back to article EU wants one phone plug to rule them all. But we've got a better idea.

European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has lost patience with phone makers insisting on using different connector designs for charging, and promised an impact study on the consumer pain that Lightning and USB causes. Vestager confirmed the policy in a Parliament Answer this month. In 2011, in response to pressure from the …

  1. Dave 15 Silver badge

    Be much more interested in...

    It would be better if they insisted that plugs and sockets were correctly physically fitted and designed to last. Lost 2 laptops due to the pathetic connector falling off the mother board taking half its tracks with it. My nice shiny new mobile phones charger connector (USB) already doesnt change most of the time because the cable is already knackered - after about 10 times of use! My old Nokias still work, still charge with a very simple connector.

    Lets have some basic quality criteria imposed on companies... if something fails within 5 years they replace the product for free, ensure no data is lost in the process, ensure the new product is compatible with the old in use (i.e. no, I dont want a crappy windows 10 replacement where office doesnt work, outlook is crap and I cant use more than one program very slowly because it uses so much memory to say hello world it needs a cray to run on, I want windows nt which functions)

    1. hitmouse

      Re: Be much more interested in...

      So you want to run an operating system that doesn't support USB?

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Be much more interested in...

        >So you want to run an operating system that doesn't support USB?

        Hey, I've got fond memories of using NT 4.0! Couldn't use USB, but it was stable and snappy!

        1. sweh

          Re: Be much more interested in...

          "NT4[...]stable and snappy"... yes, it dropped into that stable blue screen very very quickly!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Be much more interested in...

            Could almost call it Strong and Stable...

        2. Byron "Jito463"

          Re: Be much more interested in...

          Windows 2000 (NT 5.0) was just as stable, and much more modern.

          1. Bill_Sticker

            Re: Be much more interested in...

            I loved 2000 sp4 and latterly Windows 7. Both did what you told them to, were backwards compatible and rarely BSODed. Windows 10 by contrast is a complete bag of sh*te which screws around with your carefully configured settings and you can't turn off the (Spit, snarl) 'updates' unless you've forked out the extra for a 'Professional' edition.

            For example, my last Windows 10 'upgrade' managed to lose my webcams zoom facility that worked very nicely right up until July 2018. Never mind needing 'driver updates' virtually every month.

            Yes, I know I should go down the Linux route. Only the wi-fi adaptor in my spare Acer laptop isn't compatible.

            As for the changing to a pan-european power standard; think of all the extra work for Sparkys (Electricians) updating all the ring main wiring in every single house and place of work. Across Europe. All at once. Ker-ching!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        NT4 and USB support

        I remember that the last NT4 service pack was going to have USB, directX etc but they never released it, instead they sold windows 2000 as a seperate product.

        Personally I preferred 2000 over XP for workstation use and the server/domain tools have gone down hill since. After Windows 7 they completely lost the plot assuming people want to do HPC on a mobile.

        1. kain preacher Silver badge

          Re: NT4 and USB support

          Blinks NT4.0 has support up to Direct X3 and you can find a beta for direct x 5. Now if you are brave or stupid, maybe both there are third party drives to give NT 4.0 limited USB.

      3. PeterM42
        Megaphone

        Re: Be much more interested in...

        "So you want to run an operating system that doesn't support USB?"

        Actually, there was a USB driver developed for NT4 by DELL. It downloaded as R62200.EXE

        Worked quite well from what I remember.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Be much more interested in...

      My friends Dell developed a loose power port ( the barrel type). What's attractive about USB C is a well designed laptop can charge from a USB C on either side, giving redundancy and convenience (though some laptops will only charge from a specific USB C port)

      You're right though - cables vary hugely by quality. I'm in the process of weeding out my micro usb cables that don't work at all, ones that look like they're charging but aren't, and ones that are too thin for my Samsung charger to trust to Rapid Charge.

      1. rdhood

        Re: Be much more interested in...

        " I'm in the process of weeding out my micro usb cables that don't work at all, ones that look like they're charging but aren't, and ones that are too thin for my Samsung charger to trust to Rapid Charge."

        I did this about 6 months ago. I threw away all of the crappy chargers and cables... tossed them so as never to be tempted to use them again. And I only buy known quality stuff... It makes a huge difference to be using quality cables and chargers everywhere.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Be much more interested in...

      .....Power-Outlet-Sockets being universal. Have to travel a lot, so having to lug around bulky universal adapters everywhere for everything is a PITA! Even in Europe 'Plug' variation is huge.

      Why don't hotels at least embed the 'universal' part into wall-sockets in rooms! No apparently instead we all want IoT / Alexa. Yeah right! Who benefits from that except Big-Slurp!

      1. AMBxx Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Be much more interested in...

        I quite like Microsoft's approach on the new Surface Go. It has their proprietary magnetic charger plus the option for USB C. Seems like a good compromise, but presumably adds a few quid. Wouldn't work on a phone either, but MS probably don't care any more!

      2. sal II

        Re: Be much more interested in...Power-Outlet-Sockets being universal

        I have been in at least 2 Hotels that had USB ports in the outlets, which semi solves the problem. At least as far as phone charging is concerned.

        A universal alignment of power plugs is not going to happen, simply because it's too costly and difficult to implement even if by some sort of a miracle all the world comes to a consensus on the type to be used.

        1. ThomH Silver badge

          Re: Be much more interested in...Power-Outlet-Sockets being universal

          The problem with USB sockets in the walls, airports, etc, is trust. Well, either that or buying one of those USB cables that has a switch to disconnect the data pins.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Be much more interested in...Power-Outlet-Sockets being universal

            Yes, this. But I do what you suggest: I have power-only cables to use for this. No switch -- the data lines are simply not in the cable at all.

            1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

              At JohnFen, re: USB power.

              There is a dongle called a "USB condom" that allows you to plug in any standard data+power USB cable in while the other side of the dongle only has the power connections. I've got one on my keyring so I can charge stuff in public places & not worry about where the USB port has been. It's less expensive & more convenient than a specific power only USB cable, you only need carry the single normal cable, as long as you remember to wrap your plug before you get a charge out of it. ;-D

        2. Wayland Bronze badge

          Re: Be much more interested in...Power-Outlet-Sockets being universal

          What's needed is a 220vac USB standard.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Be much more interested in...Power-Outlet-Sockets being universal

            >What's needed is a 220vac USB standard.

            And the amperage? sufficient to charge one of those shiny new electric cars in 20 minutes?

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Be much more interested in...Power-Outlet-Sockets being universal

          I have been in at least 2 Hotels that had USB ports in the outlets, which semi solves the problem. At least as far as phone charging is concerned.

          ================================================================

          Only if you don't care that plugging into someone else's USB is a great way to get pwned.

      3. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Be much more interested in...

        "Why don't hotels at least embed the 'universal' part into wall-sockets in rooms!"

        Universal sockets are illegal in the UK because of the risk of electrocution.

        1. Caffeinated Sponge

          Re: Be much more interested in...

          Voltage standards are also an issue more fundamentally, but yes the UK 3 pin plug is explicitly designed to prevent electrocution by forcing an earth pin to engage before either voltage pin.

          If mains plug standards upset you, you probably shouldn’t look at America...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Be much more interested in...

            @ Caffeinated Sponge

            The earth connector does not prevent electricution however with a RCD the power can be cut before serious damage can be done. Where they do not use an earth then to get electricuted you have to make a circuit with your body between live an neutral i.e. hold live in one hand and neutral in the other for example. There is no chance of electricution from metal appliance surrounds connected to live if you do not have an earth it is only if you are stupid enough to make yourself part of the live neural circuit.

            Having an earth actually creates new dangers and only with an RCD are to really safe, add in that electronic decoupling makes for leakage to earth anyway then having an earth is considered, by many, to be more hassle than it is worth.Hence why most other countries electrical systems do not bother.

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: Be much more interested in...

              >Hence why most other countries electrical systems do not bother.

              Suspect the real reason is time, cost and inertia!

              Once you've agreed a Standard, got it deployed to millions of premises and people have been using it for 70+ years, it is difficult to change; although not impossible, remember the change over in the mid 1960's from coal gas to natural gas. Also whilst there may be benefits, the probably don't outweigh the significant costs of change.

        2. JimJimmyJimson

          Re: Be much more interested in...

          But yet, Singapore manages to have them everywhere (particularly in hotels), without people dying every minute... Then again every where apart from Britain we are grown up enough to manage power sockets in bathrooms without killing ourselves too...

      4. JulieM Bronze badge

        Re: Be much more interested in...

        "Universal" mains sockets will never be allowed in the UK because they do not meet BS1363, for at least two reasons:

        1: Over-current protection. In the UK, every plug has its own fuse, and a 32A circuit breaker supplies an unlimited number of sockets. Also, there is an extra connection looped back from the last socket back to the breaker, which effectively doubles the cross-sectional area of the cable. In the event of a fault, the appliance flex only has to withstand the excess current for long enough to blow the 3A or 13A fuse in the plug. If a non-UK plug was used without an additional fuse, the appliance flex would be in an endurance race with the 32A breaker.

        2: Safety shutters. In the UK, the extra-long Earth pin operates a mechanism to release a spring-loaded safety shutter which normally covers the live and neutral pin apertures to prevent the insertion of foreign objects.

        2.5: Earthing. Schuko and French sockets are designed so an earthed plug can be inserted into a non-earthed socket. The French system uses a pin protruding from the socket plate; the Schuko system uses edge bar contacts. The "universal" sockets just leave the earth unconnected with such plugs. Nice if you're using a hand-held, metal-cased appliance .....

        2.75: Cable entry angle. In the UK, the flexible cable enters the plug at 90 degrees to the axis of the pins. Pulling the flex will not pull the plug from the socket.

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: Be much more interested in...

          Also if you put some of the smaller plugs into a universal socket, you will have exposed gaps for the parts of the socket that accommodate larger plugs, and with some plug types, it is possible to put the earth pin into the live socket.

          These problems are specific to universal sockets and woukd not happen if the plug in question was used with the correct type of socket.

          1. The Real Tony Smith

            Re: Be much more interested in...

            I initially thought the universal reference was to USB sockets on mains sockets.

            But a quick search revealed this http://www.universalsocket.org.uk/

            An interesting read but horrendous design!

        2. MacroRodent Silver badge

          Re: Be much more interested in...

          2: Safety shutters.

          Many modern Shukos have safety shutters as well (well did't check them all, but, at least seems to be very common here in Finland). These don't need an extra pin, but open only if both pins are inserted simultaneously.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Plug cable entry angle

          Yes, I know why the UK plug is so designed, but it makes for a bulky awkward plug that both acts as a vicious caltrop for unwary bare feet, and a real hassle to try to fit the laptop power cable into a laptop sleeve.

          What we need is something that has the genuine pluses of the UK plug (earthing, fuse) but is somewhat more compact (but not to the extent of the ridiculously weedy and dangerous looking US plugs). Something perhaps just a little larger than a kettle lead type connector would be a good size to aim for, and get every country to agree on this as the new standard for new installations.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Plug cable entry angle

            "What we need is something that has the genuine pluses of the UK plug (earthing, fuse) but is somewhat more compact (but not to the extent of the ridiculously weedy and dangerous looking US plugs). "

            You mean something like this ? Available for about 5 years now.

            1. Piro

              Re: Plug cable entry angle

              I have one of those, I use it all the time when travelling.

              I think he was implying the basic standard should be changed, though, in which case there's already a new standard; although it does not have a fuse, and I dislike many other things about it (straight cables, moulded plugs - I like to rewire them, thank you!): https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/IEC_60906-1

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Plug cable entry angle

                Yes, that IEC 60906-1 plug/socket was exactly the sort of thing I was thinking of.

                It it was fused, it would seem pretty much ideal.

                (Straight cables are a definite plus for me in two ways:

                1. Not a caltrop.

                2. If you trip over a power cable and it yanks the plug out, that means you had a power cable in a stupid place, acting as a trip hazard. A right-angled plug is a hack, rather than a proper solution to that problem.)

            2. Tony W

              Re: Plug cable entry angle

              Wht are we in the UK so self-congratulatory about our power connector? Anyone who services domestic equipment knows how often an item that should have a 3 A fuse is fitted with a 13 A. (Often it's a light fitting where the lamp has failed and taken the fuse with it.)

