back to article EU move to standardise phone chargers is bad news for Apple

In a move that'll be cheered by phone users the world over, the European Union has decided that mobile phones should have a standard charger plug. In a unanimous vote, the EU's Internal Market Committee decided that there's no good reason the charger should be treated as a proprietary secret. As German MEP Barbera Weiler put it …

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Anonymous Coward

Standardised connector

What we'll end up with is something with all the appeal and elegance of a SCART connector.

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Meh

Re: Standardised connector

Or a car power socket....

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Re: Standardised connector

> What we'll end up with is something with all the appeal and elegance of a SCART connector

No, we'll end up with micro-USB. As on the non-Apple brands who signed the deal to standardize connector.

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HMB

Re: Standardised connector

> What we'll end up with is something with all the appeal and elegance of a SCART connector.

It's all well and good being facetious about it, but you could quite legitimately attack the poor implementations of Micro USB instead. I've had to replace the Micro USB port on my Samsung Galaxy Nexus already because it failed.

The notion of one connector to rule them all for charging is kind of nice in one sense, but it must be acknowledged that this move could harm innovation in the future.

I've never bought an Apple product, but I recognise that they may quite legitimately have simply tried to improve on Micro USB.

Including a microchip in the lightning charging cable to prevent cheap cables being made though, that just makes them assholes. Would it really be so hard for Apple to sell reasonably priced charging cables from the get go?

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Re: Standardised connector

Ahh because the 30-pin iPod connector is so small and elegant!

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Pint

Re: Standardised connector... like, err, Micro USB

When the EU started this process, the target was actually Nokia who produced a new charger every-time they changed the amps for each new battery. The EU consulted the vendors who unexpectedly suggested USB as the standard because all their new Symbian smartphones would need to connect to a PC anyway. After quit a lot of haggling they settled on micro-USB (I preferred mini-USB)

Apple wasn't in the discussion because even they didn't think the iPod-with-a-phone was going to replace real work phones.

As EU meddling goes, this has got to be one of those all-time great success stories.

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Re: Standardised connector... like, err, Micro USB

"the target was actually Nokia" No that is rubbish. Nokia agreed on a global standard. The Nokia chargers still work, all they did was to make a smaller pin, but adding a 10 cm piece from a larger pin to a smaller one still works, and with a pin you need not fight about how to turn it. I was happy about the USB becoming a standard. The number of chargers we have is staggering and if you loose one for your laptop or something then you pay dearly for a new "official" one. (for no reason at all), The problem with USB I have is that when I connect it to a laptop for charging, I also connect it to the internet. Anyway, "every-time they changed the amps for each new battery" is completely rubbish too. So far the only intelligent connector for charging is that damned simple pin but I can understand if one wanted more with that space. And while we discuss things which should have been solved some twenty years ago we are pissed again with competing standards for wireless charging. We are always pissed. Eventually, perhaps, not from the same direction, but always from some direction.

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Re: Standardised connector... like, err, Micro USB

Forget the extra pins hack for charging. USB already has a trivial mechanism for specifying current. When the data lines are active, power is negotiated via USB protocol. When the data lines are shorted together in the charger, power is regulated via voltage droop. That is, the device draws as much power as it can without the voltage going out of spec. The charger lets the voltage droop when it's at its limit. It's taking advantage of two features - over current protection and under voltage protection - that are already efficiently implemented in many switching power supplies. It also means that a stack of solar cells and a 5.1V zener diode shunt works perfectly with out any fancy tech. Imagine getting that approved by Apple.

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Re: Standardised connector

Yeah, right. Just like 30 pin (or 16 pin) monstrosity has any elegance whatsoever.

I would have preferred if they settle on mini-USB as it is generally more sturdy.

In any case, USB can support data at rates necessary for audio, video, storage and networking. So as a last resort, you can implement nearly any "innovation" as network protocol. A good example here would be Mirror Link - something which is years ahead of anything Apple themselves are doing.

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Anonymous Coward

Apple

Apples charger connection is supposed to be smart and can be 'programmed' for different functions.

While the EU thinks this might be a good idea I doubt that it would be practical.

Imagine every charger is made the same, well what about the advent of new technology in the future. How do you go about telling 20,000,000 manufacturers that they must comply and change production as one. It is one of those 'ideals' that will fizzle out.

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Re: Standardised connector

"\What we'll end up with is something with all the appeal and elegance of a SCART connector"

At least that was better than the American bodge of a dozen + RCA connectors to do the same thing...

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Re: Standardised connector

" I recognise that they may quite legitimately have simply tried to improve on Micro USB."

They tried to improve the cash return over using Micro USB....

