'Made for iPhone' aims to avoid EU rules, might not be legal anyway
posted Saturday Mar 11, 2023 by Scott Ertz
In recent months, the likelihood of Apple being required to switch from Lightning to USB-C was high. The EU was implementing an update to the charging requirements, which had long stated that companies must charge devices on micro-USB or provide a reasonable solution to allow for it. The update would move the requirement from the outdated port to USB-C, but also add new restrictions to thwart Apple. The company thought they had a workaround again, but it appears like it won't work.
In the early days of cellular phones and digital cameras, every manufacturer had a different charger. If you wanted to change from a Samsung to a Nokia, you were going to have to replace all of your chargers. This, of course, meant a lot of waste. Sometimes staying with the same brand wouldn't prevent the issue (Nokia changing from the thick to the thin barrel, anyone?)
With the mini-USB port, many companies began to align on a single charger on their own. Then came micro-USB to replace it, and almost all companies got onboard. This is, except Apple. In fact, in this tie period, Apple changed from the older 192-pin proprietary connector to the newer Lightning proprietary connector. Apple's defiance from the industry caused the European Union to create a general requirement for device charging to happen on an industry standard - in this case micro-USB (with the ability to stay current with new standards).
Recently, the EU began the process of updating the requirement to retire micro-USB and replace it with USB-C, which almost all manufacturers have already switched to voluntarily. With the update came the opportunity to update restrictions. This new set of rules removed the option of reasonable accommodation, requiring the devices to switch to USB-C natively, seemingly targeting Apple directly with this change.
Apple's New Challenge
With the new rules, it appeared that Apple might have a plan. Rumors suggested that the company was working on a new certification process called "Made for iPhone" that would restrict accessories that hadn't been through Apple's process. So, your existing j5Create USB-C cable with your new iPhone, but it wouldn't work quite right. Using an Apple USB cable would allow you to charge your iPhone at the full 27 watts, but your existing cable would be limited below that, possibly below 15 watts. The same thing would apply to
Clearly, this move would be intended to circumvent the EU's rules and maintain the company's unacceptable pricing models for accessories. But, as it turns out, the whole concept might not be legal in the EU anyway. Jason England at Laptop Mag read through the details of the restrictions and concluded that almost all of this would be easily covered under the existing rules. For example, charging is not allowed to be degraded for any reason on a compatible charger.
Unfortunately, the wording might create an issue. The company might claim that compatible chargers are only those which have been through the certification process. The other possibility is that they could reduce the charging capacity on all chargers below 15 watts (14.99 watts would likely do it), just to fall outside of the restrictions, even though the current devices charge at 27 watts. Clearly, another example of a violation of the purpose of the rule set, but under those conditions, not a violation of the law as written.
Another annoying problem is that data speeds are not called out specifically in the rules. Not exactly a surprise, as data was not the point of the law. However, since it's all about USB on devices, data transfer is going to be a big part of the interaction. Because of this oversight, Apple could also potentially leave charging alone and, instead, restrict the data transfer speeds on cables that don't go through the process.
Then, there's the possibility that the restrictions could be turned on outside of the EU and not within it. This would leave the devices with variants for different parts of the world, but Apple already does this. iOS in China, for example, works differently than it does in the US, for example. We also know they can turn on and off features by region, so they might try to implement their "Made for iPhone" program in most of the world and ignore it in Europe.