              You could say, this isn't seriously unsafe because a likely realistic fault current would be high enough to blow the fuse before the connecting cable insulation melts. But if it's safe, why not have the 13 A fuse in the socket, and save all those bulky and expensive plugs? And if it isn't safe, the basic design that allows such easy substitution is flawed. Either way we should stop congratulating ourselves.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Plug cable entry angle

                "But if it's safe, why not have the 13 A fuse in the socket, and save all those bulky and expensive plugs? And if it isn't safe, the basic design that allows such easy substitution is flawed. Either way we should stop congratulating ourselves."

                Good points.

                Consider this. Most fused solutions are open to abuse, as well as unplanned outages (no replacement fuse available). Drop fuses entirely and go to breakers.

                Put the breakers in a panel, and pull wires to each socket or socket pair, depending on location.. At that point you are not just protecting the power cord for the device, but the entire circuit. I am all in favour of protecting wires in the walls where I can't see the smoke.

                That also makes the power draw sufficiently distributed that the number of devices in a room is unlikely to be an issue - you can freely plug things in, and the loads all go back to the breaker panel independently. As long as you don't trip the building breaker, you are fine... if you do, re-planning is in order.

              2. Roland6 Silver badge

                Re: Plug cable entry angle

                Wht are we in the UK so self-congratulatory about our power connector? Anyone who services domestic equipment knows how often an item that should have a 3 A fuse is fitted with a 13 A.

                Not sure if the two things are really related. The UK power connector simply mandates a fuse, it is up to the manufacturer to fit a fuse appropriate to their appliance.

                >But if it's safe, why not have the 13 A fuse in the socket, and save all those bulky and expensive plugs?

                I suspect that if the fuse were to be in the wall socket more often than not it would either be 13A or a piece of wire ie. 'fused' to support the maximum load the socket/circuit can deliver.

                However, I agree with you about the bulk, the UK 13A mains plug and socket is a great Standard for home appliances such as kettles, irons, vacuum cleaners etc. ie. stuff that people regularly connect and disconnect and that draw a lot of power. For sub-5A equipment its a bit of an overkill.

                I know and have used the mini 5A round pin (unfused) version of the 13A plug, for (fused) lighting spurs, that are available from electrical trade counters.

                I have also used a micro 3-pin 4 (or 6) gang multisocket for the hifi/home entertainment system, but this product is no longer available. But neither of these after-market socket styles are particularly standard when it comes to widespread usage and availability and so we can not expect equipment manufacturers to ship products fitted with these plugs.

                Which effectively means for over-the-counter products, we have to work within the constraints set by the well established UK 13A socket. The only way you are going to replace it is to define a new electricity supply interface, such as USB...

                1. potatohead

                  Re: Plug cable entry angle

                  Actually the fuse is to protect the lead from too much power, not the socket or the appliance. That's why it's on the lead. It's a common mistake to think the fuse is to protect the appliance, but it's not, so a 13 amp fuse in a table lamp is absolutely fine *if* the lead can take 13 amps.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Plug cable entry angle

              Oooh, that Lindy folding plug is clever, but no earth connector, unfortunately.

              I wonder if they do one that's suitable for Mac chargers?

              (But it'd still be better to have a new, more compact (and international) plug standard, than to have to buy a new power cable for everything. (Since we all invariably have more things needing plugged in than there are power sockets, we could still use existing power cables and plugs, connected into multi-way extension cables with the New One True Plug connected to the wall socket.))

            4. xeroks

              Re: Plug cable entry angle

              "You mean something like this ? Available for about 5 years now."

              No - that doesn't have an earth. Also way too flimsy, and reliant on moving parts for normal usage. Fine for use cases where you need the plug as small as possible.

              My Sony phone charger does something very similar for compactness, but the best one I've seen was an old apple design where all 3 prongs folded into the very normal-sized plug body, which also contained the voltage convertor goodies and a USB socket.

              It really is amazing when you think back to the huge iron transformers we had to use before high power semiconductors were cheap.

            5. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: Plug cable entry angle

              >You mean something like this ?

              Probably more like this: RCA Folding Plug , although it doesn't comply with BS 1363–1: What happened to the improved UK plug?

              However, you can buy a travel charger incorporating some of the concepts: Made in Mind .

            6. Andy A

              Re: Plug cable entry angle

              That style of connector is only available for non-earthed applications, and seems common on phone chargers.

              The "earth" pin is a plastic moulding; having a metal pin for electrical protection would require quite a bit of engineering. It would need to be able to guarantee electrical contact full-time, or disconnect the live pin in case of failure.

              What amazes me is that virtually every UK 13A plug is shipped with a hard plastic "condom" over the pins. The pins need no protection because the plug is very robust. They are never live when unplugged from a mains socket. The only possible reason is when the paintwork on white goods might be scratched by a loose plug when in transit. Why did the cable for your last purchase of computer equipment have one when it was also inside a plastic bag?

          2. Mark2410

            Oz

            See the Australian standard plug, 3 pin like a mini UK plug, its great for most electrical needs.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Oz

              "Australian standard plug, 3 pin like a mini UK plug"

              Standardised in 1932, based on a 1911 american 230V plug made by the Hubner company, also adopted by China, (and Argentina/Uruguay - with live and neutral swapped). Unlike the US 110V plug the body of this plug has sufficient material around the pins to ensure no finger contact is possible.

              If you step on one of these babies (side entry version) in the middle of the night, the pain is unforgettable. They're known to draw blood, occasionally requiring a visit to A&E for a tetanus shot or removal. UK plugs are mild by comparison.

              Australia standardised variants for 110VAC/110VDC/240VDC based on pin orientation at the same time. They still exist but are rare.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Plug cable entry angle

            What we need is something that has the genuine pluses of the UK plug (earthing, fuse) but is somewhat more compact (but not to the extent of the ridiculously weedy and dangerous looking US plugs)

            ============================================================================

            Those 'dangerous looking' plugs have been in use with no real issues for a century... while the absurdly bloated clunky UK plugs add cost, complexity, size, and way too much scope for someone to bypass the fuse.

          4. ENS
            Black Helicopters

            US & CA Plugs

            The north American plugs and sockets are very compact but the tolerances are very poor, so it's pointless for a device to rely on live and neutral being correctly connected, as the wider blade universally seems to fit into the narrower slot, unless there is an earth pin.

            Plus the majority of device plugs are earthless, even if the earthed version is already substantially more compact than either UK or European earthed plugs. If everything over - say 100W - was earthed, that would start to promote a higher standard. Adopting earthed plugs universally on US&CA devices universally would be a better move, as there are knock-on effects of using a ('non-polarised') 2-pin plug as standard. Firstly it drives unrealistic expectations on the size of products containing integrated plugs: if a product is designed to have 2 flat blades protruding, it's more difficult to adapt to larger EU and UK plugs. Secondly, for products with a power cord, there have been many last minute 'gotcha's' when trying to fit an EU or UK plug into packaging designed for a US 2-prong.

        4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Be much more interested in...

          "Universal" mains sockets will never be allowed in the UK because they do not meet BS1363, for at least two reasons:

          You'd think that after all these years, the EU would have standardised on the UK wall plug/socket combo by now. They are well known for forcing all of the EU to whatever is the "highest" standard, rather than averaging out. See copyright duration as a prime example. the average was 50 years, same as the UK, but we had to switch everyone to 60 years because that was the highest (Germany).

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Be much more interested in...

            "You'd think that after all these years, the EU would have standardised on the UK wall plug/socket combo by now."

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IEC_60906-1 is arguably better, with much better finger protection and still able to be handled by arthritic hands.

            The reason for the UK plug being fused is rooted back in the dim dark post WW2 days of copper shortages, aluminium cabling, ring mains and submains protecting far too many sockets (it wasn't uncommon for entire houses to be "protected" by one fuse on the mains board. In that environment you _need_ fused plugs to prevent house fires.

            The reality is that they add a point of unreliability and allow cowboy electrical workers to get away with wiring jobs that simply wouldn't be allowed in other parts of europe (where there are generally strict limits on the number of sockets allowed per spur along with the size of the cabling feeding them.)

            Electrical plugs are one of those things which have ultranationalists up in arms about - whilst those living in countries where the standards are fluid just wish the world would standardise on one common connector and be done with it (the reasons for 50/60hz make for interesting reading too - Edison vs Westinghouse of course.

        5. nagyeger
          Flame

          Re: Be much more interested in...

          You forgot:

          In Europe, the half-hearted attempt at safety shutters on Schuko/french sockets relies upon the pins pushing sloping shutters out of the way, a motion which is only made possible by the presence of some kind of lubricant. When said lubricant has melted/vanished/gone sticky or when the track/pivot on which the shutters are laughingly described as moving is no longer in perfect condition, the only way to get the pins into the socket remaining is wiggle, twist and apply extreme force, e.g. with a large hammer. Said tool of course further damages the shutters and does bad things to the cable, and the whole process may lead to bruising of the head against nearby brick walls.

          Add to this the disaster known as "switched socket, what's that?" and you have to unplug / plug in the stupid things far more than you would in the UK.

        6. vistisen

          Re: Be much more interested in...

          What I have never understood is why in the bathroom (which is the room in the house where most water gets splashed around) all shaving power points have no earth pin in the socket! When I visit the UK. this is where I end up charging my phone as I can stick a Danish phone charger directly into one.

          But apart from that I agree entirely that the English way should be adopted as the sensible standard, at least in new buildings. I constantly amazed when visiting friends to find that in the kitchen we can't use a kettle and a toaster at the same time as the ring mains to the kitchen has 5amp fuses in the circuit breakers, to protect the devices. I try to explain that the clever thing about fuses in plugs is that when for example a lamp shorts out, it is only the lamp that goes dark, not the whole house! They look at me and invariable say “But the plugs are so massive and ugly”!

        7. adam 40

          Re: Be much more interested in...

          Mostly agree except on the last point why is it my lawnmower plug pulls out of the socket when I get to the furthest part of the lawn?

          As the earlier poster points out carrying adapters is a pain, which is only magnified when you go on holiday with family including recalcitrant teenagers and their associated electronics, and non-technical wife.

          In the past I confess to cutting the ends off the wire and "plugging" the camera charger into the socket holes....

    4. the spectacularly refined chap

      Re: Be much more interested in...

      It would be better if they insisted that plugs and sockets were correctly physically fitted and designed to last. Lost 2 laptops due to the pathetic connector falling off the mother board taking half its tracks with it. My nice shiny new mobile phones charger connector (USB) already doesnt change most of the time because the cable is already knackered - after about 10 times of use! My old Nokias still work, still charge with a very simple connector.

      The Micro USB standard was expressly designed so that the (cheap) cable would fail before the socket on the (expensive) devices does so this is actually by design. On the other hand, how long the lead lasts seems very much in the hands of the user. I'm now on the third charging cable in my desk at work in the last two years - I've used them all at least every other day without issue. The two replacements that were needed were on the odd occasion they were lent to a colleague. And yes, it was the same colleague in both instances...

  2. Dave 126 Silver badge

    A few stray observations:

    1, Forcing common cables won't do much for the environment. I've been through many micro USB cables through the life of any one phone, and I know iPhone users find the same.

    2, Given the history of the EU cracking down on single-device power bricks, what the hell were phone vendors thinking of when they introduced competing rapid charging standards?

    3, I Was worried that my USB C phone would leave me stuck for a cable on occasion (people I know largely haven't upgraded their Android phone for a while, or use iPhones), but it came with a USB C > USB A cable and a tiny USB C > micro USB Female dongle that I've glued to a key ring.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I've been through many micro USB cables through the life"

      Actually, my cables outlast the devices life - maybe because I don't try to force them in if they're the wrong way.... nor I bend them, using cases to transport them in my bags.

      That aside, the problem with Apple it's they'll never propose one of they connectors as a standard - they want fully proprietary ones, and won't care about standards unless forced to.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: "I've been through many micro USB cables through the life"

        Apple were on the committee for USB C, but it wasn't delivered fast enough for them to use in phones. I can hardly blame them for avoiding microUSB. Since my phone is USB C, it doesn't hurt me that Apple have pushed USB C on laptops, either.

        And for years Apple been nearly alone in carrying the Thunderbolt torch, an Intel technology that's beginning to benefit us users of generic PCs (laptop gamers can now have external GPUs, single cables for power video and data, etc).

