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Lightning Strike

Brown’s Bytes – Lightning Strike?

Welcome to Brown’s Bytes! Your weekly insight from Mobliciti’s CTO Andy Brown. Follow #brownsbytes

7th February 2020

An area that is increasingly being looked at by all companies is that of electronic waste.

In the smartphone space, a lot of the focus in this e-waste area tends to focus on the device itself.

However, recent EU news highlights another area that often gets overlooked – that of the charger and the cable. The first mobile phones shipped with a dizzying array of different chargers, cables and connectors, but over time, this has slowly standardised down. Generally speaking, there has been:

  • Mini-USB
  • Micro-USB
  • USB-C

Unless of course, you live in the iPhone ecosystem – in which case there has been:

  • The Apple 30 pin dock connector
  • Apple Lightning connector

In the Apple world, Lightning has been the connector of choice now since the iPhone 5 came out – in fairness to Apple that’s over 7 years of the same connector being used.

Just to confuse things even further there is also the question of how much current the charger provides as well. Usually, this will come in anything from 1W (old chargers usually now) all the way up to 29W when we overlap with the world of laptops and Macbooks that also use some of the same connectors now.

Ahh yes – Macbooks… interestingly these now use USB-C, but the iPhone is still faithful to the Lightning charger.

Confused yet?

All this means that even though standards have been around for years now, that each time you buy a phone or tablet it will still ship with a charger and cable. That is despite the fact that (usually) there was nothing wrong with the old charger and cable you had before…

Last week the European Parliament voted for tougher action to reduce e-waste with new rules to be in place by July this year. They are particularly interested in chargers… simply put they want a Universal standard. Perhaps not surprisingly Apple hasn’t reacted well to this threat to its Lightning cable.

Ironic Timing?

Of course, there could be a real twist to all of this. In the background, wireless charging has been gaining traction and rather neatly there is some considerable standardisation already in that space.

Add to that the latest rumour about the new iPhone 12… that it will only support wireless charging and have no ports whatsoever on it (Apple already dropped the headphone jack years ago) and now you potentially have a rather fascinating sidestep to the whole thing!!

Wireless charging? Personally, I miss the headphone jack-less and less these days, to be honest… maybe it really is time to ditch the power cord as well!

One to watch, but either way (and this is maybe the final irony) it’s looking like that nice stock of Lightning cables I’ve built up over the years may be redundant soon…