back to article Standard smartphone charger to dominate in two years

A new generation of smartphones capable of using the same charger - from manufacturers including Apple, Nokia and RIM - will begin appearing in the new year, following the release of European technical standards. The standards, based on Micro-USB, have been welcomed today by the European Commission, which says they will be a …

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Silver badge

A decade too late

Why, in the name of glod, didn't they do this a decade ago? or two?

Along with a standard file format for address book entries? That could be read straioght off the phone in usb mode, rather than requiring MS Look Out?

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Gold badge

Not too late

Probably because two decades ago was 1990 and phones were scarce, 12 million people worldwide had one. Compared with now where the number is about 4 billion.

One decade ago Nokia was the market leader, so it wasn't that much of an issue.

As for why it is being done now, who knows. But it will cause problems for makers of iPod docks. It is why the iPod connector hasn't changed because so many accessories expect that connector to be there.

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Vote with your wallet

If this is important to you, buy a phone that does it - Nokia's N900 for instance...

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Unhappy

N900 for instance....

I know it was only a "for instance" but, it would have to be the only feature important to you for you to go for the N900. With the possible exception of the camera (although "only" 5 megapixel) everything else on the N900 was half-finished or poorly implemented (I previously owned one) and the fairly thin number of apps available to fill the gaps only helps a bit. Shame, because in some ways (32GB internal memory, TV out, FM transmitter) the N900 was pretty hot but the basic features of the phone were poor - if Nokia couldn't make the N900 actual phone features themselves easy and pleasant to use then they really are lost!

As a long-term Nokia "fan" I was sad to go elsewhere, but the HTC Desire Z I replaced the N900 beats Nokia's recent half-baked, buggy offerings in every area (except for the camera maybe).

Sorry, as a disappointed ex-N900 owner had to get that off my chest!

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nice

iPhone 5 with a micro-usb connector, nice. or is it? The USB spec does not account for the watts required to charge most smart-phones while in operation, only with screen off. That means either very slow charges, or that they can't actually use the USB logos and advertise them as such.

I'm all for a standard connector, and a standard charger capable of numerous voltages to support an array of devices (as the iPad and iPhone wal-warts can do), and phones that accept variable voltage input, but choosing a system limited to 5w is simply dumb. I'd have quickly preferred they standardize on the iPhone dock connector instead of USB. Better than charging, a universal multi-purpose port would have been a better idea, and could apply to many more devices than just phones.

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Anonymous Coward

Are you for real?

USB is IS "a universal multi-purpose port". A proprietary iPhone connectior isn't.

And USB not limited to 5w. There's a Battery Charging specification that allows dedicated charging stations to provide 9W, with no data support.

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FAIL

what the hell am I talking about?

Err, what you're essentially proposing here is 'that instead of using wheels, why dont we design and build our own aeroplanes?'

I also dont buy that it has to be limited to 5 watts. you're using the port hardware, not the standard*, whilst you could, in theory, charge it with a standard USB-to-microusb cable, I'd imagine that an Outlet-charger-to-micro-usb could, supply as much power as you liked. its a transformer and a pair of copper wires, yanno? you could even incorporate communication between charger-and-device to negotiate the power supplied, though I have absolutely no idea how that'd work in practical terms.

Its sad that I know how much work port standards are but dont have a clue if you can even make variable-supply transformers. fail for my fail ^_^

*IDK the actual terms of the agreement.

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I can't say I agree

My Tmobile pulse charges up just fine using micro USB. Hard to believe but some manufacturers are capable of supporting an existing standard without having a big stick waved at them...

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FAIL

iPhone connector? Why?

Why would you adopt a proprietry USB connector that's 10 times the size of a micro usb one, for the same purpose?

It may surprise you to know that there are more people in the word who do not own an iAnything and have no connector cables. I do, however, have a micro-usb cable, a few of them in fact.

And really, do you think that Apple would licence their connector for nothing to every other mobile phone manufacturer???

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FAIL

You sir

I take it you didn't read the part about being "based" on the microUSB spec? Likely, the "based on" part accounts for extra amps/volts/etc for in-use charging. Likely it would take lower power or higher wall-charger power. Of course, the iPhone won't use the usb connection for data, just for charging, as everything has to go through their special connector. Else they'd piss off a load of iGottahaves that bought the "old" <=iPhone4 accessories for 2x what they're worth.

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Happy

Easy fix.

