October 1, 2023

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Europe and iPhone

Europe and iPhone

Last Tuesday, Apple introduced the new iPhone 15. As is the case every year, the company’s executives proudly presented the possibilities of models that, of course, do not deceive us, they are more or less similar to each other, but also to last year and to last year. For several years, smartphones have reached a state of saturation and stagnation, where cramming more capabilities and features into a pocketable plastic, glass or metal box defies the laws of physics. New models are introduced every year, but with small, almost imperceptible upgrades. But this time the new iPhone had a completely new, never-before-seen feature: a new port for charging and data transfer. The old, familiar cable that all users use to charge iPhone or connect to computers is replaced with a new cable with a different USB-C plug. It’s a big change, because USB-C is the standard that almost all of the world’s new electronic devices use to connect, charge, and transfer data. The remote for the monitor I’m writing this article on, the wireless headphones I’m wearing, and the laptop I’m using now all use USB-C cables to charge or connect to each other. However, the old iPhone sitting here ringing needs another cable, a different cable of its own. It is quite natural that Apple employees present the adoption of USB-C in their new mobile phones as an important innovation, an upgrade that will make users’ lives easier. But what they didn’t mention is that they didn’t choose it themselves. So it was imposed on them. The party that imposed it on them is the European Union.

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The European Union does something like this. He goes on to say: Mobile phone companies cannot charge exorbitant fees because the citizen traveled to another country in the European Union. – Then imposed free roaming, which mobile phone companies then declared as their own An amazing offer for consumers. Or he goes and says: Online services can’t collect as much personal information as they want without explaining transparently and clearly what they are going to do with it and in what volume – hence the imposition of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that almost all online services in the world now follow. Or he goes on to say: There can’t be so much waste of electronic equipment in Europe – let’s reduce the useless cables that European citizens are accumulating (and throw away). Then the European Commission presents and the European Parliament votes in favor of the regulation, which applies automatically to all member states, and says that from the end of 2024 onwards the sale of new electrical and electronic devices that do not operate with chargers of this type is prohibited. Whatever company makes it, and whatever additional features it has, it is essential that they are compatible with each other so that we do not have to collect a lot of different cables.

Of course, one could say that this regulation only applies in the European Union. But here is the interesting and important thing, and it is the topic that I want to emphasize to you today. Apple did not announce last Tuesday that the iPhone 15 would have a USB-C port in the European Union, where it will now be mandatory. It was announced that the iPhone 15 will have a USB-C port everywhere in the world. Although the legal framework in China does not require standardized chargers for all electronic devices. Although in the US any manufacturer can put any charger they want. From this year, they will also have iPhones with USB-C, like the Europeans, because of course it makes no sense to make iPhones with different chargers, and because, above all, Apple, like all multinational companies in the world, cannot ignore The European Union market, which is the largest in the world.

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Because this is the greatest power in Europe – and perhaps the only power left. We live in an aging and shrinking continent. It produces less wealth, less innovation, fewer patents, fewer ideas, and fewer young people than other parts of the planet. But at least she bears it. The European Union sets the most stringent environmental rules and the most stringent product and service safety standards in the world. Because European consumers are still numerous and at the same time relatively very wealthy (compared to the global average), the rules set by the European Union remain in place. They automatically become the rules that all the major companies in the world follow faithfully. For the benefit of those living outside Europe. Even today, in 2023, when most of the money goes elsewhere and most of the products are produced elsewhere, it is Europe that sets the rules of the game in the global market. What does this do to us? Obviously we have free roaming, safe games for kids and high quality food. But, as an EU member state, we have something else: the possibility to participate in drafting all these rules. Greek opinion also matters as to whether Netflix, for example, will have 20% or 40% European content (in the end, all streaming services operating in the EU were forced to offer 30% European content). It is our delegates in the European Parliament (whom we choose with great wisdom and consideration), our competent ministers in the Council and our prime ministers who decided with the other 26 that, look, things can’t go any further with the cables. And there in Cupertino, California, inside the gleaming, rotund building where they designed the expensive and popular cell phones, they obeyed the order.

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