Universal charger tantalisingly close for mobiles

Feb 29, 2012 by Katell Abiven
A man displays an universal charger plugged on a Sony mobile phone during a presentation at the Mobile World Congress on Tuesday in Barcelona. Mobile phone users are tantalisingly close to the day when they can power up any phone with the same charger, but industry players gathered at the the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona still have some way to go.

Mobile phone users are tantalisingly close to the day when they can power up any phone with the same charger.

But industry players gathered at the the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona still have some way to go.

Three years ago, 17 manufacturers and operators agreed at this same conference to share the same standard for chargers fitting into a micro-USB socket.

The relatively modest goal, defined by the global industry's GSM Association, was that most mobile phones sold in 2012 should be compatible with the new universal charger.

Despite European Union pressure on the industry to ensure all phones share the same type of charger and thus avoid hassle for users and vast amounts of unnecessary waste, results have been mixed.

"It has been announced so many times and the customers are still waiting for it," sighed Flavio Cuchietti, one of the project's supervisers at the UN agency, the .

"It has been clearly aimed at smartphones, which account for about 25-30 percent of the market in Europe. Then what about the other 70 percent, and what about the Third World?" he asked.

The ITU in 2011 asked all manufacturers to share the same mobile phone charger by 2014.

Last year, a study by the University of Genoa researchers found 10 different charger models among the eight major market players.

"Our intention is not to punish an industry or to block their development. Our intention is to find a solution that is viable, adding extra complexity and extra cost, but in the end we get to a universal solution," Cuchietti said.

The result is also less waste, he said, estimating that more than 100,000 tonnes of chargers were discarded every year by consumers when they bought new phones.

But despite uneven progress, manufacturers say they are optimistic.

Samsung and Sony Mobile say all their models now use the universal micro-USB charger while Nokia estimates that about 70 percent of mobiles sold in the second half of 2011 were compatible with the new standard.

ITU secretary general Hamadoun Touri said the universal charger provided practical benefits for the customer. For example, people who forget their chargers when travelling would easily find a spare.

"I would like to see this technology extended across the world so that when you buy a new telephone that charger is just an option," Touri said.

But that would require manufacturers to take another bold step.

"Consumer expectation is to have a charger included with the sales package," said Peter Harrison, in charge of regulatory standards at the Finnish phone maker Nokia.

"We are now in a transition period," he said.

Bertrand Villie, in charge of sustainable development at Sony Mobile France, said manufacturers were reluctant to stop selling the charger along with the phone unless everyone agreed to do so at the same time.

"We cannot decide on our own to sell our products without a charger; if we did that no-one would buy Sony Mobile!" he said. "Even so, the mobile phone industry is the only one in the world that has agreed on a universal charger."

Explore further: Form Devices team designs Point as a house sitter

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NTT Docomo's new smartphone features wireless charger

May 19, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Charging your cell phone can be a hassle, mostly because you have to find your cord, and if you are anything like most people, you don't have just one charging cord lying around your house. ...

Recommended for you

Form Devices team designs Point as a house sitter

Nov 22, 2014

A Scandinavian team "with an international outlook" and good eye for electronics, software and design aims to reach success with what they characterize as "a softer take" on home security. Their device is ...

Amazon offers Washington Post app on Kindle

Nov 20, 2014

Amazon said Thursday it will offer a free Washington Post app to Kindle users for six months, a move highlighting the digital strategy for the newspaper owned by Jeff Bezos.

Gift Guide: Help your selfie with some add-on gear

Nov 20, 2014

Not all selfies are created equal. Some are blurry, are poorly framed or miss the action entirely because you might be scrubbing your thumb fishing for a virtual shutter button as the moment passes you by.

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

a_n_k_u_r
not rated yet Mar 01, 2012
Really, what's so hard about agreeing on a common charger standard? In fact, the industry should ensure that they have common standards for wireless power chargers, and the same chargers should work with laptops and tablets too.

I have a question about using USB port for charging -- can my phone be hacked through power line?
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Mar 01, 2012
Really, what's so hard about agreeing on a common charger standard?

The problem is not agreeing on one. The problem is that if they did agree on one (and actually stuck to it) then only the maker of the cheapest charger would make a profit (all others would not sell a single charger).

Especially for companies like Apple that would be catastrophic, as they charge you for 'style' rather than for the content of their product (they have over 60% pure profit on some of their products).
roboferret
not rated yet Mar 01, 2012


I have a question about using USB port for charging -- can my phone be hacked through power line?


No, the AC mains power supply voltage is reduced, rectified and smoothed into a low voltage continuous direct current. Any data signal would be wiped out by the adapter before it even entered the USB cable. Charging from your PC could be a different story if your PC security is compromised. Still extremely unlikely though.
a_n_k_u_r
not rated yet Mar 02, 2012

No, the AC mains power supply voltage is reduced, rectified and smoothed into a low voltage continuous direct current. Any data signal would be wiped out by the adapter before it even entered the USB cable.

Well, USB is primarily a data bus and reaches deep into the data connections of the phone unlike the existing charging points in the phones. I can imagine rogue chargers that can infect the devices.
Kinedryl
1 / 5 (1) Mar 02, 2012
The universal charger is disadvantageous for manufacturers of mobile phones, because its market can increase the profit significantly due the vendor locking. As a part of "accessories" the price of new charger is often comparable to the price of the whole phone. Which is why we haven't the universal chargers already.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.