About Damn Time: Phone Makers To Standardize Chargers

from the finally dept

The mobile-phone industry has met up in Barcelona for its annual confab, and among all the new handset releases was some more compelling news: phone makers and operators have pledged they'll standardize on mini-USB chargers. While this is being touted as mainly an environmental decision, it's a situation where environmental, economic, and usability benefits converge. Presumably, many device makers will eventually stop shipping new chargers with phones, reducing their costs and cutting charger production; users will benefit from consistency across vendors and devices. Some countries, like South Korea and China, have previously mandated that phone makers use standardized chargers and other cables; now the rest of the world can enjoy the benefits, too.


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  1.  
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    Nick Nack, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 3:20pm

    Brilliant.

    Great - as long as new charges are not sold with phones (as stated.)

    And I already have a mini usb charger thing, so won't even need one produced for me. Lovely.

    We need to do this to laptops and mp3 players. And all the other little electronic boxes lying around.

    A step in the right direction.

     

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  2.  
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    m, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 3:24pm

    These are not chargers...

    I like how everyone says that it's "chargers" but these are just AC/DC adapters using the same plug, nothing more. The industry would like to make it seem like they are doing something big and amazing, but they are not. This is a simple change that they could work through by 2010 if they wanted to, but they would like to make it seem more complicated than it really is.

     

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  3.  
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    silentsteel (profile), Feb 17th, 2009 @ 3:40pm

    Re: These are not chargers...

    Actually, it is more complicated than apparently you think. Though I could be wrong here, true standardization includes not just making every phone use a mini-usb charger. You also have to take into account that some phones are set up to require far less electricity from the adapter than others. As an example, I have three chargers in my drawer and none of them have the same output power. This means that phones and batteries have to be redesigned with the plan that company a's charger will safely power company b's phone. If any manufacturer decides to be bullish it could easily take until 2012.

     

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  4.  
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    simon, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 3:43pm

    Re: Phone chargers

    Can't agree more, I have a box full of old ones, don't know why I keep them.

     

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  5.  
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    Johnny Canada, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 3:47pm

    Is this because the EU Parlement is rumbling about forcing a standard?

     

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  6.  
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    Matt, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 4:12pm

    Re: Re: These are not chargers...

    umm, all they have to do is what they've cut corners on this whole time: putting the voltage regulations as a responsibility of the device, not the connection. The responsibility is being shifted back to the right people.

    MFR's make a killing off the unique shaped cables.

     

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  7.  
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    Baloney Joe, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 4:26pm

    Re: These are not chargers...

    Dude seriously? did you get beat up a lot in high school?

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 4:27pm

    Not mini, micro

     

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  9.  
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    Dirka Dirka, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 4:31pm

    Interesting....

    If only we could somehow get apple (and other electronics manufacturers) to go along with this as well. It would be nice to charge all your electronics with one cable. But of course its apple, and they will do what they want no matter what anybody says or wants.... they have to... being lame and all.

     

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  10.  
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    Wolfy, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 4:37pm

    YAY!!!

     

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  11.  
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    Hal Bredbenner, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 4:54pm

    Think out of the box! (off the cable)

    Why don't all the small device manufacturers get smart and drop the cable idea all together.

    I want a small charging station (mouse pad size) that inductively couples to ANY device I lay on it. Let my MP3 player, cell phone, camera, etc. all have inductive loops in them that trickle charge the device as long as it sits on the pad. The technology for this has been around for years. All we need is for some of the big consumer electronic manufacturers (Sony, Apple, etc.) to get smart and cooperate and make it happen. They can then focus on their product feature set and less on engineering power supplies, cable connectors, USB power issues, etc.

    Any takers?

     

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  12.  
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    Charles (profile), Feb 17th, 2009 @ 4:57pm

    Truthfully, I don't want a mini-usb on my iPod touch or even a iPhone.

     

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  13.  
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    Michael Faraday, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 5:00pm

    Re: Re: These are not chargers...

    I think you are wrong. Using a usb adapter (micro) will allow the phones to charge off any computer a usb port.
    The output of the usb port is 5 volts while most cell batteries are 3.6 volts. If a manufacturer needs to, they can add some small pieces to boost the voltage.
    http://pinouts.ru/Slots/USB_pinout.shtml
    www.powerstream.com

     

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  14.  
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    Dave, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 5:10pm

    Re: Think out of the box! (off the cable)

    Palm is doing just this with the new Pre cell phone. Of course they are going to charge extra for the "cordless power station". It would be great if this becomes a standard, thereby reducing the cord clutter.

