Here Come the Universal Smartphone Chargers!


A year-and-a-half after an EU commission requested research into a universal phone charging standard, various telecommunications bodies around the globe have approved micro USB as the universal standard to charge data-enabled mobile phones. It’s good news, but even better is widespread support from handset makers all around the globe, which should reduce the number of redundant charging solutions for consumers and, according to the GSM Association, will eliminate 51,000 tons of such duplicate chargers from being manufactured on a yearly basis.

Earlier this month, two European standardization bodies, CEN-CENELEC and ETSI, approved standards for a universal phone charger, and 14 manufacturers signed an agreement to honor the plan, including: Apple (s aapl), Emblaze Mobile, Huawei Technologies, LGE, Motorola (s mmi), NEC, Nokia (s nok), Qualcomm (s qcom), Research in Motion (s rimm), Samsung, SonyEricsson (s sne) (s eric), TCT Mobile, Texas Instruments (s txn) and Atmel. Based on the agreement, new micro USB chargers that can work for multiple devices should begin to appear early this year, although there’s room to compromise: Companies can use proprietary plugs as long as they include a universal adaptor.

The EU commission hopes the standard will gain support outside of its home region and the odds of that happening increase with each new standards body that adopts the universal cell phone charging approach. Just today, the IEC, the international standards and conformity assessment body for all fields of electrotechnology, adopted the universal standard as well. Aside from the benefit of producing fewer charging solutions, the IEC notes that both handset manufacturers and consumers will see cost benefits because devices won’t need to ship with a charger. Essentially, when a new handset is purchased, the universal charger from a prior phone can be used.

As positive as the news is for smartphones, it raises an interesting question for the next new device class: tablets. While currently available tablets use a standard USB charger, I’ve already noticed that the Galaxy Tab re-charges much faster when using the included power brick as opposed to charging it from a computer. This is because the Tab’s power brick supplies 2 Amps of current, while most USB computer ports only provide 500 to 900 mA. My fear is that other tablets follow suit and we end up repeating the lengthy process of establishing a charging standard for tablets.

For now, however, data-enabled cell phones far outsell tablets: IDC estimates that 401.4 million mobile phones were sold in 2010, while roughly 17 million tablets were purchased last year. So a universal phone charger offers much more bang for buck at the moment, and for next few years as well.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):


William C Bonner

I’ve been thinking that this is a really good thing, going to a universal standard.

The thing that just occurred to me is that very soon most of these devices will not ship with a charger at all, but will sell that as an extra option.

If you’ve got a compatible charger already, then this won’t really be an issue, but if your new device needs 2 amps, and your existing charger only supplies 1 amp, paying the extra $10 (or more, since it’ll be lower volume) for another charger may seem frustrating.


The universal charger is a really good thing. I’m all for standardization. But instead of worrying about a standard charger for a tablet, I think having a standard charger for a laptop. And then maybe standardized batteries and more…

If the consumer electronics industry would standardize interfaces/chargers and other things that are not integral to their business then everyone would benefit. But I guess some people don’t like to work well with others.


I don’t understand the distinction for tablets. Shouldn’t it be enough that they use the same tips?

Typical USB ports on computers are hamstrung at a particular current. Larger devices should be able to use the lowest common denominator (PC USB ports), but have the hardware capacity to accept larger currents from special adapters and offer the possibility of quicker charging times where available.

In fact, phones should and do do this — the Palm Pre definitely accepts up to 1A of current and I think the Evo does as well. Of course, it would be better if they could benefit from 2A+ as well.

Kevin C. Tofel

The Galaxy Tab can be charged from a standard USB port but it takes much longer and the device doesn’t appear as if it’s charging, even though it is. I agree with you: there shouldn’t be any distinction. And it could just be Samsung’s approach here – I have no evidence that other tablets will take the same road. In fact, I hope they don’t! ;)


Yeeees! SURPRISE!!!

In Battery Charging Specification,[36] new powering modes are added to the USB specification. A host or hub Charging Downstream Port can supply a maximum of 1.5 A when communicating at low-bandwidth or full-bandwidth, a maximum of 900 mA when communicating at high-bandwidth, and as much current as the connector will safely handle when no communication is taking place;

These genius alliance have choose USB as a charger cord is a very “smart” guys. Hope they will learn words and characters for reading standards, and will mistakes fewer in future.

And now let’s start to change USB standards for a charging function.

Comments are closed.