Might Apple be forced to adopt micro-USB?

Might Apple be forced to adopt micro-USB?While many manufacturers have adopted the micro-USB charging standard, one holdout is the typically independent we’ll-just-do-our-own-thing Apple.

The Californians recently made the switch to the Lightning connector, but the European Union would very much like if they’d just bloody well use micro-USB like everyone else.

Apple isn’t specifically named in the move to push through a law making micro-USB the legal standard for phones – and potentially tablets – in Europe, but there’s no question who would be affected most should it come to pass.

The Lightning connector debuted on the iPhone 5 last year, and now makes an appearance on all current iDevices. It offers quick charging, the ability to control accessories, and can be easily inserted; there’s no right way up.

The move to Lightning from the old 30-pin connector was controversial enough, since adapters were required to make the new iDevices compatible with older accessories including docking stations.

That particular headache might return if Apple is forced to adopt micro-USB, though – realistically – it could be years before it comes into play.

The European Union side of the argument is that blanket adoption of micro-USB would cut down on waste from chargers, which contain all sorts of planet-destroying chemicals.

O2 recently piloted a scheme in which it sold the HTC One X+ sans charger, with the price – in theory – coming down accordingly. The network says only 18% of customers needed – or requested – a charger, and that there are an estimated 100 million unused chargers in the UK alone.

Read more about: Apple iPad 4Apple iPhone 5siOSApple iPad miniApple iPhone 5Apple iPhone 5c

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28 comments

JanSt / MOD  Sep. 30, 2013 at 16:28

The EU should make Apple's connector mandatory :p Imagine the fanboy revolt!!!
Nah, Instead of the wallcharger Apple should only ship that tiny micro-usb adapter.

barrybarryk  Sep. 30, 2013 at 16:36

Apple won't do it anyway. They already signed a voluntary agreement committing to using the micro-USB standard and then ignored it.

JanSt / MOD  Sep. 30, 2013 at 16:42

Apple won't do it anyway. They already signed a voluntary agreement committing to using the micro-USB standard and then ignored it.

They haven't ignored it, actually. The EU built in a loophole,
which is why you can buy =>

http://cdn.cultofmac.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Lightning-to-Micro-USB.jpg

It's an 'internet myth' (:p ) that Apple "ignored" the agreement...
The loophole was a compromise to get as many OEMs etc onboard as possible.
In fact: some companies other than Apple were just as sneaky... if not worse - introducing micro-usb cables that weren't quite standard. Thus only fitting THEIR products, and cables from other makers wouldn't fit. Right, HP et al?! ;)
It's only during the next stage that there's some real commitment required.
By which time there will be something better than Micro-USB. Bless the EU.

Seriously, though: I'm all for the fr*ggin' planet, but this agreement is nonsense. It's throwing hurdles in the way of innovation.

barrybarryk  Sep. 30, 2013 at 19:26

It's an 'internet myth' (:p ) that Apple "ignored" the agreement...
It's not a myth, it's a viewpoint, using loopholes to go completely against the spirit of the agreement is ignoring it.

Seriously, though: I'm all for the fr*ggin' planet, but this agreement is nonsense. It's throwing hurdles in the way of innovation.
Hurdles in the way of innovation? Needing a new charger for every device isn't innovative, it's borderline primitive. Micro-USB is a physical connection standard. It doesn't stop people from using USB 3.0 etc

corgi74  Sep. 30, 2013 at 20:01

To be fair at least it's the same cable for iPhone and iPad.
The Tab has a proprietary cable whereas the Galaxy uses micro USB.
Should be the same cable for phone and tablet.

Totally agree about shipping the USB adaptor as standard though. Although they're a nightmare with some bumpers.

JanSt / MOD  Sep. 30, 2013 at 20:31

Barry, I see what you mean, but the fact is, a simple little feature like being able to plug the lightening connector in both ways is actually very handy. Underrated until you get used to it.

You are wrong about the loophole. Making that little adapter costs money. Shipping it etc etc That is not "ignoring it"! Samsung used proprietary connectors after signing the agreement, too.
Others also. At one point Nokia had 4 different connectors in use!
But I too would like to see them all use the same standard.
Apple should rethink it.
Interestingly though to have this debate on a UK site where people insist on driving on the left - with huge costs to manufacturing and the "frigg*ng planet"! ;p

satchef1  Sep. 30, 2013 at 23:16

A third of the world's population drives on the left. It was standard in most of Europe until after the two world wars, and the custom dates all the way back to the Roman Empire. We're being stubborn, not awkward.