     

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  15.  
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    Andrew Sawczyn, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 5:21pm

    Great Idea

    This is a great idea. Let's legislate a standard charging adapter. To hell with innovation and letting the free market decide. Yep, that's change I can believe in.

     

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  16.  
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    Paul (profile), Feb 17th, 2009 @ 5:24pm

    Thought this sounded familiar....

    Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and LG have already agreed to use micro usb a year and a half ago: Link
    This just appears to be a much larger group announcing the same thing.

     

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  17.  
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    Steve R. (profile), Feb 17th, 2009 @ 5:25pm

    About Fricking Time

    Actually, the need for standardization applies to all chargers, cables, etc.

    We have a Samsung MP3 player that has a non-standard USB cable. So if it goes bad, I would probably have to order from Samsung, pay big bucks, and wait a few days to get. I should be able to go to Walmart and easily get a replacement. If these companies can spend millions to develop "standardized" DRM for their benefit, they could a least give us standard cables.

    I wonder if anyone has done a study on the economics of proprietary connectors? I would think that proprietary connectors would prove to be uneconomic despite the apparent belief of companies that this somehow aids their gouging of the consumer.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 6:19pm

    This only happens with open standards

    If there was not open access to the USB standards this could never happen. A patented interface would never get enough market share, it would never become a defacto standard. This would never happen with Apple's iPod/iPhone dock connector for example.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 6:25pm

    Re: About Fricking Time

    Proprietary connectors are a safety feature more than anything. They (should) prevent you from plugging in the wrong thing. The trouble with 'standard' connectors is that the connector itself is standard but the electric connections and usage are anything but standard.

    USB has the combination of have the connectors, the electric connections and the signalling all standardized.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    m, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 6:54pm

    Re: Re: These are not chargers...

    Dude seriously? did you get beat up a lot in high school?

    No, but you seem to have been dropped on your head a few too many times. Your response with no information nor sense is pretty good proof.

    Actually, it is more complicated than apparently you think.

    Not at all. The only thing that these adapters need to do is provide a constant voltage. Most of the time it is 5V with some variation. The actual battery chargers are located inside the phones (unless you are in Japan) either as separate chargers or part of the overall power management chip. Most basic chargers accept up to 6V continuous voltage. Higher end chargers accept much higher voltages and have built-in Overvoltage Protection. So there is nothing difficult or complicated here.

     

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  21.  
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    Steve R. (profile), Feb 17th, 2009 @ 7:02pm

    Re: Re: About Fricking Time

    It is a solvable issue. Just think we have a standard 60 cycle 110 Volt electrical delivery system and I seem to be able to plug in all sorts of devices.

    Cars and boats have 12 volt direct current systems, seems that we can plug in all sorts of devices into these systems too.

    The claim that proprietary connectors are a safety feature is mostly FUD. Look at what DELL tried to pull with its power supplies. They look normal, but if you don't buy a replacement from DELL, you fry your computer. A power supply that looks like a normal power supply but fries your computer is NOT a safety feature.

    We have engineers for a reason. Engineers design stuff, so if they can design an incompatible product they can also design the products to work with standard connectors.

     

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  22.  
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    Nick, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 7:30pm

    Re: Re: These are not chargers...

    I think you are reading into this a little bit. They aren't standardizing the power output. In fact the power output of the charger would be the same across multiple countries. What is different is the power input, which is adjusted by the plug for the phone.
    All that they are looking at creating as an industry standard is the jack that inserts into the phone. Which will be a mini-usb.
    The reason for the delay is not because of any devious means. It is because companies already have phones in the development and delivery process 18 months out. And anything in initial design stages will also probably get delayed.
    Don't be surprised if they start showing up sooner. But giving a company that develops a technology product from the ground up 2 years to make this standard on their phones is reasonable.
    Then again companies like Motorola already use this plug, and they will have to make zero adjustments.

     

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  23.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 17th, 2009 @ 10:14pm

    Re: Great Idea

    This is a great idea. Let's legislate a standard charging adapter. To hell with innovation and letting the free market decide. Yep, that's change I can believe in.

    Um. This has nothing to do with legislating. It's about standardization, which if you look around helps innovation. This internet you're using? Based on standards. This webpage? HTML? That's a standard.

    Nothing wrong with a standard. It's not anti-free market.

