欧盟的统一充电接口 苹果告别“躺赚时代”?

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经过十年的商讨,欧盟的统一充电接口问题终于迎来了终章。布鲁塞尔当地时间6月7日,欧洲议会和欧洲理事会一致同意,在欧盟境内售卖的所有移动电子产品在2024年秋季以后都必须使用USB Type-C接口作为通用充电端口。

欧盟委员会方面表示,“这是为了减少电子垃圾和方便消费者做出的一次尝试。”根据他们的测算,此举将为欧洲地区的消费者每年节省超过2.5亿欧元的支出,并每年减少1.1万吨的电子垃圾。

欧盟的统一充电接口 苹果告别“躺赚时代”?

对于早已完成Type-C普及的Android厂商而言,这项法规无关痛痒,但苹果将不得不面对在欧洲地区取消过去十年坚持使用的Lightning接口。

苹果此前曾多次抗议这项法规的实施,“我们仍担心,只允许一种类型的充电器会扼杀创新,而不是激励创新,这反过来会损害欧洲和世界各地消费者的利益。”

这里面有一个十分吊诡的逻辑:在iPhone 12系列取消充电头时,苹果给出的解释是有利于环保,可当欧盟提出为了环保统一充电端口时,苹果又认为这阻碍了创新……

即使按照苹果的逻辑去解释这个问题,但自家的Lightning接口过去十年根本就没有任何创新。归根结底,在充电端口这个问题上,苹果恐怕嘴里念着环保,心里想的还是生意。

Lighting背后的生意经

USB Type-C和Lighting在性能上孰优孰劣,这几乎是一个没有争议的话题。

在Lightning问世的2012年,这款能够实现正反盲插的接口还算是较为领先,但它的问题在于升级潜力非常有限。相比之下,两年后推出的USB Type-C在历经USB 3.1-USB 4.0标准多代升级后,目前已经支持40GBbps的传输速率,在USB PD 3.1快充协议生效后,其最高充电功率也从早先的100W升级至240W。

苹果不了解USB Type-C的技术优势吗?他们太清楚了。

“我们为iPad Air带来了一个众所期待的功能‘USB Type-C’,它可以将数据传输速度提高到每秒5千兆位,比上一代Air的传输速度快了十倍。”这是苹果在iPad Air4发布会上对Type-C接口的讲解词。

但对于苹果而言,清楚差距并不代表必须要改进,因为Lighting接口关联着的是苹果高达数十亿美元的Mfi项目。

Mfi(Made for iPhone/iPod/iPad)是苹果针对第三方配件厂商的授权项目,这个项目早在iPhone 5时代就已经开始实施,在Lightning数据线上内置一块芯片起到识别作用,如果使用没有通过Mfi认证的第三方数据线,那么手机在连接后就先弹出警告提示,表明该配件不兼容本机。

苹果通过这一项目几乎实现了对第三方配件厂的“无差别收割”。

不同于APP store向开发者直接抽取的“苹果税”,苹果向申请Mfi认证的厂家收取的更多是“成本费用”,比如根据《每日经济新闻》的报道,苹果会向申请厂家收取超过2000美元的认证费,如果认证没有通过,这笔费用不会退还而且厂商还得再次申报认证。

当然,相比于前面的一次性费用,真正的成本大头是Lightning芯片,苹果规定这枚芯片必须向指定IT元件经销商安富利采购,每块芯片的进价是2.1美元,这已经超过了数据线本身的线材成本,再加关税、人工等额外成本,每条得到授权的Lighting数据线在成本上就要比普通数据线高出20元人民币。

欧盟的统一充电接口 苹果告别“躺赚时代”?

值得一提的是,这还是在苹果改用C52芯片后,配件成本略有降低,最初一代C10芯片的单枚成本高达2.98美元。

由于苹果始终没有公布过Mfi项目的营收情况,再加上第三方配套厂商鱼龙混杂,很难直接估算出Mfi究竟为苹果贡献了多少利润,但从近两年国内第三方厂商在全球市场的增速来看,这一市场的规模不容小觑。

比如在iPhone 12发布时,苹果一改USB A—Lighting接口,转用USB C—Lighting接口,国内的安克创新看准时机,成为全球首家获得这款数据线Mfi认证的厂商,又凭借相对低廉的售价,安克创新后续在北美地区的iPhone数据线/充电头销量仅次于苹果。

安克创新财报显示,2021年该公司在北美地区共实现63.41亿人民币的收入,旗下充电业务贡献了44%的营收占比,其中大部分都是经苹果Mfi授权的相关产品,这还只是一家公司,苹果这个项目的赚钱能力可见一斑。

需要说明的是,苹果的Mfi认证绝不局限于Lightning数据线一项,苹果在其官网上列举了Mfi项目支持的列表,其中包括车载播放、音频配件模块、Magsafe充电器模块、闪电模拟耳机模块等等。

欧盟的统一充电接口 苹果告别“躺赚时代”?

