Arts and Culture

Cellphone makers promise one-size-fits-all charger

Adam Plowright

Leading cellphone makers had good news for anyone with a drawer full of old phone chargers on Tuesday: the industry plans to standardise the device.

Leading cellphone makers had good news for anyone with a drawer or cupboard full of old phone chargers on Tuesday: the industry plans to standardise the device to make a one-size-fits-all.

In a move set to reduce waste and increase convenience, 17 leading handset makers and operators including Nokia, Samsung and Motorola said they would move towards adopting a small USB charger as the standard across all models.

“The group has set an ambitious target that by 2012 a universal charging solution will be widely available in the market worldwide,” said a statement from industry body the GSM Association.

Currently, each cellphone maker has its own charger design, sometimes using several different ones across its range of models, which increases replacement costs for users and leads to piles of unwanted cables.

“I have dozens of chargers in my closet,” admitted the chief executive of the GSMA, Rob Conway, who said an agreement was finally reached last Friday. “Our closets will no longer be so full.”

The manufacturers had been under pressure from the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, which had threatened to legislate unless the industry came up with its own solution.

“We have not officially been told, but if the industry confirms it, we would welcome it,” said a spokesperson for EU Industry Commissioner Gunter Verheugen in Brussels.

Verheugen had told German radio station Deutsche Welle last week that with more than 30 different kinds of charger in use across the 27-nation EU, his “patience is now at an end,” according to local reports.

The GSMA also stressed the environmental advantages of the new standard, saying the new charger would be more energy efficient and would reduce waste from unwanted or obsolete chargers.

“A universal charger will also make life much simpler for the consumer, who will be able to use the same charger for future handsets, as well as being able to charge their cellphone anywhere from any available charger,” it said in a statement.

The GSMA listed the leading groups in its initiative as 3 Group, AT&T, KTF, LG, mobilkom austria, Motorola, Nokia, Orange, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telenor, Telstra, T-Mobile and Vodafone.

Mitti Storckovius, director of environment for Nokia handsets, said the company had already integrated functions to save energy in its chargers, including a message to unplug the phone when it is fully charged.

“By supporting this industry initiative ... we can contribute further in improving the industry’s environmental footprint,” he said in a statement.

At the Mobile World Congress, the industry’s biggest trade show, several cellphone makers are taking the opportunity to gauge consumer interest in “green” products.

South Korean handset maker Samsung unveiled the world’s first solar-powered cellphone on Monday called the “Blue Earth”, which it put on display in front of curious crowds here.

The device, made from recycled materials and including a pedometer to measure a user’s walking, is to be launched initially in Europe in the second half of 2009.

A full charge taking 10 to 14 hours in the sun would offer about four hours of talk time, according to company salesperson, but it can also be charged by plug.—AFP

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