Don’t forget to pack your power cables

Apple’s  new iPhone 6S won’t be available to UK consumers until later this month. But the world’s most valuable company is clearly backing itself. Its preparing to ship 85-90 million phones; its largest ever production run and about 15 million more than it ordered for the iPhone 6. As we haven’t seen the phone yet, we can’t confirm what power cord will be used but we’re betting that Apple will change it. Again. And so continue to keep us all hostage to the most maddening aspect of modern consumer technology; incompatible power leads.

A typical family holiday now involves carrying a lot of them. Not just to cope with the different leads needed for different generations of Apple products  but for all the other devices too. Likely as not, families these days will take with them on holiday a complete selection of devices including laptops, tablets, mobile phones, portable speakers, gaming devices and all sorts of other assorted electrical equipment.

Maddeningly, all of these devices need their own power cords. (As well adapters). The combined weight of all this electrical apparatus is not insignificant and probably forms an equally not insignificant percentage of the family’s baggage allowance.

Irritatingly, this situation is not about to change any day soon. Many of the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturers have signed an EC-sponsored memorandum of understanding (MoU), agreeing to make their mobile phones compatible with a to-be-specified common external power supply (EPS). But that was in 2009 and since then, very little progress has been made.

(The good news is that Apple was one of those signatories,  along with all the other major mobile  phone manufacturers including LG, Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Qualcomm, RIM, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, and Texas Instruments).

More recently, in 2013, the European Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection made a recommendation for “… A renewed effort to develop a common charger … [being] highly desirable and consequently … beneficial in particular for consumers and other end-users.”

So the regulatory wheels are turning in favour of overburdened consumer. But don’t hold your breath just yet. The draft law, approved overwhelmingly by the European Parliament in March 2014 (ie, a year ago!), stipulates that it will then be up to the European Commission to decide which types of radio equipment will have to be compatible with common chargers. And once formally approved by the Council of Ministers, member states will then have two years to turn the new regulations into national laws. Manufacturers will be given an additional year after that to then ensure that their products comply.

Three years represent a lifetime in consumer electronics and no doubt,  by then Apple will have launched iPhone 9. Wouldn’t it be great if its power lead was the same as this year’s?


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