或许有人会说,苹果作为一家年收入超过3000亿美元的公司,不会过分纠结这几十亿美元的市场。

可即使苹果不屑于这部分收入,但它一定会在乎生态链掌控权的问题。不同于USB Type-C的开源生态,苹果自iPhone初代机的30针Dock接口到Lightning接口,素来秉承着封闭生态的理念,如果加入Type-C协议,这意味着任何一家手机产商或是第三方厂商都可以接入苹果的端口,这恐怕是苹果所无法容忍的。

可问题是,即使欧盟不推出法案规范充电接口,苹果的Lighting接口就能高枕无忧吗?

后Lightning时代,苹果做无孔手机?

除了影响Mfi项目的营收外,欧盟强推的充电接口标准可能还会引起一系列的关联效应。

其中的关键问题是,苹果会不会在其他地区继续沿用Lightning接口?目前看来,这么做是存在风险的。

首先,Lighting接口和Type-C接口的尺寸并不一致,如果苹果沿用两种接口意味着未来发布的每一款单品都要设计两套不同的模具,这对素来强调品控的苹果而言可能性并不大。

其次,即使在其他国家和地区,统一充电接口的呼声也甚嚣尘上。

今年年初,网易CEO丁磊就在全国政协会议上提交了“统一充电接口”的提案,并得到了工信部的回复,“大力推进充电接口、技术融合,有利于减少电子垃圾,提高资源利用效率,下一步工信部将继续推进国家标准制订,促进充电接口及技术融合统一,着力推动消费电子产业高质量发展。”

而在此之前,国内多家手机厂商已经开始讨论通用快充协议,以解决目前市场上各厂商快充无法兼容的问题,包括华为、小米、OPPO、vivo在内的多家厂商还成立了“广东省快充行业协会”。可以预见的是,未来在国内充电接口乃至充电协议的融合必然是大势所趋。

而适应这一趋势的前提是,手机厂商至少得支持现在业内通用的Type-C标准。

即使不考虑政策与市场风向的变化,单论Lighting这个接口来说,它也的确无法适应当下智能手机发展需要,甚至连自家iPhone的需求都无法满足。

举个例子,在iPhone 12 Pro这一代机型上,iPhone就已经支持4K ProRes无损视频录制了,但在该格式下,一部十分钟的短视频就会产生数GB的容量,以Lighting接口的传输速度,根本无法满足短时间内大容量文件的传输需求。

形成这一问题的原因是,苹果Lightning接口在设计上基本就没有可拓展的冗余空间。

下图是lighting接口和Type-C接口的对比:

欧盟的统一充电接口 苹果告别“躺赚时代”?

欧盟的统一充电接口 苹果告别“躺赚时代”?

通过对比可以看出,Lightning的8针接口只有一条用于电流输送,最大电流也不会超过3.3A,4条数据传输线最高也只能实现480Mbps的传输速度,这些设计上的缺陷都不是后期优化可以解决的。

苹果当然也意识到了这一问题,但这家公司还不愿完全委身于USB-IF——这个由2000多家企业共有的第三方协议。

因此,苹果希望能够在淘汰Lightning接口的同时,绕过行业内普遍使用的Type-C协议,继续维持自身对于闭源生态的掌控。目前看来,苹果很可能通过打造“无孔手机”来实现这一路径,即直接取消充电插口实现手机无孔化。

这并不是天方夜谭的猜测,苹果是最早取消3.5mm耳机孔的厂商,也是最早加入eSIM的厂商,如果说前者是为了推出AirPods做出的取舍,那么率先加入eSIM恐怕就只能用取消SIM卡槽来解释了。

对于苹果来说,这么做的好处是显而易见的,“无孔版iPhone”将使各种MagSafe无线充电配件成为刚需,到时候苹果可以更加正大光明地借助环保话题来卖配件。

不过,考虑到目前Magsafe系列产品目前相对羸弱的传输功率,以及用户比较顾虑的隐私安全问题,苹果如果真的推行“无孔手机”,消费者能否接受还要打上一个大大的问号。

The European Commission said, "this is an attempt to reduce e-waste and facilitate consumers." According to their calculations, the move will save consumers in Europe more than 250 million euros a year and 11000 tons of e-waste each year.

