Fingers crossed for a mobile industry standard

mobilecharger Possibly the most interesting news so far to come out of the Mobile World Congress taking place in Barcelona this week is that there seems to be clear agreement among mobile operators and equipment manufacturers to develop and bring to market a universal mobile phone charger.

Imagine: a tool to charge your phone that will fit any future phone on the market. You know what’s it like right now, don’t you? If you have, say, three phones from different manufacturers, you’ll have three different chargers. And there’s quite a market for chargers!

So this idea, led by the mobile industry body the GSM Association (GSMA), brings together 17 leading mobile operators and manufacturers with a commitment to a universal device:

[…] The aim of the initiative, led by the GSMA, is to ensure that the mobile industry adopts a common format for mobile phone charger connections and energy-efficient chargers resulting in an estimated 50 per cent reduction in standby energy consumption, the potential elimination of up to 51,000 tonnes of duplicate chargers1 and the enhancement of the customer experience by simplifying the charging of mobile phones. The group has set an ambitious target that by 2012 a universal charging solution (UCS) will be widely available in the market worldwide and will use Micro-USB as the common universal charging interface.

[…] The initial group of companies who have joined the GSMA’s UCS initiative include 3 Group, AT&T, KTF, LG, mobilkom austria, Motorola, Nokia, Orange, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telenor, Telstra, T-Mobile and Vodafone – some of the world’s largest mobile operators and manufacturers who together are committed to making a universal charging solution a reality up to 2012 and beyond.

Micro-USB is a connector that you see increasingly on mobile devices. The only major mobile device that I can see being a bit of a stick-in-the-mud in the iPhone as that has a proprietary interface. At least, current models do.

The environmental-benefit aspect of the GSMA’s initiative is terrific. That plus the user convenience angle, appealing to individuals’ self interest, makes a powerful communication combination.

A great initiative, one that I hope does come to fruition.

Read the details in the GSMA’s press release.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Jeff De Cagna

    Neville, I totally agree that this is good news, but the standard must include Apple and RIM if it is going to really matter. Can’t imagine why RIM would be a problem, although they aren’t on the list above. You’re right though…Apple could be a big obstacle. Let’s hope they won’t be.

  2. neville

    Couldn’t agree more, Jeff. Wonder what will happen with iPhone. The micro-USB interface is pretty large compared to the one on the current iPhones. I imagine it could present Apple with a design issue to overcome. Or ignore. Or maybe come out with an adapter.

    As for RIM, don’t latest Blackberry models already have micro-USB built in? The issue, though, may well be like recent Nokia models: my N95 8GB, for instance, has a micro-USB interface. But that’s not for charging, only for synchronizing the phone with a PC. There’s a separate (and Nokia-proprietary) interface to plug in a charger cable.

    So if this planned standard really is to be universal, then it needs all the manufacturers to be on board. But it’s early days yet.

  3. rodica

    This is a very useful idea and it’s one of the reasons I’ve always been partial to Nokia phones. You could trade chargers with a buddy and you could (usually) re-use chargers from one phone to your next.

    Once each manufacturer sees this as a priority in serving the customer & put some thought into that individually, then they can all get together to come up with a standard that makes sense.

  4. neville

    That worked fine with Nokia chargers until Nokia came out with a model that had a slightly smaller connector hole than before. They now make tons of money selling little adapter cables :)

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