        So as a non-Appke user, I'm not inclined to criticise them. I've been caused far more exasperation by the multitude of cables that have come with all my non-Apple kit over the years.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: "I've been through many micro USB cables through the life"

          Hehe, I thought that would bring out some knee-jerkers! Still, no counter-arguments, I see. I'd best not mention FireWire, either! :)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "I've been through many micro USB cables through the life"

          "And for years Apple been nearly alone in carrying the Thunderbolt torch, an Intel technology that's beginning to benefit us users of generic PCs (laptop gamers can now have external GPUs, single cables for power video and data, etc)."

          Well, Apple had an exclusivity agreement that prevented Intel rolling it out on their motherboards. Thunderbolt did appear briefly on the Z77 chipset (2011), but died away pretty quickly due to being expensive, and stupid (has to carry a display signal - not may, has, prompting all kinds of silly loop-through arrangements). My Z97 board (2014) has the option of a Thunderbolt board, and it looks hideous in use:

          https://www.pcper.com/news/General-Tech/CES-2014-ASUS-ThunderboltEX-II-Expansion-Card

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: "I've been through many micro USB cables through the life"

            > Well, Apple had an exclusivity agreement that prevented Intel rolling it out on their motherboards.

            That's bollocks. The Sony VAIO Z laptop had optical Thunderbolt for an external GPU in 2011.

            Thunderbolt was expensive though, as you say - as all things are when they start out, and mainly of interest for video editing and other high IO applications. However, it didn't die out. Now that more laptops support Thunderbolt more applications (including external GPUs and docking solutions that aren't tied to one brand of laptop) are becoming available. This is good.

            1. Caffeinated Sponge

              Re: "I've been through many micro USB cables through the life"

              Re: docking solutions via USB C...

              You try telling companies that have large fleets of laptops that were using proprietary edge connectors for docking bases that a new connector which a crazy high percentage of their existing laptops don’t have is an improvement.

              At my place of work, USB C docks are seen as awkward, cheap, kludgy and simply being Dell trying to force more money out of us... (yes, I know about video bandwidth etc but apart from cases where high standards are actually needed most of userland stull defaults to 15pin VGA...)

        3. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: "I've been through many micro USB cables through the life"

          "So as a non-Appke user, I'm not inclined to criticise them"

          As a non-Apple user, I wouldn't criticize them either -- except that non-Apple manufacturers keep copying Apple decisions, so what Apple does affects me directly, and they've made a number of decisions over the last few years that I consider awful.

          So, I'll criticize them.

  3. Creslin

    thunderbolt - not thunderbird

    Though Brains and Lady Penelope are always a good bet in any international emergency

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: thunderbolt - not thunderbird

      FAB

    2. Pete 2 Silver badge

      Re: thunderbolt - not thunderbird

      > Though Brains and Lady Penelope are always a good bet in any international emergency

      And with the Parker probe heading for the Sun, it's good to see that the series is still current. Though you'd need a fairly long USB cable to re-charge that. I doubt that the shape of the connector would be the biggest concern.

  4. Tenkaykev

    Drawer full of leads

    We have a dedicated drawer which holds a collection of leads and chargers that have accumulated over the years.

    I also have a "Muker" plug in monitor which piggybacks on to the USB socket and the lead for the item to be charged plugs in the other end. It gives a Voltage and Current read out. It's educational to plug in a device and then see how different cables allowing different current flow, sometimes the thinner O.D. cables perform better than thicker ones.

    It's well worth getting one of these for a few quid and checking the various combinations of charger / cable to sort out the duff ones.

    1. Vulch

      Re: Drawer full of leads

      I also have a "Muker" plug in monitor

      Oooh, want. And thanks to the magic of the internet will have one Soon (tm).

  5. Giovani Tapini

    Just get the $89.99 gold plated multi-cable

    with lots of fiddly ends. Shops already sell these, and apparently clean your electricity at the same time amongst other dubious claims.

    USB cables themselves are not all entirely equal either even when visually identical. Supporting different speeds, not just the end-devices. It can be very confusing once you have a box of spare cables going. USB is not always as standard as it appears especially now they are not just cables but often have chippery embedded.

    Anything that can at least reduce the level of complexity is welcome, as long as it does not simply move the complexity around...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just get the $89.99 gold plated multi-cable

      USB is not always as standard as it appears especially now they are not just cables but often have chippery embedded.

      -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      Sounds like you are describing an adapter, and not a cable.

      Cables are wire... not active devices.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Just get the $89.99 gold plated multi-cable

        "Sounds like you are describing an adapter, and not a cable."

        USB-C cables are indeed "active" devices.

  6. Wellyboot Silver badge

    Too late?

    Doesn't the 2012 USB spec. for 20v & 5A power delivery cover this issue?

    Is the real problem not just nasty cheap & ancient (data & 500ma) cables with the new connectors?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Too late?

      This. USB PD already exists. And since it's capable of delivering up to 100W it's quite hard for manufacturers to justify their own standards...

      Even my LAPTOP can charge over USB PD - I made sure I got one which did.

  7. AMBxx Silver badge

    EU Standard plug

    SCART anyone?

    1. jeffdyer

      Re: EU Standard plug

      EUROTEL, please.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: EU Standard plug

      That happens when you let Germans design a plug. For some unknown reason, they like big plugs with many pins. Oh wait - I wouldn't like the ginormous British plugs as well...

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: EU Standard plug

        Would that be a reference to the 3 pin plug, which is the safest in the world? Also the most painful thing in the world to stand on.

        1. Def Silver badge

          Re: EU Standard plug

          ...which is the safest in the world?

          Yeah, it's scary how many safety features are in those things. But not as scary as how many are missing from other power sockets/plugs outside of the UK. I'm constantly amazed that the rest of the world hasn't burned down from electrical fires by now.

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: EU Standard plug

            "But not as scary as how many are missing from other power sockets/plugs outside of the UK."

            I don't think having a 13A fuse in a plug is going to do much good to the appliance (a telly? drawing 13A? even my valve telly didn't need that!). It's much more likely included in the plug to protect the shitty "ring main" that utterly astonishes much of the rest of the world when they realise it's a 30A circuit created by using cheaper 15A cabling in a ring formation. But, but, but, they will splutter, what happens if there's a break in the ring? Well that leaves you with a 30A circuit running on 15A wiring.

            Here in France, the old wiring is a horrific three phase mess. The new wiring mandates that a spur must be connected to a trip switch and contain no more than three to eight wall sockets (depends upon the wire size and the trip switch rating). ErDF tends to go ballistic with ex-pats who rewire renovated houses with a ring main topology. Not to mention sneaking in a few British sockets. Or the faux pas almost as big as ring mains - using British style single pole trip switches or, God help everyone, rewirable fuses (fuse wire simply does not exist).

            It's a wonder Britain doesn't burn to the ground the moment everybody gets up during the Coronation Street advert break to put the kettle on...

            1. Archivist

              Re: EU Standard plug

              I think you'll find that most of those appliances you mentioned are internally fused. The fuse in the BS1363 plug is intended to protect the cabling to the appliance - that may include intermediate connectors e.g. a 2.5a rated IEC C7/8 or the in-line switching of a table lamp.

              Our ring main legacy can be traced back to the aftermath of WW2 when Britain was broke and some clever chappie worked out a way of wiring houses using less copper.

              When wired correctly there is nothing to choose in terms of safety between the UK and European systems (ring and radial).

              The danger comes from appliances made for foreign markets that adopted the UK style 3-pin plug in radial circuits. These plugs are safe for use where intended but really dangerous when used in the UK as they fit but don't have a fuse.

              Adaptors can be a hazard too. I bought a soldering iron from a European supplier that had a Chinese/Oz plug and was supplied with an unfused adaptor.

              1. matjaggard

                Re: EU Standard plug

                Why would a foreign plug be dangerous in the UK? The fuse box is designed to protect the wiring to the plug socket, having no fuse in a plug should surely be no more dangerous in the UK than anywhere else?

                1. 080

                  Re: EU Standard plug

                  Why would a foreign plug be dangerous in the UK?

                  Except that the UK ring main is fused at 32A and the continental spur is fused at 16A

                2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

                  Re: EU Standard plug

                  The fuse is to stop you pulling all 32 amps of a normal ring main down a wire rated for 5amps.

                  The fusebox won't protect you in that situation.

                  1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                    Re: EU Standard plug

                    "The fuse is to stop you pulling all 32 amps of a normal ring main down a wire rated for 5amps."

                    Sensible countries don't let you PUT that many sockets on a circuit and then cap the breaker at 20A (which will pop quite happily with the surge on a 0.5mm2 wire.)

                    Ringmains kind of made economic sense in 1948. They stopped making sense by 1955 and should have been quickly consigned to history's dustbin, but oh no, the Brits had to hold onto their uniquely quirky things from that era, like cars with factory equipped rust patches, TVs with questionable quality control and myriad other things which cause "Made in England" to become a warning label worldwide.

                    1. Roland6 Silver badge

                      Re: EU Standard plug

                      >Ringmains kind of made economic sense in 1948.

                      Kind of the same thing can be said for the use of "twisted-pair" for "Ethernet" networking...

                      Back in the 1980's the use of Cat3 made sense, because that was what many buildings already had installed for telephony. But to perpetuate the "Ethernet over twisted-pair" myth all that had to be replaced by CAT5e then Cat6, Cat6a and in the near future Cat7...

                      However, the ring main concept makes a lot of engineering sense - just as the ring in computer networking does also.

                      I suggest that it is, in fact, those that who don't use ring mains as standard are being unnecessarily wasteful of a relatively scarce resource (ie. copper) and also have to more carefully plan their electrical installation and socket usage.

            2. localzuk

              Re: EU Standard plug

              13A plug on a telly? Think mine has a 5A. Not all plugs have the same fuse in them you know @heyrick. Got some with 3A in too, for those really low power devices. 13A is mostly for kettles, heaters and the like.

              1. David Nash Silver badge

                Re: EU Standard plug

                The 13A fuse is not because the TV is expected to draw 13A, it's because the TV is NOT expected to draw 13A.

                Most short circuits to earth or wherever will blow a 13A fuse pretty much as quick as a 5A fuse (no I haven't done the calculations) so it does the job even if 5A is theoretically safer.

            3. IsJustabloke Silver badge
              FAIL

              Re: EU Standard plug

              "The new wiring mandates that a spur must be connected to a trip switch and contain no more than three to eight wall sockets"

              Whereas here in the UK a spur can have no more than one socket attached to it unless the spur is itself fused.

              1. really_adf

                Re: EU Standard plug

                Whereas here in the UK a spur can have no more than one socket attached to it unless the spur is itself fused.

                I think, unless the regulations have changed, not one socket but a single or double outlet. Which is (just) OK with the correct cable (2.5mm^2?) appropriately fitted and two 13A appliances.

                (Happy to be corrected.)

              2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: EU Standard plug

                "Whereas here in the UK a spur can have no more than one socket attached to it unless the spur is itself fused."

                1: I see a LOT of spurs hanging off rings which don't meet that requirement. Despite jokes about greek/polish electricians, the biggest cowboys in the UK are the locals.

                The "Spur" in the Original Post is a radial feed from the mains distribution panel and the "Trip switch" is a MCB or ELCB

            4. SImon Hobson Silver badge

              Re: EU Standard plug

              it's a 30A circuit created by using cheaper 15A

              Actually, 2.5mm2 T&E cable is rated up to 27A depending on installation method - it's highest when clipped direct to a wall, lowest when buried in thermal insulation. And of course, one of the tests done by periodic inspections is to check continuity of the rings - everyone has their installations tested periodically don't they ?

              SO in practical terms, if you do have a broken ring, you have two radial circuits sharing a (these days) 32A MCB and wired in 27A cable. Since apart from the kitchen it's typically hard to get that sort of load on the sockets anyway, especially for a sustained time, it's not likely to be an issue anyway. Even in the kitchen, one of the devices making up the ">27A but less than 32A"* load is going to be the kettle and that's only one for a few minutes at a time.

