Cell Phone Companies Announce Joint Plans for Universal Charger

February 17, 2009 04:08 PM
by Cara McDonough
Seventeen mobile phone companies say they are on board with a plan to be implemented by 2012 that will allow one device to charge any cell phone.
The Groupe Speciale Mobile (GSMA) trade association announced Tuesday that it has completed a deal with handset makers to develop a worldwide standard for charging mobile phones. Major manufacturers, including LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson, have agreed to use Micro-USB technology as a universal interface, allowing users to charge any cell phone battery on one device.

CNET reports that the universal charger will not only “make life easier for the more than 3 billion mobile phone users in the world today” but will also help the environment, as GSMA will push manufacturers to develop chargers that use roughly 50 percent less power.

The announcement came soon after European Commissioner Gunther Verheugen called for an end to the “cross-manufacturer/cross-compatibility headache,” as termed by tech Web site Ars Technica, and asked cell phone manufacturers to consider a universal charging standard.

His statement was not received well by the electronics industry; European Information, Communications and Consumer Electronics Technology Industry Associations Director Tony Graziano called Verheugen’s idea “legally and technically impossible” due to electrical differences in EU member countries.

But now that it’s proved feasible, many will applaud the news. In June 2006, tech journalist Walt Mossberg called for just such a device in The Wall Street Journal, asking why a society so technologically advanced hadn’t already achieved more universality in its accessories: “We are decades into the portable-electronics revolution. … Why aren’t there widely observed industry standards for the batteries and electrical chargers for these gadgets?”

Domestic darling Martha Stewart has begged the question, as well. During a Wall Street Journal conference in 2006, she ambushed Sony’s Howard Stringer with a question about why she needed a gaggle of different charging cords for all of her electronic devices. “Why can’t this thing be this thing?” she asked, pointing to two seemingly identical chargers.

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