Make the USB charger totally braindead, I.e. 'USB 1.1' so the charger can supply any amount of current and the phone gets charged. It's only USB 2 or 3 that requires the phone to tell the host how much current it needs.

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Gold badge

USB is the limiting factor

Has it escaped your attention that the Apple sync cable attaches to a USB port on a computer? so it is limited to what USB can supply, except for when you plug the cable into the mains charger.

Firewire provides quite a bit of power in comparison and at 30v not 5v.

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lol

Wow. Apple zealot much? A USB charger that is just a wall wart charges my phone in about an hour. Attached to the PC it does deliver less amps/watts, but who cares? That is a secondary charging convenience. It is about time this happened, although most providers are already moving in this direction. Far better than the proprietary one off plugs designed specifically to generate frustration in users and money for manufacturers. Say bye bye to all the "special" plug items for i whatevers.

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Thumb Down

iPhone dock connector? Bah!.....

...the reason they didn't choose that is that it's absolutely enormous and has a lot of connections on it that are nothing to do with charging. Not a good choice at all.

One thing that needs looking at carefully is some mechanical support for the charging connector and plug, if a phone falls off the surface it's on then the connector is very easily damaged by the rotational force unless the leverage applied can be prevented from acting on the micro-USB parts and instead be deflected into the phone casing.

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I can't say I agree

My Tmobile pulse charges up just fine via micro USB, some manufacturers are enlightened enough to support standards before a big stick is waved at them...

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Boffin

This was amusing.

To find out I dont really know what Im talking about it but my guesses are still more accurate than your 'statements'? priceless.

genius, because my fail > your smarts.

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Go

Uh Oh

Way too technical, and electrical theory oriented, for this bunch dude.

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Anonymous Coward

FYI

Apples Ipod connector originally supported Firewire charging - there was a pin that could supply anything up to 30V and a lot of accessories used it. Apple soon got bored of having to support this relatively high voltage, and dropped the feature, insisting that the things be charged from the USB power pins. Many of the previously standard accessories then stopped working with new Iproducts.

the 5 Watt limit is actually 5 x 150mA @ 5V according to my spec (3,75W), which is a bit low I'll grant you, but serves a purpose. Not that Apple give a shit, their Iphone takes up to 1.5 Amps from a USB socket, in flagrant violation of the spec.

Oh, and finally, the Ipod connector is only available for authorised product and its supply is closely policed, not least because Apple want $3 royalty per accessory, and tying it to the proprietary connector is the easiest way to rake it in.

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Pint

"Think different"? "Think difficult", more like!

I have some Apple kit but their instance on using non-standard port connectors is one of the worst decisions they made. Most portable devices have either of the two small micro-USB connectors, so why couldn't Apple standardise on that? Oh yes, they could extract sums of money from third-party hardware makers, which looking through the cheap Taiwanese/Chinese knock-offs on eBay ain't worked so well for 'em!

The quicker Apple climb down just a few feet from their ivory tower and play just a bit nicer, the better we will all be.

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Silver badge

The dock connector does more than micro USB

It also carries things like analogue video and line level analogue audio, which facilitate the majority of docks. Replace it with micro USB and you'd either have to add a variety of extra ports or require many docks to add USB, memory and digital-to-analogue hardware.

Of course proprietary is bad and proprietary and licensed worse, but it's like saying that Microsoft should have replaced win32 with POSIX. The two may overlap in some usage patterns but otherwise are designed to provide very different functionality.

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Troll

ugh...

you know, I was reading what you were saying and thinking that you were making sense untill you droped the apple fanboi nonsense about the apple iphone dock connection....

for other manufacturers to use the judas phone/fondle slabconnector would mean paying apple stupid amounts of money.... pushing the price of phones up.....

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WTF?

Eh 5W?

Where did you get 5W from?

USB 2.0 spec. is 5V at a maximum of 0.5A. That is 2.5W.

Luckily for mobiles/gadgets manufacturers it's easy to get around this limit by simply making the phone pretend to be USB 1.1 as far as powering is concerned.

USB 1.1 lets the master decide what current to pass to the device. Nowadays this is often 1-2A. (5-10W) not the humble 0.5A it once was.

USB 2 master has to be told by the device how many 0.1A units it wants (up to 5 units). Otherwise it just gets 0.1A.

USB 3 allows officially up to 1.5A.

But this hasn't stopped USB 2 power chargers being offered to the public which can supply 1A or even 2A!

Quite frankly this is just asking for trouble.

