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EU power sustainability drive with uniformity on USB-C charger

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Have you ever borrowed a friend’s charger only to find it is not compatible with your phone? Or wondered what to do with the pile of cables you’ve accumulated from every device you’ve ever bought?

Such inconveniences will soon be history after the EU mandated on June 7 2022 that all small and medium-sized portable devices must be equipped with a USB-C charging port by the autumn of 2024. Laptops are due to come under the new rule roughly in autumn 2027.

Unbundling will also be mandatory: chargers will no longer come with new phones, but will be purchased separately, if needed, when you buy a new phone. According to the EU’s announcement: “This law is a part of a broader EU effort to make products in the EU more sustainable, to reduce electronic waste, and make consumers’ lives easier.”

The European Commission first announced it was discussing the need for a common charger with the industry in 2009, so many manufacturers have already aligned their production with the new rule. As a result, more than 30 different models of a charger have now been reduced to only three: the new standard USB-C, the mini-USB, and Apple’s Lightning charger.

A common charger should be less wasteful and cheaper, as well as making consumers’ lives easier – what could possibly be wrong with that? According to Apple, a lot. The tech company has criticised the plan to standardise, arguing the regulation may hinder future innovation. But the new rules mean it has been forced to add USB-C charging capabilities to its next generation of phones anyway. This shows the power of the EU to affect the development of markets and industries beyond its borders.

Consumers have benefited from improvements to charging technology over the years, but the concern is that a common charger requirement could stifle innovation by making it impossible to develop and roll out even better versions. Imagine if regulators had forced the installation of a CD player on laptops or even a headphone jack on mobile phones, for example. A study commissioned by Apple estimates the potential loss of value to consumers from blocking innovation in this area to be in the billions.

The Commission argues that the legislation is flexible enough to allow for innovation. It even explicitly seeks a common standard for wireless charging as soon as the technology is mature enough. This standard could be adopted by 2026, with the only constraint being that the future wireless standard is the same for all companies.

 

Pesky little brothers

Finding a common standard is often in the interest of manufacturers. Along with helping to reduce costs, it offers the ability to compete on a level playing field. The prospect of a future common standard also encourages competition to provide the resulting product. This often results in manufacturers cooperating without government interventions, both at the national and international levels.

Indeed, USB is already a collaborative venture founded by major tech players such as Microsoft, HP and even Apple. The difference with Apple’s Lightning chargers, however, is precisely that the technology is not collaborative and it’s proprietary. Anyone can add a USB port to an electronic device, but only Apple products can use its lightning ports.

Economists call this a “pesky little brother” situation. Apple is by far the largest technology company in the world. While everyone would like their product to be compatible with Apple, it wants exclusivity. Thus, the main risk of the new regulation may not be to hinder innovation in general, but to block new exclusive Apple designs.

As such, the EU has chosen the collective gain of a common standard versus the benefit some consumers may derive from the exclusivity of Apple products. Other regulators might care more about not hurting Apple’s profits, but the EU seems to believe that this point is irrelevant to the welfare of European citizens.

EU-chargerThe Brussels effect

On the other hand, the EU’s decision to standardise chargers is likely to have global implications. Once tech manufacturers switch to offer the common charger for European customers, it could be costly to produce a different technology for other parts of the world.

Once a product is compliant with EU regulation, firms often choose not to make a different version for the rest of the world. EU rules on health and safety, recycling, or chemical products often force global manufacturers to change their practices everywhere, for example. And when a smaller player such as the UK insists on having its own certification, it merely becomes a costly bureaucratic exercise of replication.

Take GDPR as an example. Since 2016, global websites have modified user experience to abide by the European data protection law. Companies such as Facebook and Google have adapted their business models to suit the new standards stemming from the EU Digital Market Act, drastically reducing the ways they can make money from consumer data. Companies are not obliged to apply EU law globally, they often simply find it easier to do so.

Known as the “Brussels effect”, this means lawmakers representing Europe’s 400 million people often end up deciding the standards for the rest of the world. Standardisation and regulation decisions are typically taken after an analysis of the cost and benefits of different options. In the case of GDPR, some studies estimate [the innovation cost of privacy](https://www.nber.org/papers/w30028) to be significant.

While US lawmakers think this cost is higher than the benefits, their preference has become largely irrelevant. The biggest technological companies are based in the US but their regulation has been delegated to the EU in practice, simply because its regulators acted first.