The regulation is irrelevant to Android manufacturers who have already achieved the popularity of Type-C, but Apple will have to eliminate the Lightning interface that has been in use for the past decade in Europe.

Apple has repeatedly protested the implementation of the regulation. "We remain concerned that allowing only one type of charger will stifle innovation rather than encourage it, which in turn will hurt consumers in Europe and around the world."

There is a very strange logic: when the iPhone 12 series canceled the charging head, Apple explained that it was good for the environment, but when the European Union proposed to unify the charging port for environmental protection, Apple thought it hindered innovation.

Even if the problem is explained according to Apple's logic, there has been no innovation in its own Lightning interface over the past decade. In the final analysis, when it comes to charging ports, Apple may be thinking about environmental protection and business.

The business behind Lighting

Which is better or worse in terms of performance between USB Type-C and Lighting is almost an uncontroversial topic.

In 2012, when Lightning was launched, this interface, which can be plugged blindly in front and back, was still in the lead, but its problem was that the upgrade potential was very limited. In contrast, USB Type-C, launched two years later, now supports the transmission rate of 40GBbps after a multi-generation upgrade of the USB 3.1-USB 4.0standard, and its maximum charging power has been upgraded from 100W to 240W after the USB PD 3.1fast charging agreement came into effect.

Doesn't Apple understand the technological advantages of USB Type-C? They know all too well.

"We have brought a much-anticipated feature to iPad Air, 'USB Type-C', which can increase data transmission speed to 5 gigabits per second, ten times faster than the previous generation of Air."This is Apple's explanation of the Type-C interface at the iPad Air4 launch.

But for Apple, knowing the gap doesn't mean it has to be improved, because the Lighting interface is associated with Apple's multibillion-dollar Mfi project.

Mfi (Made for iPhone/iPod/iPad) is Apple's authorized project for third-party accessory manufacturers. This project has been implemented as early as the iPhone 5 era. A chip is built into the Lightning data line to identify. If you use a third-party data cable that is not certified by Mfi, then the phone will pop up a warning after connecting, indicating that the accessory is not compatible with the local machine.

Through this project, Apple has almost achieved an "indiscriminate harvest" of third-party accessory factories.

Unlike the "Apple tax" that APP store directly levies on developers, Apple charges more "cost fees" from manufacturers applying for Mfi certification. For example, according to the Daily Business News, Apple charges applicants a certification fee of more than $2000, which is non-refundable if the certification is not passed and the manufacturer has to apply for certification again.

Of course, compared with the previous one-time fees, the real cost is the Lightning chip, Apple stipulates that this chip must be purchased from the designated IT component dealer Amfuri, the purchase price of each chip is 2.10 US dollars, which has exceeded the wire cost of the data line itself, plus customs duties, labor and other additional costs, the cost of each authorized Lighting data line is 20 yuan higher than the ordinary data line.

It is worth mentioning that after Apple switched to the C52 chip, the cost of accessories decreased slightly, with the initial generation of C10 chips costing as much as $2.98 per chip.

Since Apple has never announced the revenue of the Mfi project, and the third-party supporting manufacturers are mixed, it is difficult to directly estimate how much profit Mfi has contributed to Apple, but judging from the growth rate of domestic third-party manufacturers in the global market in the past two years, the scale of this market is not to be underestimated.

For example, when iPhone 12 was released, Apple changed the USB A-Lighting interface to the USB C-Lighting interface, and the domestic Anke innovation saw the right time to become the first manufacturer in the world to obtain the Mfi certification of this data line, and with the relatively low price, the iPhone data line / charge head sales of Anke Innovation in North America were second only to Apple.

According to Anke Innovation Financial report, the company generated 6.341 billion yuan in revenue in North America in 2021, and its charging business accounted for 44% of the revenue, most of which are related products licensed by Apple's Mfi. Apple's ability to make money on this project is evident.