As you increase the current flowing in the cable, you get voltage loss in the cable and it of course heats up. Also increased risk of fires and plastic melting if there is a short-circuit.

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Alert

Only Apple

Isn't this a bit behind the times?

Everyone except apple can already charge from the microusb.

Sure, nokia give out a different charger, but they can still use the same as the HTC

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Len
FAIL

A micro USB does not mean it charges

My two month old Nokia C3 has a micro USB connector. However, it refuses to charge through it.

I can charge my iPod from any PC but have to bring my proprietary Nokia charger with me to charge my brand new Nokia.

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My current Nokia does both

It came with a mains to micro-USB lead, a PC to micro-USB lead, and an adaptor that allowed you to use one of the old style Nokia chargers that everyone and their mum has. Not bad

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Not all nokias

6303 - You can take it from USB (wall plug or computer) but it goes into a charger socket

The micro connector is just for data and will not provide a charge.

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Anonymous Coward

@Not all nokias

While it is true that the wall wart plugs into a separate charger socket on the 6303, my 6303i Classic will also charge via the micro USB socket.

It is doing so a I write this, plugged into my laptop.

While I agree that a standard connector makes a lot of sense, it's a shame that they used the micro rather than the mini USB. I have loads of those leads around, but now I need another "special" one just for the Nokia.

Perhaps tha price of phones can now drop marginally by not including a wall wart charger with every one that is sold. A standard charger can be purchased seperately should it die, and they are cheap enough anyway, but I certainly don;t need a multitide of those either.

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Anonymous Coward

@ @Not all nokias

Mini USB is a horrible connector. Micro has a much more positive insertion due to the sprung bits on it, doesn't flap about and break connections all the time and is supposedly another order of magnitude more durable. And it's half as thick.

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Jobs Horns

Apple are signed up? But...

.... since when do they play ball? How does this affect the after-market sales of iJunk docks, clocks and other 'stuff'? Don't they all need to use the Apple proprietary connector?

I don't see how Apple can be part of this at all unless they want to abandon their existing user base.

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I'll bet you ten quid...

...that they keep the proprietary connector, and provide an adaptor to micro-USB for charging only.

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Len
Stop

Why not?

Why would Apple not play ball? Do you really think they earn their money by selling people cables to charge their iDevices? Apple was in the first batch of companies to sign this MOU and I don't see why they wouldn't be. It only offers more convenience for their customers.

Mind you, USB will not replace the dock connector, it will be in addition. Unless the USB standard body invents a new USB standard that offers the dozens of additional features the dock connector (analog audio and video signal? Firewire?) has but USB hasn't...

http://www.allpinouts.org/index.php/Apple_iPod,_iPad_and_iPhone_dock

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Silver badge

Yet another adaptor?

They could support this through a usb to ipod adaptor, but perhaps they won't.

Changing the connector would lead to selling a whole lot of new add-ons.

Even the standard connector does not have a standard placement. A speaker-thing I bought for my wife fits her ipod nano, but the connector position changed on more recent ipod nanos and does not fit mine.

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Clueless

USB offers everything that the dock can do with the exception of analog. You can't watch a movie off of a HDD that is connected by USB? USB is just a means of transfer and a connector, it can do anything that the dock can do with a lot less pins. Why wold someone want analog anyway; digital content being converted to analog.

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Have both for a while

Having both types of connector on iStuff for a while would be the obvious answer, but supply new equipment with only a micro USB charger.

Legacy docks and cables can be used for a while.

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Go

Yep, ...

... and pretty soon we'll have adapters to mate to adapters so we can all use the same cable for everything. Why not make all car keys the same but issue adapters as a standard option (isn't that an oxymoron?) so the one UCK (Universal Car Key) works for all makes and models? Then you can charge some huge sum for lost adapters and have as a marketing ploy that the vehicle uses the UCK.

No thanks. Individual cables have never been a problem for those of us who live above the basement and can think for ourselves.

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Go

Damn!

Now I got to stop watching movies off my USB HDD. I got to stop reading this site, too many things I've enjoyed for so long only to learn from the resident gurus I can't do. Well frakk.

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jai
Silver badge

so now i need two chargers?

one for my iphone and one for my ipad?

is this smartphone's only? so there's still billions of unsmartphones that'll need seperate chargers?

or is the idea that, being usb, we shouldn't need chargers because we can just hook it up to our computers at home and at work... except, at work, we're so security paranoid that any usb device that is connected gets wiped and some encryption software applied to it which blitzed all the data on people's Android phones here. so we'll still need to use a stand-alone charger anyway.