              Actually it's not that simple. A curve B 32A MCB should pass 64A (ie twice it's rated capacity) indefinitely. It should trip within a short time (0.4s) at 160A (ie 5x it's rated capacity). Thus it could pass (say) 100A for an indeterminate time which depends on the variances between devices. The rules on cable and protective device sizing takes these factors into account. No, in practical terms, a ring final circuit (to give it it's proper name) is highly unlikely to cause a conflagration just by being split into two radials.

              A second issue is that if it's just a connection come undone (the most likely cause, it's easy for a wire to come out of the back of a socket when disturbing it) then it'll only affect one of the three wires. If it's L or N then only one of the two rings is broken - so in principle you could overload the L but the N is still a ring. So the overloaded cable only has one of the two current carrying cores overloaded and it's quite likely that you wouldn't exceed a damaging combination of currents anyway.

              Eg, you are pulling a full 32 amps from one leg. The L may be carrying 32A, but the neutral could be carrying only (say) 20A. The total current carried is 52A, while the cable is rated to carry 54A (27A in both cores).

              If you are still bothered, then it's fairly easy to convert a ring to two radials. It's normally just a matter of splitting the ring at one point, and separating the tails in the distribution board to separate breakers which could normally be 20A or 25A (if available) - giving you the option of putting 40A or 50A of load across the now separate circuits. This would (in England) be notifiable work BTW.

          2. Chemist

            Re: EU Standard plug

            " I'm constantly amazed that the rest of the world hasn't burned down from electrical fires by now."

            Could it be because many places have lots of mcbs &/or elcb ?

            In our small (50sq.m) apartment in Switzerland we have 15

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: EU Standard plug

              "Could it be because many places have lots of mcbs &/or elcb ?"

              My landlord thought I was crazy for insisting that my flat have at least 2 rings (one per floor) for the sockets.

              If it was wired with spurs I'd have insisted on at least one per room.

              .

          3. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: EU Standard plug

            "I'm constantly amazed that the rest of the world hasn't burned down from electrical fires by now."

            I guess that's fair. I've long been amazed that people in the UK are careless enough that they require so many safety features on a plug.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: EU Standard plug

            Yeah, it's scary how many safety features are in those things. But not as scary as how many are missing from other power sockets/plugs outside of the UK. I'm constantly amazed that the rest of the world hasn't burned down from electrical fires by now.

            ==========================================================================

            That's because you haven't figured out yet that there are many different ways of achieving safety, each with its own costs, benefits, and weaknesses.

            I wouldn't find those kludgy UK plugs acceptable at all - too complex, too many ways to make them fail.

            Much better to implement protection permanently at the circuit level, when the building is constructed.

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: EU Standard plug

              >I wouldn't find those kludgy UK plugs acceptable at all - too complex, too many ways to make them fail.

              Kludgy? bulky yes but kludgy?

              too complex? about the only significant functional difference between a Standard UK 13A plug and others is the inclusion of a removable fuse.

              too many ways to make them fail.? the only different way a UK plug can fail, is for the fuse to blow - is that too many?

              >Much better to implement protection permanently at the circuit level, when the building is constructed.

              UK electrical installation Standards require this, as has been pointed out by others the circuit breaker/fuse serves a slightly different purpose to the appliance plug/outlet fuse.

        2. Siobhan

          Re: EU Standard plug

          Ah, the good old UK 3-pin combination power plug and caltrop system. Because an Englishman's home is his castle (or something), then it must be defended, and these plugs are the first line of defense providing far more than any alarm... Mostly due to the scream when an intruder steps on one.

          If nothing else though, they are safe and reliable...

          1. Electricity_Guy

            Re: EU Standard plug

            I hate the bulk of the UK plug, very chunky to carry while travelling. We should adopt the Australian plug, it's properly polarised and almost all electrical outlet are now protects by RCD breakers so fuses are not vital any more.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: EU Standard plug

              >I hate the bulk of the UK plug, very chunky to carry while travelling.

              Try going to South Africa, it's a pigs breakfast of different standards.

              https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/guides-and-advice/for-travelling/travel-adaptor-for-south-africa/

            2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

              Re: EU Standard plug

              almost all electrical outlet are now protects by RCD breakers so fuses are not vital any more

              RCDs do not provide over-current protection - and for good measure do NOT prevent electric shocks*.

              "Almost all" is not good enough - if you have any unfused sockets then the cable you plug in needs it's own protection. However, I suspect that they have radial wiring like most of the European continent and the USA - so each socket (or small number of sockets) has it's own MCB in the distribution board.

              On radial circuits and unfused plugs, in theory every cable has to be rated according to the capacity of the socket it's going into - which typically means 16A in Europe. If you have a thin cable then it's not really protected against overload as it's only going to be protected by the 16A breaker in the panel.

              And of course, we can have (in principle) as many sockets as we like on our rings - with one ring per breaker in the panel. Want sockets everywhere on separately protected radials ? Well that going to be a heck of a lot of cable and a heck of a lot of breakers = big panel and huge bundles of cables.

            3. really_adf

              Re: EU Standard plug

              almost all electrical outlet are now protects by RCD breakers so fuses are not vital any more.

              Fuses and RCDs protect different things.

              A fault connecting live to earth will trip an RCD long before a fuse blows, and speed is especially useful if that fault is through a human.

              A fault connecting live to neutral (short circuit) or other "current too high" situation doesn't bother an RCD, but a fuse blows quickly enough to prevent the wiring/cable being damaged or getting hot enough to start a fire.

              Miniature Circuit Breakers (MCBs), common on consumer units in the UK at least, are functionally similar to fuses although they trip and can be reset instead of replaced.

            4. D@v3

              Re: Bulky UK plug

              I was quite surprised to find one of these

              https://www.apple.com/uk/shop/product/MGRL2B/A/apple-5w-usb-power-adapter-folding-pins?fnode=83&fs=f%3Dadapter%26fh%3D45a3%252B45b0

              In the box for my apple watch, was expecting to find a cable but to have to sort the plug out myself (especially after seeing the size of the box).

              it's great for travel, and would get my vote if there was one for a new 'standard' mains plug design.

        3. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: EU Standard plug

          I came here to propose all European phones should have a BS 1363 plug integrated into the case, but I see people are already thinking in the right direction.

          Take that, Brexit!

          1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

            Re: EU Standard plug

            The best bit is that using plug covers actually makes things MORE dangerous.

          2. Roland6 Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: EU Standard plug

            >Take that, Brexit!

            But if the EU mandated it, that would be the EU dictating to the UK and we can't have any of that now can we - forward Brexiteers!

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "safest in the world"

          Just because UK allows very unsafe circuit designs - so the plug needs to cope with them. I prefer safer circuits that don't depend on a plug...

          1. NateGee

            Re: "safest in the world"

            Evidence?

            1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

              Re: "safest in the world"

              Link 1

              Link 2

              Link 3

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: "safest in the world"

                Read the links - sort of a crash course in biased, sloppy analysis, weren't they?

                Something better than puff pieces pandering to British egos would be more useful - these three would all get failing grades in any risk analysis exercise. Not one of them looked at the things that can go wrong in the British wiring scheme, nor did any of them address the potential problems with overly high household voltages.

        5. 6491wm

          Re: EU Standard plug

          second most painful after Lego surely?

          1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

            Re: EU Standard plug

            Lego doesn't even come close, and don't call me Shirley.

          2. Caffeinated Sponge

            Re: EU Standard plug

            “second most painful after Lego surely?”

            I kind of don’t understand this part of the argument. I’ve never stood on an upturned 3pin mains plug. I’d argue that if this is an occurrence frequent enough to be a problem then probably standards of basic tidiness are probably more in order. Or you could just look where you are putting your feet. Of course, if this is a workplace then both are already covered by H&S.

            To be completely honest, the cable durability part is looking pretty shakey too given third party options that will outlast several phones and I’m not even going near the bit about enforcing a plug shape standard and then arbitrarily deciding not to wire half the pins with no external way to tell. Optionally disable data at the device is a far better idea.

          3. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: EU Standard plug

            Second most painful after standing on THIS: http://www.internationalconfig.com/prod_shot/53326.jpg

            It's not just the animals trying to kill you in Australia.

        6. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

          Re: EU Standard plug

          > Also the most painful thing in the world to stand on.

          Oh, I don't know. Sometimes I think it's a close run thing with a Lego brick.

        7. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: EU Standard plug

          "Would that be a reference to the 3 pin plug, which is the safest in the world? Also the most painful thing in the world to stand on."

          That's a the added bonus feature. It teaches people not to leave potentially dangerous mains leads laying around where they may get damaged and later cause death or injury from damaged plugs or insulation. :-)

        8. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: EU Standard plug

          Which three pin plug? There are a lot of them...

          The one you find in every Walmart in Texas is probably the best design.

      2. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

        Re: EU Standard plug

        That happens when you let Germans design a plug

        SCART = "Syndicat des Constructeurs d'Appareils Radiorécepteurs et Téléviseurs", so I think you might be pissing on the wrong bank of the Rhine, there.

        For a standard developed in 1970, it proved to be extremely far-sighted: particularly in standardising a method for direct RGB input to TVs, something which only became useful in the late 1980s for home computers, and really only hit the broader consumer market in the late 1990s when Digital TV and DVD became popular.

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: EU Standard plug

          "so I think you might be pissing on the wrong bank of the Rhine, there."

          Except the French call it Péritel... (correctly Péritélévision, but that's a mouthful that nobody says)

        2. defiler Silver badge

          Re: EU Standard plug

          For a standard developed in 1970, it proved to be extremely far-sighted: particularly in standardising a method for direct RGB input to TVs,

          Yep. It's still the go-to connector for hooking up old videogames consoles for collectors. Everything up to the Xbox/PS2/Dreamcast/N64 era. As they said about Volvos in Crazy People "They're boxy but they're good". Pain in the arse to put through a wall though. SCART, not Volvos - they're pretty straightforward.

          1. defiler Silver badge

            Re: EU Standard plug

            Pain in the arse to put through a wall though. SCART, not Volvos - they're pretty straightforward.

            Risking ire by replying to myself, but I actually had to push a SCART through a partition wall today. Had to disassemble the connectors on both ends. It was an enormous pain in the area, and I'd have been easier threading a Volvo 440 through the damn wall.

            Still, Dreamcast is up, so it's not all bad!

        3. Ledswinger Silver badge

          Re: EU Standard plug

          SCART .....For a standard developed in 1970, it proved to be extremely far-sighted:

          It also proved unsurprisingly bulky and inconvenient, with a ludicrous cable thickness, and difficult to attach and detach, presumably because the French designer expected it to be hand-soldered by the terminally clumsy (like me).

          When you look at the shortcomings of so many different connector designs, you can only logically conclude that they are almost all designed by people who don't know the intended use, and who apparently have no experience of the problem that their product is supposed to address. Just like like car park designers, road engineers, web designers, and the people who create alarm clock and heating thermostat interfaces.

          For all these people, I hope there is a specially reserved circle of hell.

        4. NLCSGRV

          Re: EU Standard plug

          It may have been far-sighted, but not far-sighted enough to include any form of retaining mechanism, like that on the old Centronics plugs.

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. Daniel von Asmuth Bronze badge
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: EU Standard plug

        The solution is obviously for the UK to unplug from the EU and maybe mandate US standards.

        "It's up to the commercial end of the industry to agree on easy to understand labels, and the regional bureaucratic blocks (like the EU) to enforce them. So Apple would certify that its plug and cable support 'Blue speeds', for example. Wouldn't that be handy?"

        Industry is like the free market: it can only work successfully under severe and expensive government regulation and oversight. It's like Microsoft or Intel: it creates pseudostandards like Win32 or PCI at best'.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: EU Standard plug

      USB-C is more SCART-like than you realise. It's got power, USB data, Thunderbolt, and three display methods (HDMI, MHL, and DisplayPort).

      Or maybe some of them, depending on the devices at both ends and the cable.

    4. Evil Scot

      Re: EU Standard plug

      JP21?

      Mechanically same as Scart... Electrically not.

    5. andy 103

      Re: EU Standard plug

      Still using the SCART input on my TV and not even remotely sorry about that.

      1. Pedigree-Pete Bronze badge
        Happy

        Re: SCART input on my TV

        Me too Andy. I need it for my VCR/DVD combi. Back to the Future Doc. PP

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: EU Standard plug

      Yes, SCART sucked, but it wasn’t that much worse than anything else from the same technological era (eg, parallel port printer connectors).

