnology.net/blog/thunderbolt-3-usb-c-does-it-all) while USB C 3.1 is limited to 10-20Gbps (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USB-C). You can already see how regulation begins to slow down important things like file transfer.

For better or for worse Apple will now (at least in Europe models) be forced to adopt a standard which can’t outperform its American competition (Lightning and Thunderbolt). What happens next?

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