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FAIL

D'UH!

Yes but a standalone that can charge ANY phone, that is the point ! You shouldn't be plugging stuff in to work computers but with a common standard everyone at your work can share a common charger.

Apple will just give a free adapter in their new devices you will still have your beloved patent protected dock connector.

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Boffin

Just because it's USB...

Just because it's USB doesn't mean you have to plug it into a PC.

Nearly all new phones (except Apple) use a micro USB cable for both data and power, and they come with a Wall-Wart PSU with USB socket for mains charging.

If you really want to charge up off a PC without making a data connection then either set your phone's USB mode to power only, or get a power-only cable. They are included with pretty much every "multi-phone charger kit" available in supermarkets for a few quid, and only connect to the Vcc+ and GND pins of the USB port, plus send enough power back on the signal line to let the phone know it's OK to draw power.

I picked up an in-car multicharger from Morrisons for about £5, screwed the microUSB connector to it and have it connected to my Laptop docking station permanently at my desk. When I connect to it the PC doesn't register a new device so no risk of it wiping any files.

Frankly, users who ignore security posts about connecting non-work devices to their work PCs deserve to get their phones wiped, if only to teach them to 'F'ing listen. I also find it very difficult to believe that any software would arbitrarily reformat / encrypt an attached storage device without prompting the user first - Deny Access to unencrypted volumes, fine, but just go ahead and wipe without prompting? I don't think so - unless your Desktop & Server people are both script monkeys and very, very stupid.

And no - it doesn't necessarily mean that you'll need two chargers - I seriously doubt that Apple will remove their proprietary connector, they'll probably just have MicroUSB as well.

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Thumb Up

Interesting...

...to see Apple, the biggest user of proprietary connectors, on the list. And HTC, whose phones already use MicroUSB, not on the list. Hmmmmmmm...

I honestly never thought I'd see Apple sign up to a standard that loosens their grip on the accessories market.

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Don't forget Sony...

Sony is one of the worst companies for proprietary crap on phones. They still can't use SD cards like the rest of the world... yet somehow, they're signed up for this.

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Anonymous Coward

Not to be pedantic about it

but SE has actually FINALLY stopped insisting on putting M2 slots in their new phones. Current releases such as the X10, the Spiro and the Zylo all take standard MicroSD cards.

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Sony do use standard stuff...

My new Sony Ericsson Xperia X10i does use standard stuff - I.e. Micro SD cards and MicroUSB chargers - alas this means I no longer have a spare charger, but have about half a dozen fast port chargers lying around doing nothing...

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Pint

EU concerned for the phone users? Rubbish!

This has very little to do with the announced environmental reasons. It is far more to do with getting a common plug connection on the phones. That way, forensic analysis is so much easier and quicker when Mr Plod happens on a phone.

I've been drinking a bit much beer for the holiday, so lets allow the scary thoughts to go really wild ... Will we see a roadside version of the forensic phone examiner in the near future? What are the odds that at every stop and search (remember that they now have no need to pretend your driving has suffered from drink!) not only will they demand that you blow into their machine, they will also demand your phone and attach it to their machine, just to see if you have been ringing any of their known naughty boys. And of course to build up their knowledge of you as well, to add to the DNA database, and to the ANPR database, and to the last two years worth of internet activity and landline phone call records that they already have.

Paranoid? Its the drink that gets me like that, but at least it makes those mental images of Big Brother go away.

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Thumb Up

a good example of bureaucracy being slower than technology :)

it might be just me... but my current phone uses microusb, my old phone used microusb, my dads 2 year old motrolla uses this.. in fact only my iphone (and maybe lg) owning friends dont have a microusb charger! still, its been a long time coming and its nice to be able to charge most places i go! :)

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FAIL

Nah, you're confusing mini & micro

"it might be just me... but my current phone uses microusb, my old phone used microusb, my dads 2 year old motrolla uses this"

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Anonymous Coward

HTC are already using micro USB

HTC are already using micro USB connectors, or, at least, a proprietory connector that can accept a micro USB cable.

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Len
FAIL

But does it charge?

My brand new Nokia C3 has micro USB but not for charging...

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Boffin

According to the HTC web site....

....all of their recent phones use:

"Standard micro-USB (5-pin micro-USB 2.0)"

it's in the specification tab.....

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@Len

Yes, HTC use micro USB for both charging and data.

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