Europe is going to require phones to use Micro USB, so Apple can no longer use their proprietary "Lightning" connector.
Libertarians will no doubt decry heavy-handed government regulation creating obstacles to innovation. But, is "Lightning" really about innovation? Sure, it may be slightly more convenient in that you don't have the 4-dimensional USB problem (http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2388
). But a quick glance at the Apple store is illuminating...http://store.apple.com/us/product/MD819ZM/A/lightning-to-usb-cable-2-m
That's $30 for a 2m cable. Thirty. F---ing. Dollars.
Compare to an equivalent micro USB cable:http://www.monoprice.com/Product?p_id=4868
Yes, 84 cents
. So, Apple is charging a 3500% markup on their cable. That's pure profit. Well, other than the extra money they spend to embed a microchip in every cable for the sole purpose of ensuring that third parties cannot sell unauthorized competing cables. Yes, really.
This behavior isn't limited to Apple. Google's Chromebook Pixel power adapter costs a whopping $54:https://play.google.com/store/devices/details/Charger_for_Google_Chromebook_Pixel?id=chromebook_pixel_adapter
The trouble is, when buying a phone, or a laptop, few people will take into consideration price of accessories. It's only after they've made their purchase that they discover these things, and at that point it's too late. Companies can charge absurd prices here without losing customers, so why wouldn't they? But, you can't charge an absurd price for a standard
adapter or cable, because then you actually have competition.
The whole reason that most phones use Micro USB today is because the EU pressured companies to do so back in 2009. I had thought that they had actually mandated it then (with Apple getting around the mandate by including an adapter dongle with every iPhone), but according to Wikipedia the previous rules were merely "voluntary":http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_External_Power_Supply
Nevertheless, the EU's previous actions are why
I can now buy phone chargers and cables by the dozen and liberally litter them around my house, and I can't tell you the number of times I have consciously thanked them for it. This, I think, is a shining example of where regulation is clearly beneficial in correcting a market failure.
h/t +Jake Weisz