Apple has claimed that “unprecedented” levels of electronic waste would be created if it were forced into adopting a universal port on its devices.
The company has drawn no small amount of flak for its use of the proprietary Lightning Port on iPhone devices – at a time when rival manufacturers have taken a more collaborative approach in using USB-C. Now, the Californian company is facing its sternest test yet, with the European Parliament calling for all manufacturers to adopt a single, universal port to cut down on waste and make it cheaper and easier for consumers to replace old cables.
The decision to use universal ports has its origins in 2009, when there were around 30 totally incompatible variants being used across mainstream mobile devices. Manufacturers – including Apple – signed an agreement to voluntarily unify their ports in a bid to put an end to the issue. However, since then the iPhone has taken a different route to almost all other smartphones.
In its defence, Apple claims that ditching the Lightning Port now would create vast swathes of electronic waste, thus causing the exact thing the European Parliament is looking to prevent. In response, the parliament claimed that obsolete cables generate 51,000 tonnes of waste every year – a figure that could rise further still, all the while there are different options on the market.
Apple also claimed that forcing companies to use a certain piece of technology restricts the opportunity for growth, suggesting that we may not have some features or technologies we now enjoy if such rules were enforced years ago.
Despite Apple’s protestations, some analysts have said the company’s reluctance to drop the Lightning Port could actually be more about keeping its point of difference. Among them was Ben Wood of the CCS Insight consultancy. He called the Lightning Port a “significant area of differentiation” for Apple – and one that it could exclusively control. He added that, whatever the future has in store, Apple’s very public defence of the Lightning Port suggests the company plans to use the technology on its upcoming devices for some time yet.