     

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  24.  
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    Tamara, Feb 17th, 2009 @ 11:55pm

    Re: Re: Great Idea

    Interesting you mention the Internet, when Internet Explorer and Safari both don't comply to the standards and many sites written to the standards do not look as though they should.

     

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  25.  
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    Michael Long, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 12:51am

    Re: Interesting....

    Apple already charges their iPods and iPhones with a USB wall charger.

    The "dock" cable is a different story, but there is no standard for what amounts to a single powered USB cable connector WITH audio ins and outs AND video outs AND with control connectors all wrapped into one.

    A single mini-USB port just isn't going to cut it...

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 5:03am

    Re: These are not chargers...

    Radio Shack (and other retailers I assume) have been selling a standardized AC cell phone chargers for years. You buy a separate dongle to go with each cell phone power port.

    All I can say is ABOUT FRIGGING TIME!

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 7:36am

    Re: Re: Re: About Fricking Time

    I think you made my point exactly. In places where more than just the connector itself is defined then there can be interoperability. Our 110 volt/60 Hz power in the US is an example.

    Places where only the connector is a standard part but the electic connections used with that connector are not standardized are where you run into problems. The Dell power supply is an example - standard connector, non-standard electric connections. To avoid the burn out problem you referred to manufacturers use proprietary connectors. Dell made a bad choice and you hate it - if they went with a proprietary connector you would hate it. There are just no good standards for some of this stuff.

     

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  28.  
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    Crabby (profile), Feb 18th, 2009 @ 8:48am

    Re: Great Idea

    Legislating stuff makes lawyers rich. Don't you want lawyers to get richer?

    Regarding "change": the only change this administration will give us are the few pennies left in our pockets after our paychecks get sucked dry by new taxes.

     

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  29.  
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    Crabby (profile), Feb 18th, 2009 @ 8:51am

    Re: Re: Great Idea

    "Nothing wrong with a standard. It's not anti-free market."

    You're right -- there's nothing wrong with a standard when it is FREELY ADAPTED by the free market. I have a problem with the government (any government) telling us what to do.

     

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  30.  
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    Azrael, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 10:11am

    Too little too late. Thru my family we own 5 phones, each with it's own charger, data cable and software. Considering the fact 3 of them are Samsung you can figure yourself how the situation really stinks right now.

     

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  31.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 18th, 2009 @ 10:20am

    Re: Re: Re: Great Idea

    You're right -- there's nothing wrong with a standard when it is FREELY ADAPTED by the free market. I have a problem with the government (any government) telling us what to do.

    Me too. But this is a gov't mandated standard.

     

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  32.  
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    nasch, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 1:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: These are not chargers...

    I don't think that's right. I just looked around and checked 3 different DC power bricks (though not all for phones), and they have 3 different output power levels. I assume they have to settle on a standard voltage and amperage for the transformer to output to the phone, right? Unless the phones can handle a wide range, which maybe is the case I don't know.

    To Michael Faraday, we're not just talking about plugging into a USB port, but changing from wall power.

     

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  33.  
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    nasch, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 1:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Great Idea

    I think you mean this is NOT a government mandated standard.

     

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  34.  
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    Andrew, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 1:41pm

    Correction: micro not mini

    They are standardising on micro USB not mini USB. Yes, they are different.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    m, Feb 18th, 2009 @ 1:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: These are not chargers...

    nasch said:

    I assume they have to settle on a standard voltage and amperage for the transformer to output to the phone, right?

    No, if it's only a question of charging, they don't have to do even that. Even the cheapest charger (inside the cell phone) accepts voltages from 4.5 to 6V. Many newer ones accept higher ranges. The current is also set by the charger inside the cell phone, so the current capability of the external ac/dc brick is irrelevant.

     

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  36.  
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    Andrew E., Mar 4th, 2009 @ 1:25am

    Mobile Phone Companies....

    Recharging hassles will soon be a thing of the past with mobile phone companies announcing on a one-size-fits-all charger for every new handset. Key mobile phone industry players agreed to fit phones with the same power socket by 2012, The new interface will be a mini USB. In this age of electronic overload, you need to have all kinds of different accessories. Many people would consider getting a payday loan to make their technology hassles a little bit easier. For less than the amount of a payday loan, consumers could cut down the hassle considerably. A move to a universal charging appliance would be a deft one, as it would certainly make things easier. This way, you won’t have to get a payday loan to find the actual charger you need.

     

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  37.  
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    paws, May 2nd, 2009 @ 2:30pm

    Re: Re: These are not chargers...

    You're keeping them because on a subconscious level, it's environmentally correct.

     

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