We’ve all been there – every time we’ve bought a mobile phone it comes with a lumpen black charger, and you can bet the plug on the end of the cable will be different for just about every mobile phone you’ve ever bought. Hence loads of useless chargers hanging around in drawers.
So, EU to the rescue!
Why not chivvy all mobile phone operators to adopt a common standard, meaning that any charger can charge any mobile phone, and then it will not be necessary to bundle a charger with every new phone?
So that’s what the EU has done with the One Charger for All initiative. But – sadly – as with so much to do with the EU it’s not all it may seem.
Basically from this year on all “data-enabled mobile phones” (i.e. ones that can do more than calling and SMS – so nearly all of them) will use the Micro USB standard for charging. This makes sense – many smart phones already connect to USB ports on computers for data sync and charging anyway, and chargers that use Micro USB are already common for everything from sports watches to digital cameras.
However the devil is to be found in FAQ 6 on the Commission’s website about the initiative:
Which is the agreed common interface?
On the basis of the Micro-USB interface, the companies have agreed to develop a common specification in order to allow for full compatibility of chargers and mobile phones. These specifications have been translated in European standards.
N.B. The agreement allows for the use of an adaptor. (my emphasis)
This means that all chargers have to be Micro USB compatible – i.e. that they all output the standard 5volts for USB. But the cable you then connect to your phone can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. So your iPhone will retain it’s dock port, a Sony Ericsson will retain its plug, Nokia, Samsung etc. can all keep their own systems as well.
So this initiative has solved one problem – incompatible chargers – and just left us with another slightly less environmentally challenging but just as confusing situation – incompatible adaptors (meaning – in practice – cables). Well done Commission and industry lobbyists – you’ve managed to cook up a system which means each side can claim victory but a real decisive step forward for customers – the same charging port on every phone – has been missed.
[UPDATE – 1800]
I’ve just been pointed in the direction of this document by @simonblackley. It states “The cable assembly shall terminate in a Micro-B plug. The plug shall meet the USBIF Connector Test Requirements“. OK, so that defines the cable coming out of the universal charger and may mean the replaceable cables I mention above might not come to pass. But I do not read that as meaning all mobile phones have to have this plug on the mobile phone itself. So I think the gist of my original post stands…