Cellphone battery dead? No problem: Just borrow a charger from a friend. Oh, wait — you can’t, because your friend doesn’t have the same phone as you, and his charger won’t work with your phone.
That annoyance will end next year, for Europeans at least. Thanks to the efforts of the European Commission, most cellphones sold in Europe will have a one-size-fits-all charger starting in 2011. So far, 10 major cellphone makers, including Apple, Motorola, Samsung and Research In Motion, have signed on to the agreement.
Americans will have to wait. Without a government agency setting a deadline, it’s up to handset makers to make the switch to a single standard. All consumers can do is let their old chargers gather dust in a drawer, while hoping manufacturers will eventually converge on a standardized charger.
“For the FCC, this is probably number 5,000 on their list and it is legislative priority number 10,000 at this point,” says Joe Banos, chief operating officer for Wilson Electronics, which makes cellphone boosters and antennas. “We believe the U.S. will ultimately follow Europe here, but the question is when.”
Today each cellphone ships with its own charger. Different companies use different connectors — and often different models from the same company do too, making it difficult for users to borrow a charger. And when it’s time to toss the phone, the charger also goes into the bin.
A universal charger means consumers don’t have to get a new charger with every mobile phone. As a bonus, it’ll be easier to borrow a charger when in need.
And if all that isn’t enough, there’s the green aspect. One-size-fits-all means fewer chargers will wind up in the landfill, less electronic waste, and fewer resources consumed in manufacturing chargers.
In 2009, the European Commission said it reached a voluntary agreement with handset manufacturers to use the micro-USB connector for the charger. Starting in 2011, all phone models sold in Europe would then have compatible chargers. Now, that agreement is taking effect.