USB-C charging has become the de-facto charging standard for all premium smartphones, but not so much on more budget-friendly models. A drafted law awaiting an EU Council vote could disrupt the affordable handset space by making USB Type-C charging mandatory for all smartphones sold in the European Union.
The current state of charging standards
The drive to make USB Type-C charging the EU standard stems from its 2014 Radio Equipment Directive that encouraged USB Type-C as the standard but didn't mandate it. The EU's hopes at the time were to see USB-C take its rightful place as the universal charging standard in its borders. Manufacturers continued to provide mixed results, some adopting USB-C on high-end models but maintaining micro-USB charging on lower-end models.
To ensure that USB-C becomes the standard and doesn't remain merely a manufacturer option, the EU has drafted legislation to that end. The result will be that every phone, whether premium or ultra-cheap, must adopt USB-C technology.
Why have manufacturers not adopted USB-C charging across the board?
The reason why the EU must draft a law to this end is because OEMs refuse to adopt USB-C charging on their own. Why is this the case? A large part pertains to the financial aspect. Manufacturers spend less on micro-USB charging as opposed to USB-C, where the higher and newer charging standard mandates more money per phone versus the older micro-USB standard. The same is true for water and dust resistance. OnePlus still hasn't given IP ratings to its OnePlus lineup because "waterproof ratings cost money," the company said in an advertisement last year.
And that, in and of itself, is why some companies have been holding out on USB-C adoption: they don't want to fork out extra money for charging certification.
Benefits of USB-C charging
Added cost is a headache for OEMs, but a universal USB-C adoption would ease problems for consumers. For one, phone buyers would be able to use any friend's, relatives, or associates' charging cable, as there'd be one charging standard for all phones. Next, phones would have faster charging by OEMs adopting USB-C. It's no secret that USB-C charges faster than micro-USB, giving phone users more battery charge in a smaller time frame.
Last but not least, more phones would have access to battery packs. Larger Android OEMs like Samsung are making battery pack accessories for their smartphones, but their battery packs work for any USB-C-enabled smartphone. More budget-friendly models would allow buyers to use battery packs on the go, keeping their phones in buyers' hands longer.
And smaller OEMs without the financial resources to build accessories for their phones wouldn't have to; they could rely on larger OEMs to build accessories but make their phones accessible. For a slightly higher cost, smaller Android players could do themselves a favor.
These benefits are all good reasons for OEMs to adopt USB-C and lay micro-USB to rest.
The cost of USB-C, for both OEM and buyer
The new USB-C standard in the EU will require all global OEMs to adopt USB-C whether they want to or not, and there is a financial cost associated with its adoption for both OEM and buyer. OEMs may not want to assume the cost alone, and the added cost is likely to trickle down to smartphone buyers.
What this means is that smartphone buyers can expect to pay a little more for their handsets in the near future than they have in the past. There's reason to believe that larger Android OEMs are already packing added cost into their smartphone prices because of USB-C, but leaving USB-C behind in entry-level handsets has been a key to selling them: the lower the price, the easier the sale. With the EU soon to mandate USB-C adoption, OEMs will have to foot the cost somewhere, and they're not going to take it out of their profit when they can charge so much extra per handset. No OEM is that generous.
The EU's drafted law will be voted on next Monday, and there's a large consensus that the drafted law will become approved legislation by the EU Council. It's a good move in the right direction for the progress of technology and consumer convenience, but OEMs likely won't be too happy about it. Consumers will pay the price, but at least they won't have to put up with two competing charging standards anymore. In that regard, the price (both figuratively and literally speaking) is worth it.