In the case of the common charger, the direct risk to innovation is probably minimal and consumers should be fairly happy with the new rules. The underlying issue is actually democratic: standards are often set by the regulators that act first. Others must then watch markets develop from the sidelines.

Renaud Foucart does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Copyright © 2010–2022, The Conversation Trust (UK) Limited

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Middle East

Samsung and Apple make merry in Middle East smartphone Q2 sales in 2022

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Samsung and Apple have consolidated market share in sales for the second quarter of the year in the Middle East and Africa region even as smartphone shipments dipped 10 percent for the same Q2 period overall.

Macro headwinds have turned the tide with a 7.8% dip year on year and reflecting brands’ enthusiasm, according to a latest research report from Counterpoint’s Market Monitor Service.

The research report by Yang Wang says: “The biggest drag on the market was, unsurprisingly, macro issues. Inflation induced by food and fuel shortages dampened consumer demand while declining domestic currencies against the US dollar reduced the purchasing power of consumers.”

There were also secondary macro factors that impacted the market. For example, some governments imposed food export bans or “non-essential” goods import bans to stem the outflow of foreign currency reserves. Taxes on electronics products were also increased, adding more hurdles to the market’s smooth operation.

The market leader, Samsung, grew YoY from a relatively low base in Q2 2021 when it faced COVID-19 disruptions at its Vietnam production facilities.

The new and revamped Galaxy A-series devices have performed well and were among the best-selling devices during Q2. Samsung’s shipments are expected to grow in H2 with the upcoming launch of its new generation of foldables and as end-of-year sales approach.

Apple’s shipments also grew 2% YoY, largely due to better distribution and product availability in GCC countries. The iPhone 13 series has the best-selling premium devices in the region since its launch.

However, other brands apart from these two took a hit in the numbers. Given the pessimistic global macro sentiment, some brands have restrained activities in the region, according to the report. Brands were under pressure to streamline budgets and activities, which were redirected to more strategic markets and regions.

Apple-Samsung-sales

This meant that incentives to push brand penetration in MEA were scaled back, which in turn forced distributors and resellers to raise prices to defend their margins. These headwinds led to declining shipments for many OEMs.
OPPO, Realme, Vivo and Xiaomi saw steep YoY declines in their Q2 shipments. The OEMs continue to struggle in establishing a foothold in the region, as weak distributor incentives and supply issues have plagued the brands throughout H1 2022.

Furthermore, stiff competition from regional stalwarts Samsung and Transsion Group’s TECNO and Infinix has curtailed market share for the challenger brands. However, the ramping up of local production in Pakistan, specifically for OPPO, vivo and Xiaomi, could help ease supply issues in the region. But it is unlikely to have any substantial effect in 2022.

Despite the underwhelming market performance in the first half of the year, there are some reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the rest of the year.

Though inflation has reached double digits in many countries across MEA, it is not a new phenomenon and most customers have experienced these episodes in the recent past. This has brought them the ability to adapt quickly to the new economic realities. Also, the average selling prices of smartphones are continuing to trend up in the region, suggesting increasing digitization and customers’ need for more sophisticated handsets.

The easing of the global semiconductor shortage, which led to severe product availability issues for MEA in 2021, is also expected to help the market find a stronger footing once the economic issues subside.

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AGM Glory G1S review | TechRadar

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A subtle change is occurring in the ruggedized phone market.

This sector has been dominated by Chinese phone builders over the past few years, and most of these devices have sold on their ability to withstand harsh environments alongside being competitively priced.

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UAE allocates Dh3bn Space Fund for environment sustainability

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The UAE will develop advanced radar satellites to “develop solutions to climate change, environmental sustainability and improved disaster management” under the new AED 3 billion National Space Fund.

President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, unveiled the fund on Sunday.

Taking to Twitter, Sheikh Mohamed the move will “accelerate innovation in environmental sustainability”.

The Fund will support ground breaking new programmes launched to support international and Emirati companies co-operating in leading edge space sector engineering, sciences and research applications.

Sheikh Mohammed added that the “goal is to support the establishment of national companies in the space sector, support new national strategic and research projects, and develop the capabilities of our Emirati engineering cadres in space technology”.

“Only with advanced science can we contribute to the march of human development,” he added. It makes the UAE the first Arab country to develop a swarm of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites.

The ‘Sirb’ project will provide 24-hour all-weather earth imaging and will monitor the changes that occur on the planet due to climate changes and help find innovative solutions for environmental sustainability.

How Dubai controls its weather?

Courtesy Infographics Show

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