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Universal Charger for Mobile Phones

February 23, 2009

About a week ago the BBC ran an article about standardisation of mobile phone chargers.  Not particularly interesting at first thought, but the article was quite enlightening.

Manufacturers and operators behind the plans to produce a new standardised energy efficient charger include:

  • 3 Group
  • AT&T
  • KTF
  • LG
  • Mobilkom Austria
  • Motorola
  • Nokia
  • Orange
  • Qualcomm
  • Samsung
  • Sony Ericsson
  • Telecom Italia
  • Telefónica
  • Telenor
  • Telstra
  • T-Mobile
  • Vodafone

The new charger is set to use a mini-USB connection and is set to carry a zero load power consumption so that the charger no longer draws power when the phone is charged (meaning you can leave your phone plugged in to charge overnight and still be confident that you’re acting in a responsible green manner.  Overall this new charger is expected to be up to three times more efficient than some existing chargers.

Some manufacturers are already using mini-USB based chargers for their smart phones (e.g. HTC, Google (Android), Blackberry (well the Storm anyway)), so presumably they will be compatible with the new charger.  Similarly if the choice of connection is mini-USB that has to suggest that you may be able to charge your phone from a standard mini-USB connection cable plugged into a PC USB port … or even one on a games console.

So this should mean less spare chargers in ICT store rooms and less chargers in land fill sites.  Less variation, less power consumption and potentially able to charge from a PC too.  This sounds like a great idea.

My hope is that the new Universal Charging System (UCS) is simply a plug that a standard mini-USB cable can be plugged into – just like the Apple iPod/iPhone plug and USB lead …

… which leads me to the “where’s Apple in all of this?”  They’re pushing a new greener Mac so it would make sense to be in on this too.

I would like to see that perhaps some sort of mini-USB connection exists on future iPhones and perhaps an adapter to allow the older connector to be used with it – e.g. by using the existing cables.  This assumes that you can’t simply plug the existing cables directly into a USB slot on the UCS which  I guess would be even better.

On this line it would also be useful to have some adapters to allow the older phones lacking a mini-USB connection to use such a fantastically green mini-USB connection.  I’d really love this for my Samsung Omnia for instance.

So hopefully we’ll see something appearing in the not too distant future, but waiting in the wings may be another option – the PowerMat.  I’d be interested in knowing how the efficiency here might compare as this might eliminate the need for plugin power transfer entirely.  I’m guessing that efficiency of transfer and the ability to use a mini-USB to have fast data transfers as well as power might give it more of an edge than the PowerMat can deal with.  Still my toothbrush charges using the same principle as the PowerMat so maybe I’ll be able to get a USB toothbrush in the next few years and further cut down on the chargers I need to take with me when I’m away from home?

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