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Re: Standardised connector: SCART

That was Peritel, a French attempt to block imports to France.

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Re: Standardised connector

> Including a microchip in the lightning charging cable to prevent cheap cables being made

Of course, there are no chips in the lightning to USB charging cable. Lightning to USB cables are sold at prices about 1 UKP on Amazon and elsewhere.

There are chips in the (say) Lightning to audio or video cables, because the interface is an all digital bus, and you need some digital to analog conversion to get out these formats. Such chips would exist on USB interfaces in devices that support it.

Funny enough, all of Apple's devices do charge over USB only so why are they picked up in stories like this? Perhaps because mentioning Apple generates more clicks...

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Re: Imagine getting that approved by Apple.

Did you ever know, that all Apple mobile devices, except some very early iPods charge via USB only?

They also implement all the current regulating techniques you described.

So go ahead, charge your iPhone with the solar cell and a zener diode (that must be pretty powerful and big diode, by the way -- or it will blow out at dawn).

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Re: Standardised connector... like, err, Micro USB

I too preferred Mini-USB. Micro is too fragile.

I now have a pile of 8 Mini-USB chargers and 20+ cables that are no longer of any use.

Never quite understood why micro came along, it's not like thinner and thinner phones are a good idea...

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Meh

A great success for the the EU

The EU sausage-machine has been working on this one for the best part of a decade. way back at the start of the process was euro-MPs who had separate phones for {Home; Strasbourg; Brussels} moaning about having to pack several charges or borrow ones when they'd packed the wrong ones. Way back then, every generation had a different charger with difference size pins and power rating (I had {2140, 3110, 3210, 6310} all with different chargers), and as Lars states, Nokia was happy to change.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Standardised connector

Micro USB is simply crap compared to Lightning - perhaps they should look to see if Apple will license the far superior connector for a reasonable price. For a start being able to plug it in either way is great and micro USB looks fragile and totally 2nd rate in comparison.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Standardised connector

If it was not Apple we would all agree Lightning is the better solution - unfortunately some people cannot accept Apple on any terms and would rather stick with an inferior design.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Standardised connector

You mean the old (10+ year old) connector - remember that was when everyone else was using SCART, serial cables etc. At the time it was fantastic - power and data (plus audio and video) on a single dock connector that was very widely adopted (and copied!!).

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Re: Standardised connector

I presume the "standard" will be microUSB. At least that WORKS - unlike SCART which is a heap of C.R.A.P.

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FAIL

Re: Standardised connector: SCART

Ah! - the Froggies, so THAT'S why SCART is CRAP.

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Coat

Re: Standardised connector... like, err, Micro USB (@Lars)

> We are always pissed.

Perhaps that's part of the problem.

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Re: Standardised connector... like, err, Micro USB

Actually it was well-known for a long time starting late 90s / early 2000s that any Nokia charger would fit any Nokia phone. AFAIK they only changed to a smaller-sized one in the late 2000s. Some of their competitors (particularly Sony-Ericson I think) had almost as many different chargers as they had phones.

In any case, it's effing ridiculous to have to include a new charger with every phone. I bet the majority of households all over the developed world have a little drawer with up to a dozen old and no-longer-usable chargers. Micro-USB might not be perfect but I much prefer a world in which a phone does not need to be shipped with a charger even though transferring files takes 5 seconds longer.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Standardised connector... like, err, Micro USB

What complete rubbish - Nokia have only had three chargers, one of which was micro-USB. You could have chosen literally any other phone manufacturer and got away with that statement, are you trolling?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Standardised connector: SCART

@PeterM42: "The Froggies" it's not the sodding 70s you know, do try to be a little less xenophobic.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Apple

Except there are maybe 5 manufacturers (okay, I didn't check the exact number :-), that build the 20,000,000 *brands* and slap the right sticker on the box.

So perhaps not as difficult as you believe.

Also, the micro-USB port on my cell phone can also be used to do HDMI output. You can do programmable functions, all the while using a standard connector.

So perhaps not as difficult as you believe.

I'm not too worried about technology. SCART didn't prevent HDMI. When needed, changes will happen (and they will probably happen wirelessly, which will make your worries moot).

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appeal and elegance

...it's an electrical connector FPS.

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Re: Standardised connector... like, err, Micro USB

Micro USB should be more robust, as it was designed for much higher plug/unplug usage. (5000 for Mini, 10,000 for Micro, see page 23 of the spec here: http://www.usb.org/developers/devclass_docs/CabConn20.pdf)

Personally I've never broken a micro-usb port, but I've had numerous mini-USB ports break, mainly from the female connector detaching from the board it was soldered to.