      It’s perhaps a little unfair to compare it to USB or HDMI, etc.

  8. nuked

    Isn't all charging going to be wireless within a generation or two anyway? Seems like a useful conversation, but a decade too late as usual.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      "Isn't all charging going to be wireless within a generation or two anyway?"

      I hope not. Wireless charging is very wasteful of power.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Not to mention murder on the batteries because of the inherent heat issues.

  9. Ochib

    To later

    What does this matter to the UK, as of March 2019 we can tell the EU to go whistle

    1. Alister Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: To later

      What does this matter to the UK, as of March 2019 we can tell the EU to go whistle

      Yeah, because ignoring standards is such a good idea.

      Let's have a British USB specification, which does what WE want, no matter that it doesn't match the rest of the world.

      1. Ochib

        Re: To later

        "Let's have a British USB specification, which does what WE want, no matter that it doesn't match the rest of the world"

        I thought that was the purpose of the vote to rid ourselves of our EU overlords, so we could go it alone and get £750m for the NHS per week

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: To later

          I thought that was the purpose of the vote to rid ourselves of our EU overlords, so we could go it alone and get £750m for the NHS per week

          And cake, don't forget the cake!

          @alister I think you might have ignored the possibility of sarcasm in the original post. The list of standards that the UK, if it ever leaves the EU, that it can replace with its own and then try and force on the world is long, and growing.

          1. Alister Silver badge

            Re: To later

            @Charlie Clark

            @alister I think you might have ignored the possibility of sarcasm in the original post.

            Yes, sadly. However, going by the number of downvotes the OP is collecting, it appears I am not alone...

            :)

            1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

              Re: To later

              My downvote was for the unnecessary Brexit related trolling, sarcasm or otherwise.

              1. Dan 55 Silver badge

                Re: To later

                My downvote was for the unnecessary Brexit related trolling, sarcasm or otherwise.

                You're right. Over two years since the referendum result and there is still no idea what Brexit is or how to achieve it. The Unicorn-based nonsense is a parody of and in itself and no additional trolling or sarcasm is necessary.

        2. PerlyKing
          FAIL

          Re: £750m for the NHS per week

          Get your facts right - it's £350M per week ;-)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: £750m for the NHS per week

            It was adjusted for inflation....

          2. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: £750m for the NHS per week

            "Get your facts right - it's £350M per week ;-)"

            To be fair, it was never a fact.

            1. EnviableOne Bronze badge

              Re: £750m for the NHS per week

              I believe the current figure for the brexit "dividend" is some where in the region of 20-40m a week

              taking into account the rebate(loss) and currently commited payments, and agencies we want to pay to play in .....

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: £750m for the NHS per week

            "Get your facts right - it's £350M per week ;-)"

            my random number is better than your random number :)

        3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: To later

          @Ochib, I think you might be missing this icon -->

        4. Daniel von Asmuth Bronze badge

          Re: To later

          You would have to design British connectors that don't look lke USB. A pentagonal shape like the Englsh rose would be a good start - you can make it rose-coloured too - and you need a new name, such as BSU (Bidirectional Socket of the UK).

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: To later

        Let's have a British USB specification, which does what WE want

        And while we're at it, we'll colour it passport blue. That will make everything right.

        1. defiler Silver badge

          Re: To later

          And while we're at it, we'll colour it passport blue. That will make everything right.

          Bloody hell that make me so proud I could weep!

      3. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: To later

        Let's have a British USB specification, which does what WE want, no matter that it doesn't match the rest of the world.

        We can call it USB-Stupid.

      4. adam 40

        The BSU lead!

        "Let's have a British USB specification, which does what WE want, no matter that it doesn't match the rest of the world"

        Yeah let's call it the BSU connector. It should have 3 pins not 4. And a fuse. Bring back the British Standards institute too. Brexit forever!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: To later

      What what old chap. At one time the sun never set on the British Empire, that's about to change.

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: To later

        @ac >>At one time the sun never set on the British Empire, that's about to change.<<

        It still doesn't set (just), the crown dependencies & overseas territories are quite well spread around the globe, now as it's past gin o'clock toodle pip

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: To later

        "At one time the sun never set on the British Empire, that's about to change."

        Erm, that did change - a very long time ago.

      3. terrythetech

        Re: To later - obligatory xkcd reference

        https://what-if.xkcd.com/48/

    3. Terry Barnes

      Re: To later

      You think people will make phones for the U.K. market that don’t comply with EU standards? The market is too small to warrant the tooling and support costs. All that will actually happen is that we’ll lose any input to setting the standards.

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: To later

        We'll lose access to the ISO ? Our companies will be barred from USB standards committees?

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: To later

          >We'll lose access to the ISO ? Our companies will be barred from USB standards committees?

          Well.... we may lose access to CEN/CENELEC and ANEC...

          The point is, like many things, currently the UK has a say in what Standards products sold in the EU28 must comply with. Hence it was the EU, with the UK's assent, that demanded that phone manufacturers standardised on the USB Micro-B connector. Once the UK leaves the EU, it can expect to have zero say in the product Standards set by the EU27.

          Which is where the issue arises, whilst the UK is happy with whatever Standards the EU27 specify then (ie. UK product Standards align with EU27 Standards) products shipped to the UK will be to EU Standards.

          The problems arise when the UK decides to diverge from the EU Product Standards. If the UK requirement aligns with the Standards used in the RoW then once again no problem, however, if the Standard is unique to the UK eg. phone connector must be a USB 3.0 Type B Jack, that is when the UK will most probably have to bow to the inevitable - the market has spoken...

  10. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

    I've gone to magnetic breakaway cables, came two to a pack with two each lightning and USB tips, that are perfect for my use. The problem was never not having the right cable; I've got well over a dozen. The problem was me walking away without thinking to unplug. I'm usually looking for some damn reference or another when I walk off.

    I'm rather impressed with them and weren't at all expensive.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      I'm interested in those magnetic connectors - they share most of the advantages of wireless charging (quick docking, instant undocking, little mechanical wear on the device's port) with none of the disadvantages (slower charge rates, less efficient).

      One of the cable ends I could glue to a keyring in place of my USB C male > micro USB Female dongle*. This would leave me with the option of using a micro USB or USB C cable.

      * I was about to express surprise that Samsung didn't build said dongle with a lanyard loop, given its tiny size. However, lanyard loops on similar things (micro SD > USB dongles for example) I've had in the past have tended to be so weak as to be useless. Yet again some good polyurethane adhesive and a leather loop are my friends here, though Sugru and a zip tie would work well too. Remember folks, super glue is only super in some situations, and this isn't one of them.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        >I'm interested in those magnetic connectors - they share most of the advantages of wireless charging

        And they have many more advantages, like being: cheap, fully compatible with all of my existing USB devices, consuming less energy both in their construction and usage than your state-of-the-art wireless charging rig. Plus my device still having a USB/Lightning port can typically be charged whilst out by borrowing cables/chargers or stopping by McDonalds and using their charging points.

        >super glue is only super in some situations

        From my experience, it is only the real stuff when the shop keeper has to get it out of a locked cabinet and give you a verbal safety warning about the product.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          For sure, I was never advocating replacing wired charging (be it a socket or a magnetic solution) with wireless. However, having wireless charging in a phone means a damaged or gunked up USB socket won't render the phone useless. Of course this charging reduncy doesn't have to be wireless: Sony Experia phones used to have external magnetic charging nubs, just as old Nokia's had external charging/data connectors. However, these external contact methods for charging are harder to make universal across vendors than Qi wireless charging now is (supported by Samsung and Apple amongst others).

    2. Robert Forsyth

      I too, just switched to magnetic connectors.

      The micro-USB phones Xperia X and P8 Lite 2017 seem happy.

      The Lightning iPad will only charge from the Apple charger.

      The USB-C Xperia XA2 would not fast charge from the NetDot 5th gen. cable, but does from 7th gen.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        >The Lightning iPad will only charge from the Apple charger.

        I assume you are referring to using the magnetic connector USB charging cable with the iPad and that previously the iPad charged from any other charger you possessed.

        From my experience with third-party Apple cables, this will be down to the quality of the (magnetic connector) USB cable, I expect after a few charging sessions the iPad will report that the (magnetic connector) cable has been inserted but that it isn't charging.

    3. Intractable Potsherd

      I recently bought two of the magnetic cable/connector combos. I'm not impressed, personally - the magnets are weak, so the flap on my phone cover pushes the cable laterally out of contact. On my tablet with no cover, the slightest twist in the cable will deranged the connection. Maybe I bought from a bad manufacturer, but I now have no confidence in the set up at all.

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "I've gone to magnetic breakaway cables, came two to a pack with two each lightning and USB tips, that are perfect for my use."

      I've tried these. the problem is that the USB-C versions are limited to 500mA as they din't have the right active chippery to tell the phone that more current is ok.

  11. Ochib

    Obilitory XKCD

    https://xkcd.com/927/

  12. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

    Just add wireless charging

    Micro USB is awful, I continually need to buy new cables as the old ones fail, and the connector becomes less usable over time.

    Just put wireless charging on everything. If not wireless it needs to be a locking connector designed for thousands of insertions (yes, I realise this will lead to some people ripping the guts out of their phone)

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: Just add wireless charging

      I'm overly happy with my USB C (with PD) phone. Plug it in first time, charges at ludicrous speed.

      Micro USB needs to die a death.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Just add wireless charging

        >"I'm overly happy with my USB C (with PD) phone. Plug it in first time, charges at ludicrous speed.

        Micro USB needs to die a death."

        Agree, the Type-C connector does remove some of the usage problems experienced with the Micro-B connector; personally, I prefer the lightning style of connector - it also plugs in first time but doesn't suffer from the USB alignment problems, because the spade connector has rounded corners.

        1. Ledswinger Silver badge

          Re: Just add wireless charging

          Micro USB needs to die a death.

          It should never have lived. Did nobody think or say "this is flimsy, inconvenient, lacks durability and a big bit shitty"? Or did all really concerned think that Micro USB was in the slightest bit adequate?

          And then to compound that failing, the bastards involved waited for over a decade before releasing USB C. So as a result, although it is a huge improvement, USB C is now the inconvenient bloody nuisance, because it isn't yet anywhere near a universal fitting. Did the French have any hand in this?

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Just add wireless charging

            "Or did all really concerned think that Micro USB was in the slightest bit adequate?"

            Hell, I still think it's more than adequate.

    2. Steve Graham

      Re: Just add wireless charging

      As I understand it, the cable connector is "sacrificial". It's designed to fail first, rather than damage the device's port.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just add wireless charging

      "Just add wireless charging"

      Er, please no. It's less efficient than using a cable. We need to be reducing our energy usage as a society, not increasing electronic waste because of the extra components required in a device for wireless charging.

      And as a bonus for the consumer, there's room in a device for a slightly larger battery if you omit wireless charging.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Just add wireless charging

        We need to be reducing our energy usage as a society, not increasing electronic waste because of the extra components required in a device for wireless charging.

        Things aren't as simple as that. Power mats that can charge multiple devices at once can do this with less resources than multiple chargers and could ultimately reduce the need for chargers.

        1. dajames Silver badge

          Re: Just add wireless charging

          Power mats that can charge multiple devices at once can do this with less resources than multiple chargers and could ultimately reduce the need for chargers.

          A single wired charger with multiple USB-A sockets to accept multiple charging cables -- be they Lightning, micro-USB, or USB-C -- would surely charge multiple devices more efficiently still?

          1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker
            Thumb Up

            Re: Just add wireless charging

            @dajames: I have a 10-port USB-A (female) charging station that I love. Unlike many multi-USB hubs, this one can actually maintain full output on each port simultaneously. If it overheats, it self-derates rather than shutting off ports. And the AC cable is robust and removable for travel.

            I don't utilize it to full potential at home, but on a recent extended-family trip, 4 households (8 adults, 8 kids from ages 3 to 18) sharing 1 rental "cottage" (large lake house) used the hub quite well: I had up to 6 Apple Lightening and 4 micro-USBs at once (of the 10, I also provided 6 of the cables). I strategically placed it in the kitchen on a side counter out of the way of cooking. Everyone KNEW where their devices were; no one had a charging issue or lost/left a charger in a bedroom or bathroom.

