Apple and the European Union have been locked in a constant quarrel of late as the bigwigs of Brussels have begun throwing their weight around in the tech world. From their Digital Markets Act shattering app neutrality and obliterating any form of quality control for future platforms to wider demands on how electronic devices function and perform in order to reduce e-waste, at this point, the European Union might as well be Apple’s design team.
The EU started all this by establishing a law to see all new devices adopt a “single charging solution.” In this instance, that solution is USB-C meaning Apple would have to begin phasing out Lightning Charger ports on iPhone models in order to adopt USB-C by 2024. Apple may have initially kicked up a fuss, but they now seem all on board with the idea with leaks and rumors pointing to the iPhone 15 being outfitted with a USB-C port in order to comply with EU regulations.
Then, after having already conceded ground to the Eurozone, the continent took a second swipe. As per new EU regulations, smartphone batteries from 2027 onward will need to be user replaceable. This is a staggering blow for many manufacturers as batteries are typically non-replaceable to allow for better optimization of space inside the device or higher, more protective IP ratings against dust, particulates, and water.
It seems with every placation from Apple, the EU pushes harder in its attempts to influence the design direction of Apple’s devices. Through laws and regulations. So, what has Apple done to fight back? Well… Nothing.
C’mon… Do something…
Apple has already proven they’re willing to stand their ground when it comes to opposing governmental acts. Earlier this week Apple drew a line in the sand over the U.K.’s potential Investigatory Powers Act update, stating that it was more than prepared to completely disable FaceTime and iMessage access in the U.K. out of protest. And they’re not alone either, with both WhatsApp and Signal threatening to “walk” from the U.K. market.
The Investigatory Powers Act is a framework to determine the legal processes by which intelligence agencies and law enforcement within the U.K. are allowed to gather, intercept, and retain pertinent communications data during investigations. The proposed revisions to that act would see investigators gain wider access to secure services under the proviso of protecting the public from criminal activity.
However, that also means that companies have to supply the U.K. Home Office with backdoors into end-to-end encrypted communications and check in with the governmental branch before releasing any product security features. This is something Apple seems completely unwilling to do, arguing that it weakens the security of the services they provide and poses a “serious and direct threat to data security and information privacy.”
So, if Apple is willing to take a stand over something like this, why won’t they tell the EU to mind its own when it comes to design? Well, probably…
The root of all evil
Money. Do you remember money? I remember money, it used to be a thing made out of paper what you could hold in your hands and trade for goods and services or throw in encouragement towards people who’ve not quite figured out the correct usage of the fire pole in seedy, dimly lit clubs. That probably still happens, except establishments like that don’t allow me entry anymore on account of me not having any of that sweet legal tender in my possession.
But you know who does have money? Apple has money. Lots of it. So much so that records were smashed recently when Apple’s market value exceeded $3 trillion. A fair chunk of that comes from Apple’s European market, which, according to Statista, saw the Cupertino brand net $35.2 billion of operating income in 2022 alone.
That’s such a mind-boggling amount of money that it becomes easy to understand why Apple might not want to butt heads with the bullies of Brussels over cables and batteries. After all, it’s easy to disable a handful of apps when you gain nothing from them, it’s not so easy to pull your products out of a giant supranational economic market and pass up on… Hold on, let me do math…
Wait… 1.17% of your total market value? Is that right? Am I mathing wrong, is Apple really willing to bow its head and kowtow to the European Union's demands over one whole percent of its market value? To forego years of research and development, take ten paces back in terms of design, and squander billions of dollars more in R&D to adapt to archaic design decisions made by unelected, woolen-suited, European lizard people? No, no Apple… What are you doing? Push back, call their bluff, protest!
The Boston USB-C Party
I’m not going to be so presumptuous to believe I could tell a brand as big as Apple what they should do. But I can pose a thought. I can make a suggestion. Beyond that? Let every man do what is right in his own eyes.
It’s time for a Boston USB-C Party. Dump them, drop them, and submerge them in the dusty earth of the New Mexico Atari burial mounds. Hold fast to your Lightning cable and MagSafe Chargers and proudly say “No.”
Say, “We at Apple, Think Different.” and refuse to be shepherded into the flock with the likes of the dirty android heathens. You can’t give in so easily. First, they’ll take your Lightning ports, then they’ll take your internal battery and IP68 rating, and before you know it, they’ll take your blue iMessage bubble too.
At that point, why even bother? You might as well throw a Qualcomm Snapdragon in the next iPhone and call it a day. Congratulations Apple, you have the best UI of any Android phone on the market.
What’s the worst the EU can truly do? Cry while the rest of the world enjoys the iPhone 16 with its proprietary Lightning Charger 2 technology? Sift through newly formed mountainous regions of complaint letters adorning the halls of the European Council? Pah! I say you place Apple Studio Displays in the windows of every Apple store from Lisbon to Helsinki showing looped videos of happy Americans touting the MagSafe-only iFold or scaring children while wearing the still hideous Apple Vision Pro 2.
I give it four months — tops. At which stage the EU will come crawling back to you, desperate to make amends. Their Huawei and Xiaomi smartphones now riddled with Chinese spyware, groveling on hand and knee for you to make your triumphant return. Rekindling your independence as free thinkers who dare to venture off the beaten path.
This Destruction of the USB-C is so bold, so daring, so firm, intrepid and inflexible, and it must have so important Consequences, and so lasting that I can’t but consider it as an Epocha in History.
Rise up, Apple. And tell the EU where it can stick its USB-C cables. (And its replaceable batteries too!)
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Rael Hornby, potentially influenced by far too many LucasArts titles at an early age, once thought he’d grow up to be a mighty pirate. However, after several interventions with close friends and family members, you’re now much more likely to see his name attached to the bylines of tech articles. While not maintaining a double life as an aspiring writer by day and indie game dev by night, you’ll find him sat in a corner somewhere muttering to himself about microtransactions or hunting down promising indie games on Twitter.