TJ Skywasher  Sep. 30, 2013 at 23:49

Not sure Apple could use micro-USB as a standard without dumbing down their devices. The lightning connector carries signals for power, data, video and audio and correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't micro-USB only carry power and data? I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that if Apple did adopt micro-USB it just wouldn't be able to carry enough juice to charge something power hungry with a large battery like the 3rd and 4th gen iPad. Plus don't forget the whole eco-system that's built up around Apple's proprietary connector such as audio docks, etc. that benefit from having the lightning connector to carry the signals that they need. I just don't think the products and the eco-system could be supported by micro-USB.

barrybarryk  Oct. 1, 2013 at 00:32

Not sure Apple could use micro-USB as a standard without dumbing down their devices. The lightning connector carries signals for power, data, video and audio and correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't micro-USB only carry power and data?The Lightning connector only carries digital signals, so all are data (except the power and ground lines obviously). All the conversions to things like video and audio are carried out by logic (an IC or SoC) in each adapter.

The only thing it does that micro-USB isn't capable of is accepting the jack in both orientations

JanSt / MOD  Oct. 1, 2013 at 10:00

satchef,
I wasn't criticising the choice. But fact is: it is awkward in the larger scheme of things. It was just another example of no-standard.

JanSt / MOD  Oct. 1, 2013 at 10:35

Another example: The HTC One I had wouldn't charge using the original USB cable with an old HTC HD2 wallplug - or a Samsung or or or... Because of voltage (I'm no electrician) I assume... So, had someone bought the One with a "no charger" option because, hey, I have my old HD2's charger, s/he would've been in trouble.

The EU will have to consider all these issues to really solve the problem.
Remember: it's about the environment. Choosing no-charger, to then rush out to buy a plastic wrapped charger after all is not a solution. It potentially adds more rubbish. Look at the sh*t you can buy on ebay and Amazon - all purpose chargers with 15 different connectors of which you maybe need 2. All nicely packed it plastic, shipped by diesel... for £1!!!


Anyhoo, if the EU cared about the environment they'd ban Monsanto and fracking... :p

And here's an opinion from a guy who knows micro-USB cables... and why the lightening
adapter is about more than greed. Maybe he's wrong (I'm no electrician)?
http://www.pocketables.com/2012/12/hardware-comparison-lightning-connector-vs-microusb-connector.html

barrybarryk  Oct. 1, 2013 at 11:20

And here's an opinion from a guy who knows micro-USB cables... and why the lightening
adapter is about more than greed. Maybe he's wrong (I'm no electrician)?

Um yeah, he is wrong. About the current he even admits he has actually seen 2A versions (Not that it's in anyway relevant, the max current is to do with the USB 2.0, 3.0 or other spec of the device it's plugged into, the Micro USB connector itself doesn't have any such spec limitation). I've a 2A one for powering my Raspberry Pi and a USB hub.

As for the durability of them, I can happily say in the years Micro (and even Mini) USB cables have been around I've never seen a broken one.

Sure, the lighting cable is about more than just greed. It's Apple right down to a tee, fashion over function and to hell with the cost.

JanSt / MOD  Oct. 1, 2013 at 12:33

"Sure, the lighting cable is about more than just greed. It's Apple right down to a tee, fashion over function and to hell with the cost."

You are probably right.
I'm just glad Samsung released 60 Galaxies for purely altruistic reasons. :p

Of course it IS about money.
Why does Samsung's "smart" watch only work with 2 Samsung devices?
Why did WP, initially, only play ball with Windows PCs? Why does Google bundle Gmail and maps and Chrome in Android?
They are all little mafia thugs.

Gridl0k  Oct. 1, 2013 at 13:14

Fashion over function?

Do you know what the max amperage of MicroUSB is? Hint: Not enough. Have a look at the new plug to see why Apple ran a mile.

Also, if you are criticising the function of Lightning then you haven't taken the time to understand that either. It's pretty goddamn far from a dumb plug.

corgi74  Oct. 1, 2013 at 14:34

Looks like some new phones will have to use a different USB anyway as the standard micro USB doesn't appear to be man enough for big screen and big battery devices

http://www.androidbeat.com/2013/09/say-hello-hideous-new-usb-3-0-cable-new-smartphone-tablet-will-come/
http://www.theverge.com/2013/9/5/4696874/galaxy-note-3-usb-3-0-power-connector-explained

Damn it's ugly!!

CTPAHHIK  Oct. 1, 2013 at 17:20

Google doesn't bundle any Google Apps with Android. Android is open source and Google apps are commercial products. Nobody is allowed to use Maps, Gmail, etc. without explicit agreement with Google. Android on the other hand requires no licensing.