            (I'm tempted to joke that *I* forgot to take it home instead, but that's not true. Of course I wouldn't give up this precious.)

      2. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Just add wireless charging

        > please no. It's less efficient than using a cable. We need to be reducing our energy usage as a society, not increasing electronic waste because of the extra components required in a device for wireless charging.

        Compared to cars, kettles and fridges, the difference in energy use between wireless and wired phone charging is next to nothing. As for energy in manufacturing, wireless charging is a positive thing: should a phone's sole USB port be damaged then the owner can still use their otherwise serviceable phone.

        I do agree that no phone should dispense with its USB or Lightning port - where charging efficiency is important is when using a portable battery pack ('power bank').

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Difference in energy consumption for wireless charging "next to nothing"?

          The difference between wired and wireless charging may be "next to nothing" for one single phone, but for a world of perhaps 6 billion devices, if not more?

          That adds up to quite a few power stations!

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just add wireless charging

        "We need to be reducing our energy usage as a society"

        Not really. What we need to be doing is improving our generation and transportation of energy, and reducing random byproducts.

        Deliberate energy poverty is a long term policy disaster - and you know that politicians will find a way to make it both extreme and ineffective, and a burden for everyone else. Consider Al Gore, carbon crusader, and his mansions and his zillion flights around the world to tell you to use less carbon.

    4. Dave K Silver badge

      Re: Just add wireless charging

      Interestingly, I have more problems with Apple/Lightning cables.

      I agree that USB Micro is flawed as a connector and USB-C is a nice improvement. However at my place of work, I rarely am asked for replacement USB Micro cables for the Android users. However almost every week someone comes along with a disintegrating Lightning cable asking for a replacement. The standard Apple ones almost seem to be deliberately designed to disintegrate after a year or so.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Just add wireless charging

        > The standard Apple ones almost seem to be deliberately designed to disintegrate after a year or so.

        A stitch in time saves nine. By which I mean be preemptive and wrap some self amalgamating tape ( often sold as Leak Repair tape, the butyl stuff will do you, no need for the pricey silicone version) around the cable by the plugs. You can also use Sugru, or some polyurethane adhesive if you have some kicking around.

        Of these, the least messy is the tape approach, and it's bloody handy stuff to have around anyway. Sugru iscexoebsuve for what it is, and the Polyurethane is messy and goes off in the tube once opened.

        I know you shouldn't have to do this, but we gotta work with what we've got.

        1. Smirnov

          Re: Just add wireless charging

          > The standard Apple ones almost seem to be deliberately designed to disintegrate after a year or so.

          Which is why I use cables made by Anker. One is in my backpack and has seen so much abuse it's no longer funny, but it's still working fine.

          The Apple cables all look like the disintegrate if looked at from the wrong angle.

        2. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: Just add wireless charging

          An upvote for the SA tape, I always have a couple of rolls in the house, my work shop and a roll in my antique Land Rover.

      2. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

        Re: Just add wireless charging

        @Dave K, @Smirnov

        Funny... I never have issue with the Apple-provided cables, but in context those are the ones that stay home for overnight charging.

        For the kitchen and the cars, I get what I pay for: cheap cables from discount stores ($1 to $5) lose contact and/or break quickly, but ~$8 ones from my favorite online source are much more robust. I don't need to shell out any more than that for decent performance as long as I can trust the charger.

      3. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Just add wireless charging

        >The standard Apple ones almost seem to be deliberately designed to disintegrate after a year or so.

        I've switched to the heavier gauged braided charging cables which seem to last better.

      4. DougS Silver badge

        @DaveK "rarely am I asked for replacement USB Micro cables"

        That might be because most people have enough of them laying around by now that they don't need to come asking when one goes bad.

      5. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Just add wireless charging

        "I agree that USB Micro is flawed as a connector"

        Am I the only person in the world who has never had any problems with these connectors?

    5. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Just add wireless charging

      Micro-USB is fiddly but thus far I've not had to replace any cables and I do take them with me a lot. I suspect people who complain about cables don't pack them very carefully.

      Anyway, got a micro-USB – USB-C adapter with the most recent powerbank freebie, thank Smarkets so now I can charge my and SWMBO's phones, powerbanks, headsets, Kobos and my Gemini from a single charger, which we did on a recent bike trip. Not so fussed about "fast charging" as long as I have a powerbank with me.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Just add wireless charging

        > Micro-USB is fiddly but thus far I've not had to replace any cables and I do take them with me a lot. I suspect people who complain about cables don't pack them very carefully.

        It might also be that many of us here have micro USB cables that gave come with cheap and cheerful bits of kit we've bought over the years. I do have cables that are still going strong, and they've come with Sony phones or from similar reputable vendors.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Just add wireless charging

        "Micro-USB is fiddly but thus far I've not had to replace any cables and I do take them with me a lot. I suspect people who complain about cables don't pack them very carefully."

        I suspect you are correct. I have a Galaxy Note 2 (still!!) and plug it every night without issue. So what? some people may say. Well, it's also plugged into the USB cable in the car multiple times per day often just by touch day in, day out, every working day. Phone is still fine as is the original cable. Having said that, the phone is now on it's second battery. Am I clever? Am I careful? Am I exceptional? Or are some people simply careless and/or clumsy? eg, I've replaced the power connector on my wifes laptop twice in four years, but never on mine. I suspect some people simply can't get it into their heads that those small items are actually very expensive, very complex devices and forget to treat them as such.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just add wireless charging

      Micro USB is awful, I continually need to buy new cables as the old ones fail, and the connector becomes less usable over time.

      Just put wireless charging on everything. If not wireless it needs to be a locking connector designed for thousands of insertions (yes, I realise this will lead to some people ripping the guts out of their phone)

      ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      1. I've almost never had a USB cable fail. with dozens of devices about.

      2. While it is fairly clear that neither cell transmissions nor WiFi are a health hazard, bathing for hours in the EM of a bunch of wireless chargers has not established the same safety record,

      I'd rather not be the guinea pig.

  13. David M

    Micro USB deterioration

    The micro USB on my OnePlus One degraded over time, until the plug wouldn't stay in at all. Eventually discovered that the socket was packed full of fluff. Cleaned it out, and it's fine again.

    1. Muppetry

      Re: Micro USB deterioration

      If a USB-C gets filled with fluff, it melts the connector as the current is so high. Just had this happen to a Macbook at work. The connector wasn't able to be pushed home, so the amount of overlap between plug and socket reached the point where the current would burn away the metal on the socket side... took me 2 hours to replace it

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Fluff filling

        I've had that happen with Lightning. I thought the Lightning cable that came with my iPhone was going bad after a year or so since I had to fiddle with it to make it charge. I bought a pack of three clone cables for $10 and was really pissed that all three were bad - I thought I'd be ripped off. Then I heard somewhere to check for lint. I was amazed at the amount I dug out of there with a needle! After that cleaning, all three of the new cables, plus my old one, worked 100%.

        Not much of a way around this - you want ports on phones/computers to be an "innie" so that if something breaks it is the end of the far cheaper cable. Lightning ports are pretty much indestructable, but if you keep your phone in your pocket all the time they attract lint as well as a belly button!

  14. Roger Greenwood

    IEC

    1. The IEC is rather larger than just the EU or even Europe.

    2. You can usually only read a standard if you pay for it (EUR168).

    3. As was pointed out, the standards are written by the manufacturers. They are then rubber stamped by representatives at a meeting in an expensive hotel. Hence the cost.

    4. It's still the best system we've got as it tends to reflect the real world and many of those folks are very clever with the best intentions (until the money men get involved).

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: IEC

      You missed out the debates and horse trading at those meetings, which are essential to getting international agreements, not because of engineers, scientists and manufacturers, but politicians.

      It's why the US refuses to adopt many standards and uses "American customary units".

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: IEC

        It's why the US refuses to adopt many standards and uses "American customary units".

        American Customary Units include such delights as US gallons, ungrounded electrical plugs and gerrymandered electoral districts.

        1. Spanners Silver badge
          Go

          Re: IEC

          American Customary Units include such delights as

          Ma favourite - the acre foot.

        2. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: IEC

          "ungrounded electrical plugs"

          Ungrounded electrical sockets do not meet code in the US and cannot be legally installed. The only time you see them is in very old buildings that have not been remodeled.

          You do find some devices with ungrounded plugs, but they have to be double-insulated, so that's not a huge deal.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: IEC

        "It's why the US refuses to adopt many standards and uses "American customary units"."

        The US uses 'American customary units' because it has one of the worst cases of Not Invented Here' syndrome in the known universe.

        They are convinced that the best things only come from Americans, and everything else is automatically inferior.

        As a result they end up with units used nowhere else in the world, and occasionally lose space probes and such because their engineers don't use near universal standard units (SI).

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: IEC

          As a USian, I have to disagree. The reason that we still use archaic units is not because of a sense of superiority, it's because of laziness. We are shifting, by the way, we're just taking our sweet time about it.

          "because their engineers don't use near universal standard units (SI)."

          It is extremely rare to find US engineers who don't work in standard units. It does happen, though, within certain companies, But to say that US engineers don't use standard units as a rule is simply incorrect.

  15. imanidiot Silver badge

    USB is not a pigs breakfast

    It's USB-C specifically that's a tangled mass of different options and possibilities all using the same port and cable design, while not actually all inter-operable.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: USB is not a pigs breakfast

      Which is unfortunate, as USB-C was supposed to bring order to the messy USB-A / USB-A / USB mini / USB micro / MHL etc. situation where you never seemed to have the right connector on both ends when you were in a pinch. USB-C gave us a "one true connector" but the ports and cables all have different capabilities which is actually worse - before you could look and see what you need, now you have to do detective work to find out what is required.

  16. IsJustabloke Silver badge
    WTF?

    WTF do you people do with your cables?

    In all the years I've been using various flavours of USB cables I've *never* had one fail and I've never had a *charging port fail. WTF are you doing to your **cables?

    * I know this means all my cables will fall apart tonight

    ** I have no experience with Apple cables

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      I suspect

      it's less a matter what people are doing with their cables and more where they're getting them. Someone must be buying all those sub $1 cables on eBay.

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: WTF do you people do with your cables?

      I have problems with charging because some cables are two wire "charge only" (so no good for data transfer or fast charge).

      I totally agree with the shitty build quality of the Apple lightning connector. With mine, the outer rubber has fallen off at both ends, and I use it less than the phone's USB lead that is still working fine. One of these days the cable inside will break. I have a cheap clone replacement that has a fabric sheath and looks considerably more solid than the real thing.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: WTF do you people do with your cables?

      Clearly you don't have kids and tablets.

  17. Norman Nescio Bronze badge

    Laptop Power bricks

    A standard for power supplies for notebook-PCs would be beneficial in my home.

    For various reasons, I have Lenovo, Dell, Fujitsu-Siemens, HP, and Acer laptops, all with mutually incompatible power supplies. Add in the wish to have a power-brick at home and in the office to avoid the need to carry one about and it gets beyond the joke. Standardising on 12V (or 24V) DC means you could quite happily power from a standard car battery or two if it became necessary.

    I know not everyone has more portable PCs than mobile phones in their home, but it still rankles.

    (Don't get me started on the idiotic sense pin designs that die as soon as you look at them, so the laptop refuses to charge because the id mechanism on a perfectly serviceable power supply has been zapped)

    1. Stork Bronze badge

      Re: Laptop Power bricks

      That is one reason we have stayed with Apple laptops so far - and their magnetic attachments _are_ good. Our rather large dog has so far not pulled any computer on the floor.

      Moving to USB-C/Thunderbolt was a step backwards IMNSHO.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Laptop Power bricks

        Only mitigated by newer, non-magsafe MacBooks not needing to be charged as often. For a lot of people's use-case, it's only rarely that they'll need to charge their MacBook whilst working on it. Other makes of laptop with 9+ hours battery life are available, and of course some workloads will deplete the battery far faster.

  18. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Angel

    I must be doing something wrong

    I don't seem to have any problems with the USB cables and devices in either my home or place of work.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You can't have Apple using the same cables as everyone else. Can you imagine the indignation of Iphone users when they just have to ask to borrow a charger without mentioning their Iphone?

    Sent from my Iphone.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Why, how 2008 of you!

