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Picture: 123RF/prima91
Picture: 123RF/prima91

Maybe I’m a klutz, but it usually takes me at least three tries to plug a thumb drive, mouse or some other USB gizmo into my laptop.

First attempt: nope, wrong way up. Second try: bloody hell, still wrong way up. Third go: squint at connector — usually in suboptimal lighting — to confirm orientation and get it right.

This is compounded with the micro USB scale, where things are even fiddlier and dinkier.

So I’m a big fan of the trend to the relatively new USB-C standard where up or down is irrelevant.

It seems the good burghers of the European Commission also like the standard. Last week the commission – the executive arm of the EU – announced it would make it compulsory for all smartphones and tablets as well as electronic kit like cameras, portable speakers and certain headphones sold in the EU to use a USB-C port for charging.

It has loftier ambitions than alleviating my plug plight.

"More and more chargers are sold that are not interchangeable or not necessary," said the commission’s Thierry Breton. "We are putting an end to that. European consumers will be able to use a single charger for all their portable electronics — an important step to increase convenience and reduce waste."

Apple has opposed the plan, hardly surprising given that it would sound the death knell for the proprietary Lightning cable used on iPhones – ironically an innovation that brought any-way-up plug-in capability to mobile phones two years before USB-C was launched.

Being forced to move to USB-C charging would, it complained, hurt innovation to bring more energy-efficient products to the market. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the tech giant isn’t secretly thrilled at the news.

While Apple stuck with the Lightning port for its recently released iPhone 13, rumours abound of its plans to switch to USB-C.

It has already added support for faster USB-C charging in its latest iPad Mini but may have been hesitant to make the switch with the iPhone for fear of igniting the kind of furore that accompanied its initial switch to Lightning from the venerable 30-pin connector.

The EU plan, which will likely take at least two years to become law anyway, could provide just the excuse Apple needs to make the transition — or even do away with a charging cable in favour of a wireless-charging-only iPhone.


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