JanSt / MOD  Oct. 1, 2013 at 17:29

CTPAHHIK,
I get what you're saying, but: potato po taaa to :p

barrybarryk  Oct. 1, 2013 at 18:18

Looks like some new phones will have to use a different USB anyway as the standard micro USB doesn't appear to be man enough for big screen and big battery devices

There's a reason it's still backwards compatible. The 0.5A USB 2.0 limit has absolutely nothing to do with how a wall charger charges a device or how much amperage it's capable of. It's just the expected load a USB port on a Hub controller should be able to support (As in PCs and Hubs). A nonissue for wall warts etc because they have their own power supplies or haven't you noticed that 1A+ micro USB chargers have been around for years.

corgi74  Oct. 1, 2013 at 19:01

Looks like some new phones will have to use a different USB anyway as the standard micro USB doesn't appear to be man enough for big screen and big battery devices

There's a reason it's still backwards compatible. The 0.5A USB 2.0 limit has absolutely nothing to do with how a wall charger charges a device or how much amperage it's capable of. It's just the expected load a USB port on a Hub controller should be able to support (As in PCs and Hubs). A nonissue for wall warts etc because they have their own power supplies or haven't you noticed that 1A+ micro USB chargers have been around for years.


Must have been enough of an issue somewhere for them to have to create it though.
A lot of people now charge their devices plugged in to their work computer's USB.
Where I work changed their IT policy to allow it as we weren't allowed to connect our own devices to company property. So many people complained they had to allow it.
Not everyone uses a wall charger. Some devices don't even come with a wall plug anymore.
Just a very ugly solution to the problem.

barrybarryk  Oct. 1, 2013 at 19:05

And again no matter what connector the phone uses if it's plugged into a computers USB 2.0 compliant port the max draw you'll get is 0.5A or 0.9A for a USB 3.0 port. The specific connector is irrelevant in that situation!

corgi74  Oct. 1, 2013 at 19:29

And again no matter what connector the phone uses if it's plugged into a computers USB 2.0 compliant port the max draw you'll get is 0.5A or 0.9A for a USB 3.0 port. The specific connector is irrelevant in that situation!

But to get the 0.9A for a USB 3.0 compatible device from a USB3.0 port you need a USB 3.0 compatible cable. A device connected to a PC with a USB 2.0 cable will trickle charge even when plugged in to a USB 3.0 port.
Not much fun with a Note 3's 3200 mAh battery. Over 7.5 hours to charge with a USB 2.0 cable or just over 4 hours on the new USB 3.0 cable plugged in to a PC's USB 3.0 port.
USB 3.0 also has a battery charging spec that allows up to 1.5A but with no data.
Hence the new cable.

corgi74  Oct. 1, 2013 at 20:18

Although to be fair the current lightning cable only charges at 500ma regardless of whether it's connected to a USB 2.0 or 3.0 which is a bit poo. Although technically it could handle 900mA
Probably because Apple only put them on Macs last year but not too big an issue with an iPhone battery about 1500mAh and most iPads would be wall charged.

barrybarryk  Oct. 1, 2013 at 20:48

Although to be fair the current lightning cable only charges at 500ma regardless of whether it's connected to a USB 2.0 or 3.0 which is a bit poo. Although technically it could handle 900mA
Probably because Apple only put them on Macs last year but not too big an issue with an iPhone battery about 1500mAh and most iPads would be wall charged.
You seem to be confusing the transfer spec with the connector. The two aren't intrinsically linked, that's why a wall charger can deliver 2A over a micro USB connector with a bog standard USB 2.0 cable. Current cables with Lightning connectors have the same power limit as USB 2.0 because they are USB 2.0 cables right down to the data transfer rate.

corgi74  Oct. 1, 2013 at 21:12

The Lightning has 2 extra pins which could potentially allow 3.0 compatibility. Not on the cables supplied with current iOS devices but it could be added to the cables for any future USB 3.0 compatible iOS devices without changing the form factor of the lightning connector.
I wouldn't be surprised if it's turned on for the next iPads as Apple advertised for engineers with USB 3.0 experience in February this year.
http://arstechnica.com/apple/2012/09/teardown-revives-hopes-that-lightning-might-be-usb-3-0-compatible/

barrybarryk  Oct. 1, 2013 at 21:42

I'm surprised they haven't already. If it's just faster charging they're after they don't need extra pins, just to stray a little from the USB 2.0 spec like most already do. The USB cables that charge a phone (or other device) the fastest so far that I've seen are USB 2.0 cables with the data pins shorted. These are the ones that allow charging a phone but they don't carry a data connection, they used to call it 'dumb USB' but I'm not sure if there's a proper name for it now. Lots of PC motherboads now fully support this type of connection so when a device like that is connected they'll allow the current above both USB 2.0 and 3.0, you see the ports that support it labelled as fast charging ports every now and again.
http://event.asus.com/mb/2010/ai_charger/

I know a Nexus 4 will charge at 1.2A with a cable and fast charge USB socket like that as opposed to just 270mA before the pins were shorted (An engineer friend made one this week from a standard micro USB to USB 2.0 cable and measured it)

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