      In many local pubs it's the opposite - Lightening is the default. Most of the builders, plumbers and barmaids own iPhones. An iPhone isn't something to be remarked upon - it's often just the default choice for people who don't read tech blogs.

      Most of the time micro USB cables are available too - even iPhone owners have them kicking around due to owning a Kindle, wireless speaker or headphones, or PlayStation. Apple has been a bit stingy in licensing out Lightning to iPhone peripheral vendors.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yes but how do you know they all own Iphones? I rest my case sir.

        Sent from my Iphone.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          How do I know? I have eyes, and such phones have a distinctive circular button below their screen. The owners of such phones remain silent on such an unremarkable topic.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Let me guess, you have an Iphone?

            1. Dave 126 Silver badge

              No, I'm reading a tech blog: I have an Android phone, albeit one that isnt running a custom ROM and isn't even rooted. Never even had an iPod, let alone an iPhone. Anyway, what phone I use is irrelevant to my powers of observation and my social relationships with barstaff.

              Also, I'm numerate: many an acquaintance's Android OnePlus or Samsung phone is twice the price of an iPhone SE (with Lightening) - so I'm confused as to your considering it a status symbol.

              1. Spanners Silver badge
                Linux

                @Dave 126

                I'm confused as to your considering it a status symbol.

                Many iPhone users consider them to be status symbols.Why should any of us disagree?

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                I'm numerate

                That made me chuckle dave. I'm ok till I get beyond ten then I have to take my socks and shoes off or use an Iphone calculator.

                1. Dave 126 Silver badge

                  Re: I'm numerate

                  A test of @AC's numeracy:

                  Which is the least amount, an iPhone SE at £250, a OnePlus at £450 or a Galaxy S9 at £600?

                  So whilst I'm still confused by your status symbol claim, your chuckling at your own inability to count beans has offered some context.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: I'm numerate

                    I can also get an old nissan micra for about the same, that and the Iphone aren't going to get me laid no matter how special it makes me.

                  2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                    Re: I'm numerate

                    "Which is the least amount, an iPhone SE at £250, a OnePlus at £450 or a Galaxy S9 at £600?"

                    Isn't that like comparing a whitebox Chinese android phone with an Apple SE?

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        it's often just the default choice for people who don't read tech blogs.

        And for who choose to spend their cash on status symbols…you've completely ignored how expensive I-Phones are.

  20. PhilipN Silver badge

    Connectors!

    Cupboards-full and more all the time - all the way from serial, parallel, printer, scsi, FireWire 400 and 800, usb 1 through XX, Ethernet, and not forgetting vga, DVI-whatever, HDMI, power cables galore, audio cables with 1, 2, 3 or more jacks, optical, RCA, DIN, and now Thunderblah-blah 1, 2, 3 ....

    But why is it -

    1. The last critical connector cable is always two inches short.

    2. That immensely valuable gender-changer at the bottom of the drawer turns out to be female-female instead of male-male.

    Better stop here I’m getting angry

    Too late : Ever tried counting the contacts on a scsi plug to see which frigging one it was? Sh**t!!

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Connectors!

      "2. That immensely valuable gender-changer at the bottom of the drawer turns out to be female-female instead of male-male."

      I used to know a guy who made a very good living setting out his (quite large) stall at all the local computer fairs. All he sold was cables, connectors and gender changers. But he did sell almost any one of those you could imagine. If he didn't have one in stock, odds are that it didn't exist. And he was raking it in :-)

  21. tiggity Silver badge

    Different cables bonus

    In our family household a plethora of different cables in use - USBC, apple proprietary and microUSB.

    Which is a bonus for me, as I'm now the only one using microUSB and if anyone else has a cable problem then they have to sort it out themselves instead of "borrowing" a spare of mine (always have spares even though only cable I had fail was (ironically) an armoured one).

    Unfortunately still get them "borrowing" my external powerpacks as they have misplaced theirs, forgot to charge them up etc.

  22. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Just mandate that all equipment has an IEC power socket. Works well enough for all the rest of my electrical equipment.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      That must make your car's fusebox an interesting sight!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I agree with the Commissioner

    Propriatry connectors are an after sales tax, if they were willing to replace any that failed during normal use then they can do what they like.

    However since it could be said that they Engineer built in failure of cables within the lifetime of their products then control should be taken from the manufactorers.

    Personally I would go further and require them to replace anything that fails within a minimum of 5 years and hold them responsible for the cost of recycling

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: I agree with the Commissioner

      There's no reason for me to seek out a Samsung or Sony shop to buy a branded cable to replace the one that came with my Samsung or Sony phone - so I'm not sure what the motive is for them to bundle poorly made cables. Indeed, anecdotally it seems many of the failed cables readers here have experienced are cheap ones we buy from a supermarket because we've lost or forgotten our original cable. Or just fancy a spare for the car, and a generic cable for 99p, that's a bargain, right? Belkin want how much?! We evidently get what we pay for. Obviously online retailers have lower margins (high street shops do really mark up cables a lot) so quality cables are available for not much money - but that doesn't help us if we need one right now.

      Original Apple cables do seem prone to failure, so there might be a case there. My understanding is it is due to the eco friendly plastic they use, but it wouldn't hurt them to fit a cable gland. Sugru even markets itself primarily as an Apple cable reinforcer.. annoying on a Lightening cable, must be infuriating on an expensive wired Apple keyboard.

    2. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: I agree with the Commissioner

      I agree with the Commissioner

      I don't. My TCO and my environmental impact is far more significantly driven by the durability of the handset, its software support life and whether the battery or failed and worn parts can be changed out at low cost after a couple of years. If the dopey old bat was able to think, she'd see this, and address those factors, instead of worrying about cheap, low environmental impact power adaptors and leads.

  24. M7S

    Not just phones

    I've a Garmin Satnav (Zumo 660) that will charge from USB using an internal port under the battery cover but won't power from USB on the back of the car mount so cannot be easily used in a car unless of course I purchase the proprietary Garmin car cable that has a different connector.

    Seems odd as my other Garmin (an ancient i3) will run off the USB as will the various Tomtoms etc

    1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

      Re: Not just phones

      I had an old Garmin that HAD to have the Garmin special cable or it thought it was connected to a computer -- even when it was just a "cigarette lighter" USB-A charger -- and would go into "sync" mode and be basically unusable.

      By the time I got a replacement cable, I also got a smartphone (and traded in my old car and its perfect mounting location) and rarely used the Garmin since.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Not just phones

        That 'special' cable was just a normal cable with the data pubs shorted. It was a common policy in miniUSB days. The idea was stop a device drawing more than 500mA, the original USB spec, from a computer that wasn't designed to supplement such current.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Not just phones

          * pubs should be pins

          * Supplement should be supply

          * Proofread should Dave do

  25. NohSpam

    Hydrogen fuel cells

    Cold fusion

    Clockwork

    Solar power

    Hamster power

    Regenerative charging from jaw movement when you talk on the phone

    Pezio charging from shoe soles

    Potato or lemon + zink

    ...

    Just sayin'

  26. Pangasinan Philippines

    Micro USB not always standard

    I had a 'Cherry' phone where the connector plug on the charger was extra long.

    When the cable went bad had to ditch the phone as it's not possible to buy a charger on its own.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Micro USB not always standard

      I'd have tried taking a knife to another microUSB plug, and shaving off some plastic. It's analogous to the first iPhone which wouldn't accept all 3.5mm plugs because its port was slightly recessed. Apple shipped it with a short 3.5mm male > 3.5mm female 'adaptor' cable. I have a similar issue, I have to take the case off my phone in order to plug in one of those extra hefty 3.5mm > phone cables you often see in the back of amplifiers.

  27. JDX Gold badge

    I have a mini-USB-C port on my phone but nothing else I own does, and even the cable for the phone is regular USB at the other end!

    How widely has USB-C been adopted so far because recent devices I bought didn't use it (Fire devices mostly) and it seems microUSB is still the defacto standard for everyone but apple - or am I just unlucky in what I've chose to buy?

    My other gripe with USBC is the cable keeps falling out of my phone - ofte I wake up to find my phone hasn't charged as the act of putting it down after plugging it in dislodged the plug. But with only one device and multiple cables I can't theorise if this is an issue with USBC or just my phone's socket?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Samsung adopted USB C with the ill-fated Note 7 and then their flagships since the Galaxy S8 series. Later Nexus and and now Pixel phones use USB C. Sony now do, as do a few other phone vendors.

      Nintendo use USB C for their Switch console.

      A fair few laptop makers are adopting it, but often at the higher end of their ranges. Peripheral vendors such as LG are incorporating into monitors, but again at the higher end.

      Some external HDDs have a USB C socket in addition to older ports, some external battery packs have it and can fast charge over PD.

      A supermarket test of adoption: the end of aisle cable display found in all large supermarkets doesn't always include a USB C cable. When they do, it's rarely cheaper than £15.

      I haven't had USB C fall out, but sometimes I don't quite push it in far enough. I find it much easier to insert than micro USB.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        HTC were an early adopter

        ...with the HTC 10 two years ago.

        Still a fairly solid phone, although the battery life is a bit shitty.

        The problem with adopting a new standard before others is, of course, that you couldn't get USB A-C cables anywhere except online at the time. Two years later, and you can quite easily find them in the supermarkets / newsagents, etc.

  28. W Donelson

    The best cable of any kind in 50 years

    I’ve been using computers and their endless cables for 50 years now. Without a doubt, the Lightning cable is the most reliable and easiest to use of any of them. Hands down.

    1. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: The best cable of any kind in 50 years

      Depends how many times you run over it with your chair.

      1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        Re: The best cable of any kind in 50 years

        @Simon Harris: "Depends how many times you run over it with your chair."

        Or when I worked in schools, how many times the iPad caddy lid was slammed down onto protruding cables.

  29. andy 103
    Stop

    How much should a cable cost?

    The reason there are so many cables (in general, not just limited to phone cables) in the world is because no consumer on the planet has any real idea about how much one "should" cost.

    This is why you get "premium" cables that boast all sorts of things about the materials they are made from, right down to cables that cost under £1 that people will just bin if they fail after 10 mins. There is a huge market at all sorts of different price points - see also HDMI cables on the likes of Amazon which range from a quid to several grand. What's the real difference for those prices? Do consumers know/care, or will they just buy the one that they think is right for them based on virtually no useful information? Do they know/care about the likelihood of obsolecense? My guess is no not really, after all, who really knows what's round the corner?

    There's no easy solution to this. Imagine regulating the cable market in terms of price - absolute pipe dream, never going to happen. Sell them then stick them in landfill or a drawer. That's the future.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: How much should a cable cost?

      You're right, it's hard to know. A Google engineer bought a load of different USB C cables and tested them, after frying his Chromebook with a dodgy cable:

      https://www.engadget.com/2016/02/03/benson-leung-chromebook-pixel-usb-type-c-test/

    2. the Jim bloke Bronze badge

      Re: How much should a cable cost?

      If its round the corner... apple think they own it

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How much should a cable cost?

      see also HDMI cables on the likes of Amazon which range from a quid to several grand. What's the real difference for those prices?

      ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      The gullibility of the buyer. There is no reason for an HDMI cable to cost more than an extension cord of the same length.

  30. SamX

    Fast-charging

    I still don't understand how a single charger would resolve the differences in fast-charging specs. Qualcomm increases the voltage in compatible devices upto 12V (in stead of 5V for standard USB). OnePlus uses a higher amperage with compatible devices (charger/cable). They both are quite different and work against the policy of single spec for charger. Cable can be standadised with USB C by taking the highest quality cable (capable of 12V and high amperage) and forcing them on all. I have seen one that has a USB-C to lightnng adapter sticking to it. When the remaining micro USB people move to new phones, this must be standard.

    Similarly, if Qualcomm and BKK agree, then they can create a charger with both specs included.

    1. Boothy

      Re: Fast-charging

      Quote: "I still don't understand how a single charger would resolve the differences in fast-charging specs."

      The issue is the different charging specs, those need to be scrapped, as they are not part of USB (they are proprietary add ons).

      USB C already has a defined standard for high voltage/current charging, so other companies using their own is just making things worse. Companies like Qualcomm and OnePlus should be adopting the USB standard, not doing things their own way.