To be clear, Apple's Mfi certification is by no means limited to Lightning data lines. Apple lists a list of Mfi project support on its website, including in-car playback, audio accessories, Magsafe charger modules, lightning analog headset modules, and so on.

Some people might say that Apple, as a company with annual revenue of more than $300 billion, will not worry too much about this multibillion-dollar market.

But even if Apple disdains this part of the revenue, it will certainly care about the control of the ecological chain. Different from the open source ecology of USB Type-C, Apple has always adhered to the concept of closed ecology from the 30-pin Dock interface of the original iPhone to the Lightning interface. If you join the Type-C agreement, this means that any mobile phone manufacturer or third-party manufacturer can access Apple's port, which may not be tolerated by Apple.

But the question is, even if the European Union does not introduce a bill to regulate the charging interface, will Apple's Lighting interface rest easy?

Does Apple make non-hole phones in the post-Lightning era?

In addition to affecting the revenue of the Mfi project, the charging interface standard forced by the European Union may also cause a series of related effects.

The key question is, will Apple continue to use the Lightning interface in other regions? At present, it seems that there are risks in doing so.

First of all, the dimensions of the Lighting interface and the Type-C interface are not the same, and if Apple uses the two interfaces, it means that each item released in the future will have to design two different sets of molds, which is unlikely for Apple, which has always emphasized quality control.

Second, even in other countries and regions, the call for a unified charging interface is also loud.

At the beginning of this year, NetEase CEO Ding Lei submitted a proposal for a "unified charging interface" at the CPPCC National Committee, and received a reply from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology: "vigorously promoting the integration of charging interfaces and technologies will help reduce e-waste and improve the efficiency of resource utilization. In the next step, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology will continue to promote the formulation of national standards, promote the integration and unification of charging interfaces and technologies, and strive to promote the high-quality development of the consumer electronics industry."

Prior to this, a number of domestic mobile phone manufacturers have begun to discuss the general fast charging agreement to solve the problem of incompatibility among various manufacturers in the market. Many manufacturers, including Huawei, Xiaomi, OPPO, vivo and so on, have also set up the Guangdong Quick charging Industry Association. It can be predicted that the integration of domestic charging interfaces and charging protocols in the future is bound to be the trend of the times.

The premise to adapt to this trend is that mobile phone manufacturers must at least support the Type-C standard commonly used in the industry.

Even without considering the changes in policy and market wind, Lighting alone can not meet the needs of current smartphone development, or even the needs of its own iPhone.

For example, on the iPhone 12 Pro model, iPhone already supports 4K ProRes lossless video recording, but in this format, a 10-minute short video will generate several GB capacity. With the transmission speed of the Lighting interface, it is simply unable to meet the needs of large-capacity file transfer in a short period of time.

The reason for this problem is that there is basically no redundant space to expand in the design of Apple's Lightning interface.

The following figure shows a comparison between the lighting interface and the Type-C interface:

By comparison, it can be seen that only one 8-pin interface of Lightning is used for current transmission, and the maximum current will not exceed 3.3A and the four data transmission lines can only achieve the transmission speed of 480Mbps. These design defects can not be solved by later optimization.

Apple is aware of the problem, of course, but the company is not yet fully committed to USB-IF--, a third-party agreement shared by more than 2000 companies.

Therefore, Apple hopes to maintain its control of closed-source ecology by bypassing the Type-C protocol commonly used in the industry while eliminating the Lightning interface. At present, it seems that Apple is likely to achieve this path by creating a "hole-less phone", that is, directly removing the charging Jack to make the phone porous.

This is not a fantasy guess. Apple was the first manufacturer to cancel the 3.5mm headphone hole and the first to join the eSIM. If the former is a choice made to launch the AirPods, then the first to join the eSIM may only be explained by canceling the SIM slot.

For Apple, the benefits are obvious. The "porous version of iPhone" will make all kinds of MagSafe wireless charging accessories a rigid demand, so Apple can sell accessories more openly on the topic of environmental protection.

However, in view of the relatively weak transmission power of Magsafe products and privacy and security concerns among users, there will be a big question mark over whether consumers can accept Apple's "hole-less phone".

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版权声明:虎嗅网 发表于 2022-06-09 08:43。
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