Europe Gets Handset Makers to Agree to Universal Charger

12 Comments

666px-Micro_USB_and_USBNokia (s NOK), Motorola (s MOT), Research in Motion (s RIM), Apple (s aapl) (yes, even Apple) and six other cell phone makers have agreed to a European Commission request to develop a universal charger. The agreement was announced today by the the EC. The new handsets will use Micro-USB connectors, and will be available in Europe beginning next year. The GSM Association had been working on a similar effort to deliver a universal charger by 2012.

Importantly, only data-enabled phones will be able to accept the universal charger, since those are the phones that currently contain Micro-USB ports. While the Micro-USB standard may be replaced by a different one someday, for now having a universal charger will make it easier to replenish phones while on the road. As for reducing waste, I’m less certain that will happen unless cell phone providers stop including a charger with each phone. The EC hopes that the universal charger will spread beyond its borders, which is likely to happen given that the powerful GSM Association is also in favor of such a standard, but perhaps not by 2010.

Our friends at jkOnTheRun are wondering if this standard will make its way to the US? I certainly hope so. 

Micro-USB and USB image courtesy of George Shuklin

12 Comments

Jesse Kopelman

The real issue isn’t the charger that comes in the box with the phone, it is the additional chargers that most people like to buy (car charger, spare to keep in your briefcase, and so on). Vendors charge excessive prices for their proprietary accessories. What costs $15-20 with the Motorola tag on it can usually be got in OEM form for $1 from eBay or Amazon.

Without the government forcing vendors to do this, I doubt we’ll see it in the US. In theory you can already charge an USB-port equiped phone with any generic USB charger, since the max amperage specified by USB is very low (0.5A) and using lower than the vendor specified amperage is safe (just makes charging a bit slower). But it didn’t take long for vendors to start adding little modifications to their phones so that they’d only charge if given exactly the expected amperage — as delivered by their overpriced proprietary chargers.

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