      I own a OnePlus, and it does have very good rapid charging, but I can only rapid charge with their power brick, and their cable, (it needs both). They will charge other USB devices (i.e. the socket on the PSU is a standard USB A), but only at a standard charge rate.

      Also, use any other USB charger, or any other cable, with the OnePlus, and it's also back to standard charging rates, even though the PSU and cable could supply high speed charging to a compatible USB C device (such as a laptop).

      What I'd like to see is a rule stating if you (the manufacturer) want to use USB for charging, and want to claim any form of rapid charging, then you must support the USB standard for doing this. (They can still do their own thing as well if they wanted to, but that needs to be alongside fast charging as per the USB spec).

      From what I've read, Dash charging (what OnePlus uses), allows up to 55W (11v @ 5A), whereas USB-C charging allows up to 60W or 100W depending on cable size (standard USB cable is 20v @ 3A, thicker USB cable is 20v @ 5A), so there really is no need for other non USB standard rapid charging methods over USB.

  31. Joe Gurman

    Standards for cables and connectors

    ....are great for consumers if they fully define owner, data, insulation, &c. Where they’re not so great is in the inning variety n department, as they can’t ever know what the next, best thing is. You know, the innovation brought to market bit (as opposed to owning a patent). Then the consumers get to decide: FireWire? Nah, don’t think so, thanks. Thunderbolt 3? Ooh, shiny.

  32. Chris 69
    Paris Hilton

    It's all moot anyway

    Once all your faux-green neighbours have plugged in their move-my-pollution-elsewhere cars there won't be enough electricity left to charge anything so mundane as a phone.

    In any case, surely Paris has cornered the market in universal sockets. Err...

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    After losing a few devices...

    due to broken mini USB charging ports I purchased a magnetic charging cable that has a male end that stays in the charging port and the charging cable "snaps" to the phone magnetically so that wear and tear on the phones port is null.

    My Nexxus tablet has something similar albeit larger.

  34. Eponymous Bastard
    Flame

    Nanny - 1st world problem - or maybe an issue for the Social Justice Warriors / crusties

    Why do we need even more nanny state from those pricks in Brussels? Can't they spend some of the obscene amounts of money they spunk on ridiculous projects like trying to curtail climate change on helping people in the 3rd world have fresh water and somewhere safe to take a shit?

    1. Waseem Alkurdi

      Re: Nanny - 1st world problem - or maybe an issue for the Social Justice Warriors / crusties

      Have my upvote!

  35. skalamanga

    Screw plugs, I want magnetic contacts

    Something like hdbaset or thunderbolt, but using pogo pins and a magnetic locator. Make it flat and round with 4 pairs of terminals so it can connect in four different axes and handshake each pair on connection. Put a hole in the centre so it can be permanently locked in plac with a screw.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The best cable is no cable and the best connector is a magnet

    The efforts to get everyone onto some form of USB-C are noble but it's solving a problem from 10 years ago. We need a non-bluetooth solution for wireless charging and data that is standardized on all phones way more more than another Cable of the Month. If we are going to have ANOTHER cable, can we at least please get a flush contact with a magnetic retainer instead of another fiddly plug to catch lint and snap off in your device this time?

    They blew the thunderbolt/USB-C rollout by allowing too many internally dissimilar cables using the same connector. Now you can't tell if/why something is blinkered because it isn't clear from a glance if the source, destination, and cable all match. And with the implementation of high current chargers, you risk setting things on fire if the cable doesn't match up properly. So instead of single cable bliss we have to check Google docs to verify the cable isn't blacklisted before we order something off Amazon.

  37. JohnFen Silver badge

    It has?

    "Since then, MicroUSB has been superseded by USB Type-C"

    And yet, I still don't own a single device that has a USB-C port.

    1. doublelayer

      Re: It has?

      Nor do I. I think it might be best if, instead of thinking up new types of connectors that 1. don't have any faster data rates, 2. didn't get any smaller, 3. took far too long to realize that being flipped would be helpful, and focused on making what is already available better, we'd have better cables. The same applies to all types of fast-charging stuff. If, instead of trying to crank up the voltage or current, phone manufacturers tried to make their phones run at lower power levels and have batteries supporting it such that the typical high-power USB (5V 2.5A) would be fast, then it would be much easier for everybody.

  38. Ubermik

    They should just pick a standard for everything except apple and enforce that.

    Who really cares about what is only 20% of the market any way? Let them do their own thing

    1. Waseem Alkurdi

      Who really cares about what is only 20% of the market any way? Let them do their own thing

      That's lawmaking. Laws are supposed to rule over all. Why does X get away with not applying the law?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They should just pick a standard for everything except apple and enforce that.

      * * * *

      All too often, mandatory standards are an obstacle to progress.

      Imagine a world where the mandatory standards on radio modulation (AM!) and television signal encoding (analog!) were still in force.

      Standards belong in real safety situations (thou shalt not operate a large ship without the appropriate certifications, thou shalt not fly an airliner without working radios and sufficient reserve fuel)... not in controlling and mandating all the current details of life, thus stifling innovation.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        "Imagine a world where the mandatory standards on radio modulation (AM!) and television signal encoding (analog!) were still in force."

        Odd. I don't see anything that demands that standards don't change as the need arises. Thus NTSC makes way for ATSC and so on.

        "Standards belong in real safety situations"

        Handling electricity tends to count as a safety situation. I've had a couple of cheap USB cable suddenly get pretty hot as wiring began to short, so I'm aware that even things like 5V power cables can get pretty dicey.

  39. nasos007

    Waste of time

    By the time the EU (and other governments) forces Companies to comply with the "one cable to rule them all" standard, the Companies will all be using a myriad of WIRELESS CHARGING dongles.

    And the whole thing will repeat itself...

    So, what a waste of time and money.

    1. adam 40

      Deja vu, all over again.

      'And the whole thing will repeat itself...'

      Back in the late nineties to the turn of the millennium when I was working on mobile phone development there were a myriad of proprietary leads out there. Even the same manufacturer had different plugs for different models. So every phone had to have a new charger, data cable, etc.

      The US government (or possibly the FCC) got in on tidying this up and we all settled on mini USB and a barrel jack.

      So how has this situation been allowed to happen again?

      Perhaps it's just a glitch in the Matrix...

  40. cyberpunk

    UK 13A plug all the way!

    I think that Everything (from your mobile phone to your kettle) should come with its own integrated 13A UK plug, and 9 pin COM port cable. This would Improve everything.

    1. Waseem Alkurdi

      Re: UK 13A plug all the way!

      I think that somewhere over the pond, people with two-pin plugs and 110V AC are bound to disagree.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: UK 13A plug all the way!

        "I think that somewhere over the pond, people with two-pin plugs and 110V AC are bound to disagree."

        Oh so very much!

        I think that our system is cheaper, safer, more elegant, and just all round better.

        What were those people thinking, bringing 240V to a normal wall socket?

        As usual YMMV.

  41. c101

    Nevermind cables. What about sealed batteries ?

    Do you know if any good smartphones without sealed batteries and glass case are made today ?

  42. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Yeah right... Just try using a non-licensed Lightning cable

    "You can use an Apple iPhone charger to power a non-Apple phone, using a non-Apple cable, and vice versa - although any proprietary fast charging method will not work."

    The "and vice versa" part is just incorrect (incomplete) enough to be misleading.

    The Apple 'Lightning' charger cable contains a tiny DRM chip for the sole purpose of enforcing their "Made for iPhone" licensing fee. Knock-off cables may echo the correct code at the outset (just long enough to gather favourable reviews), but only until the next iOS update when the codes are rolled-over. Then your otherwise perfectly fine cable is rejected by the newly-updated iPhone. Into the bin it goes.

    You. Must. Pay. The. "Made for iPhone" Licensing Fee.

    That's why the $3 cables are useless and you need to pay about $8. Which presumably includes an Apple Lightning Licensing DRM fee of about $4 each (educated guess).

    Regulators should pounce, please and thank you.

    Android doesn't have this problem. With Android, any cable that works, just works. There's no DRM chip nonsense.

    Down Votes not accepted. These are facts.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A bright idea...

    Old phone chargers can have a useful and decorative second life by wiring them up to those flexible LED lighting strips you can get for peanuts from eBay. Check the voltage is compatible and work out the right number of LEDs to stay within the charger's current spec. So far I've done 2 illuminated display cabinets (which previously had mains strip lights) and also made a good bright work light. If we have accumulated more spare chargers by December I'll do some Christmas lights too...

  44. mathew42
    Megaphone

    Where are they magnetic connections?

    I've have a MacBook and a Sony Tablet with a magnetic connection for charging. Best experience ever!

    Connecting is a matter of bringing the cable vaguely close to the correct spot and letting the attraction force gently snap the connection in place. Easy to do by feel as there is no need to correctly line up the port. Easy to do with one hand as you don't need to brace the device as you push the connector in.

    There are several online sellers offering adaptors, but I'm reluctant to go a non-standard approach with the risk that in 12 months time when I buy another device the seller isn't in business and I end up with multiple standards.

    One of the most common failures (particularly with devices the kids use) is the USB port failing due to rough treatment.

  45. hayzoos

    Wire, plugs, current, safety

    I'm a USian with better than average knowledge of the electrical systems here, enough to make me dangerous. My direct experience is with the radial circuits, primarily in the residential electrical. I have also worked with industrial 3-phase delta and wye tapped circuits over 480 volts.

    I think a fuse integrated into the plug is proper engineering whenever the wire beyond the plug is rated for less current than the outlet and building circuit. I see the fused plugs here in holiday decorative lights and a few other applications. But, most of the daily use appliances have cords rated for 10 amps or less plugged into 15 amp outlets/circuits, most without a plug fuse. Many of those appliances have a fuse in their power supply, leaving the cord as a weak link.

    Keep in mind when talking of fuses or circuit breakers, it is concerning overcurrent protection. There is also GFCI for ground fault protection when the current flowing through the hot is greater than that returning through the neutral and/or ground. The goal of GFCI is to cut the circuit when the current is finding another path besides the neutral or ground since that may be a human providing the circuit path lethally. Then you have the more recent arc-fault circuit protection. It's goal is to break the circuit when a prolonged arcing is occurring. Why? Prolonged arcing causes high temperatures suitable for igniting flammables or melting metals just like arc welding.

    This has direct relevance to the "one plug to rule them all". Take USB for example, is has variations for differing power levels through different combinations of volts and amps in the range of 2 to 100 watts. Combine that with backward compatibility either directly or through adapters with older spec cables of lower current capability and no fusing of the wires at the plug and you can see temperatures reaching ignition levels. I know the specs usually cover handshaking to negotiate higher power levels, but various low cost cables and adapters seem to find workarounds to those nasty safety limits. 100 watts may not seem like a lot, but it is more than enough to cause ignition temperatures for a lot of common materials.

  46. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

    3 colo(u)rs red.

    It's not mission impossible. #ouchhot

    1. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

      Re: 3 colo(u)rs red.

      Not stupid, but its beginning to feel that way...

  47. Paul

    Apple will doubtless pay the fine and continue...

    Apple will doubtless pay the fine and continue to milk the lucrative market for proprietary lightning port: cables, chargers, docks, headphones, etc.

  48. mildy bemused

    USB-C Endoscopy

    The problem with USB C on a cell phone comes when pocket lint gets wedged into the crevice in the socket around the contacts. The cable won't go in far enough and starts falling out.

    The only way to fix, other than replacing the socket (good luck with that one), it is a very delicate operation with a fine needle complicated by the difficulty in seeing what you are doing since you need light and magnification. Much like keyhole surgery.

    (If you plan to try this at home, remove the battery from the cell phone beforehand. If you can't remove the battery....)

  49. EnviableOne Bronze badge

    Back to the Point

    Basically the idea is to get Apple to use the same spec as everyone else (USB-C) but this will never happen as they are making too much money licencing others to make lightning connectors or flogging their own at £35 a pop.

    it would make everything better if all chargers worked on all devices, but the range of voltages and currents on plugs and cables makes it a nightmare.

    most of them are 5v then the ampage changes - 1.0A-4.6A

    when you get to QC your looking at up to 20v

  50. Dave 15 Silver badge

    Once upon a time

    Once upon a time there was Nokia, they made and sold so many phones you were never far from someone who would lend you a charger... shame thats changed.

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