Standardizing chargers and connectors

Standardization long has been needed in the mobile phone industry. I hate switching phone manufacturers simply because that means buying a new travel charger and spare charger for the office. I'm probably not alone in that I have a drawer full of Motorola, Samsung, and Treo chargers whose corresponding phones have been banished to the recycling bin.

Luckily, this may be about to change. An initiative backed by mobile phone manufacturers as well as operators will result in a universal charger based on the micro-USB interface for new mobile phones. Read on after the break to see what industry leaders have signed off on this initiative, who led the way to standardization two years ago — and who's unlikely to to join in.

The initiative for micro USB standardization was introduced by the GSMA, an association representing the worldwide mobile communications industry, and calls for standardization to be in place by January 2012. Representatives from mobile phone manufacturers including LG, Motorola, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung and Sony Ericsson (what? No Apple?) as well as service providers such as AT&T, KTF, Mobilkom Austria, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telenor, Telstra, T-Mobile and Vodafone are supporting this initiative that is not only designed to establish an industry standard but also to reduce waste and lower costs.

Nokia sees the reduction of waste related to chargers as the biggest advantage with the initiative but isn't ready to say when it will ship its first universal charger. The company will provide both the universal charger and its standard charger during a transitional period, according to a spokeswoman at Nokia. This should make our friends at Nokia Experts happy, and while this is welcomed news, it's not a new concept.

In 2007, the Open Mobile Terminal Platform (OMTP), a forum dominated by operators but including manufacturers such as Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and LG, announced that its members had agreed on micro-USB as the future common connector. The OMTP statement was a step in the right direction but lacked the backing the current GSMA initiative has.

While China's track record for human rights is lacking, the Chinese government may have been the first to establish micro-USB standardization. In 2006, the Chinese government mandated that set a single national standard on mobile phone chargers sold in the country to avoid waste and to lower costs. At the time, China had almost 450 million cell phone subscribers, with up to 100 million replacing their phones every year with the chargers being thrown out with the cell phones. That's a lot of waste that was eliminated with the standardization. China predicted the move would save approximately 2.4 billion Yuan ($306 million U.S.) annually.

So we all can breathe a sigh of relief in that our "junk" drawers will become lighter now that we don't have to go out and buy a new set of chargers every time we swap out phones. Now if we can only get the 3.5mm headphone jack to be standardized, we can eliminate a bunch of old headsets as well!

Phil Nickinson

Phil is the father of two beautiful girls and is the Dad behind Modern Dad. Before that he spent seven years at the helm of Android Central. Before that he spent a decade in a newsroom of a two-time Pulitzer Prize-finalist newspaper. Before that — well, we don't talk much about those days. Subscribe to the Modern Dad newsletter!