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Re: Standardised connector

"No, we'll end up with micro-USB"

With all its attendant problems about plug flexing breaking the contacts on the board by fracturing solder joints.

I've had to rework the solder joints on several mobile phones. The existing SMD designs just aren't built for this kind of activity.

What about wireless charging standards?

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Re: Standardised connector @HMB

>but it must be acknowledged that this move could harm innovation in the future

Complete twaddle, they are talking about the charger port, nothing else. There is nothing to stop apple from keeping their existing 560 pin proprietary interface or anybody else sticking on any other sort of innovative patented port they like. All they have to do to comply is stick on, most likely, a micro usb port that you can plug a standardised charger into.

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Re: Standardised connector

@cosymart The "car power socket" inherits its shape from its original function as a cigar lighter. The size was presumably the diameter of the fattest cigars.

I once took a job where I inherited the company car of a cigar smoker. No amount of steam cleaning could rid the interior of the vile smell. Also, the car was a clapped-out Volvo with burnt orange paintwork. The only solution was to find a new job.

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WTF?

re: 20,000,000 manufacturers

I imagine I could compile a list of about 50 mobile phone manufacturers. Assume my list is incomplete, and that there are 500. Who are you other 19,999,500?

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Re: Standardised connector: SCART

@PeterM42: "The Froggies" it's not the sodding 70s you know, do try to be a little less xenophobic.

Quit right. He should say "cheese-eating surrender monkeys".

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Re: Standardised connector

No, we'll end up with micro-USB. As on the non-Apple brands who signed the deal to standardize connector.

Good start, however the EU is looking into standardising phone chargers. A charger is more than the connector at the far end that plugs in to the phone. Most phones these days suck more power through a micro-USB than the USB spec allows for, and different phones want different juice. Most will charge with the stock USB max power (5V@900mA), but the newer and beefier phones are looking for 5V@1.5-2A.

So what will my "EU universal phone charger" look like? What current will it push out, and what will happen when someone plugs a regular USB device in to it?

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Re: Standardised connector

>So what will my "EU universal phone charger" look like? What current will it push out, and what will happen when someone plugs a regular USB device in to it?

As far as i can remember nothing, your regular USB device will draw the power it needs. The @n.nA rating is a maximum that can be drawn it does not push.

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LDS
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Re: Standardised connector

> Or a car power socket....

More and more cars have USB connectors today...

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Re: Standardised connector

The phones just have to be power-pin compatible with micro-usb [0]. They don't have to use micro-usb for data. People are still free to innovate if they want, it's just their devices will always be able to fit a standard micro-usb for charging purposes.

[0] Or whatever design the deign to accept as the standard.

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Re: Standardised connector

You're right, but there's no reason imaginable why the EU should be meddling with the type of sockets, on our consumer electronics. Complete waste of money. EU needs to sort out its finances before pissing about in areas like this.

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Re: Standardised connector

That connector's been superseded for over a year now, do try and keep up.

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Boffin

Re: Standardised connector: SCART

@AC 10:34

"...do try to be a little less xenophobic...."

Comme les grenouilles?

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Re: Standardised connector: SCART

@Kubla Cant

Quit right. He should say "cheese-eating surrender monkeys"

No no - now they are "America's oldest ally" since we Brits told the yanks to piss off over Syria.

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Re: Standardised connector... like, err, Micro USB

Eh? What happened to the use of a 150 ohm resistor between the data lines?

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Re: Standardised connector... like, err, Micro USB

Mini USB is a horrible connector. The weight of the plug breaks the socket over time and wasn't designed to be plugged in and out very often.

Micro USB was.

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Re: Standardised connector

That's why proper USB chargers put a 150 ohm resistor between the data lines.

When the device senses this, it assumes it is a high ampere charger.

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Re: Standardised connector... like, err, Micro USB

You can get connectors that only implement the charging part. Problem is, you always wind up with one of them when you actually want to connect to your computer...

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not Ericsson either

Since the 1990s Sony Erricsson have only had three charger types - the old Erricsson one used by the t68, my brother's late 90s Ericsson, and the p800; the fast port charger used by the d750 (iirc), k800, k810, c905 and loads of phones of the same era, then the micro usb on the Xperias

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Re: Standardised connector

Apple chargers are USB at the wall socket end, but not USB at the iDevice end of the cable, so you need a different cable to charge it.

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Re: Standardised connector

I'm not sure everyone here has quite kept up with the news.

This is Apple's solution for shipping EU-compliant chargers: http://store.apple.com/uk/product/MD820ZM/A/lightning-to-micro-usb-adapter — micro-USB goes in one end, the proprietary lightning comes out of the other.

There's no bad news for Apple here. They'll put the one very small external thing inside the box instead of the other.

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