back to article EU declares it'll Make USB-C Great Again™. You hear that, Apple?

The EU plans to force manufacturers to use a common connector – the happily symmetrical USB-C – for all mobes, fondleslabs, e-readers and similar electronic tat. With the mobile industry merrily galloping through successions of “standard” charger every few years (remember mini-USB?), particularly on Android devices, the EU …

  1. Elledan

    If they're going for USB-C, they better somehow clear up this whole mess around USB-C functionality as well. Exactly what kind of charging capabilities are supported (or not supported) by either side (charger & device) should be labelled, especially with the USB-PD standard involved.

    I don't think that anyone will ever able to untangle which device will end up charging which device when both are connected over USB-C, however. Will the smartphone charge the tablet? The Switch the laptop? Will laptop A charge laptop B, or vice versa?

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Trollface

      Can we have a schrodinger's joke icon?

      We could always use a directional cable. That would at least solve the problem there.

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Can we have a schrodinger's joke icon?

        We used to actually have directional cables, with an A end and a B end. And you knew that power flowed from A to B.

        1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change
          Coat

          Re: Can we have a schrodinger's joke icon?

          That'll be before we reached USB-C, and not merely a C but a limitless ocean of possibilities.

          I'll get me C++oat.

          1. Evil Scot

            Re: Can we have a schrodinger's joke icon?

            Stay Classy

            1. Zarno Bronze badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: Can we have a schrodinger's joke icon?

              That's a good pointer right there.

      2. AMBxx Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Can we have a schrodinger's joke icon?

        Directional would only work if the cable was oxygen free. Perhaps that's why Apple's cables are so expensive?

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Benson Leung tried to do that but he hasn't reviewed for a while.

      I don't know if USB-C chargers and cables have improved since then when the chance of frying your phone or laptop was much higher than it should have been.

    3. Justthefacts

      I don’t see how USB-C solves the charger-zoo problem......

      The real problem is that USB-C negotiates power delivery in 0.05A and 0.05V increments.

      Absolutely nobody is going to read the side of the charger plug, to check that it meets the minimum requirement of your specific phone. This is determined by detailed measurement of each brand of battery, and its thermal performance. If it doesn’t, it will still charge, but at dog-slow speed.

      Almost everyone will still buy the one supplied by Apple, as that is guaranteed by a massive sticker on the packet to be exactly big enough to charge the iPad at maximum speed, but exactly small enough to fit into the case that comes with it.

      Look at this another way. The only charger that can serve *everything* maximally is the one that can deliver the maximum USB PD of 100W. Which is going to be a giant. It would be crazy to have a 100W charger for every appliance. So, once again, you’ll have a proliferation of USBC chargers - a little one for the the phone, a medium size one for the iPad, a big one for the laptop, etc. This solves nothing at all for e-waste, just makes it look good on paper.

      1. Oh Homer
        Headmaster

        Re: I don’t see how USB-C solves the charger-zoo problem......

        Disingenuous nonsense.

        Few devices will ever need 100W chargers. Those are corner cases. By all means have a few exceptions. But a few exceptions does not somehow equate to a market filled with thousands of incompatible chargers, as was the case before a standard was introduced.

        This is one of those rare occasions where the free market actually works, once properly regulated. The typical power requirements of the day will determine the power rating of the most common chargers at any given time, evolving as necessary as technology changes.

        The important difference is they will all be useable with all devices, but only thanks to regulatory intervention.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: I don’t see how USB-C solves the charger-zoo problem......

          >Disingenuous nonsense.

          Few devices will ever need 100W chargers.

          You missed the point, whilst I agree the 100W is a little sensationalist, the principle being spoke of is totally valid.

          Today I have a collection of "USB" chargers, gathered over the years from various phones and tablets. To tell them apart I have to get the magnifying glass out and read the practically illegible writing on the adaptor (remember the differing output ratings of the iPhone charger, yet all identically packaged?). So it is pot luck whether the phone gets paired with the "right" charger or not.

          In some respects the variations permitted is making the USB charging environment look very similar to the environment that exists with other low voltage/current power adaptors. What is needed is some sensible operational standards and user friendly/obvious labelling:

          1. IGotOut

            Re: I don’t see how USB-C solves the charger-zoo problem......

            "Today I have a collection of "USB" chargers, gathered over the years from various phones and tablets."

            You do know the tablet charger will work absolutely fine on the phone?

            I've a good charger at home (Anker) for all my devices (even my iPad)

            Many devices don't even come with a charger at all.

            1. tony
              Happy

              Re: I don’t see how USB-C solves the charger-zoo problem......

              When you buy a device do you get the one packaged without a charger? or just throw the charger away when you get rid of the packaging?

          2. JDX Gold badge

            Re: I don’t see how USB-C solves the charger-zoo problem......

            I just find a cable which fits my device and a charger which has USB-out. Or a power socket with USB built in. And connect them together. I don't necessarily get things charging as fast as they perhaps could, but it always seems to work.

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: I don’t see how USB-C solves the charger-zoo problem......

              Indeed. I'm sure mileage varies, but for all my USB-charging devices1 I've always just had a couple of those kits that have a cable and a set of adapters for various USB sizes, and the assortment of USB chargers I've accumulated over the years. Phones, tablet, Kindle, that old MP3 player I sometimes dig out for when I'm working on the house - they all charge just fine with whatever cable and charger I use.

              I keep a couple of chargers in my computer bag and have various ones scattered around the houses. (The latter stay plugged in; they dissipate negligible heat, which means they're using negligible power.) I've never had any reason to look to see what they're rated for.

              1Refusing to use Apple products has solved the Lightning problem nicely.

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: I don’t see how USB-C solves the charger-zoo problem......

        This is only talking about phone chargers, and guess what? Most phones draw a similar amount of power.

        So if you go round to a friend's house, you know that their phone charger will work just fine with your phone, at least enough to get you home.

    4. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      I dont care about inter-device charging other than from a laptop,considering it has a large power reserve.

      If you really need to do it (why would you) then the solution is simple. The device with the least change gets the power.

    5. JDX Gold badge

      Every USB-C cable I currently own is only C at one end, and 'regular' USB at the other. Which makes the implication the electricity gushes from big->small :)

  2. N2 Silver badge

    Zut alors

    Is this something sensible from our EU overlords?

    Its been a long wait if it is!

    1. Ken 16 Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Zut alors

      Don't worry, you will get your own kite marked chargers with 3 round pins and no warning stickers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Zut alors

        Oh yeah! I forgot about the Kite Marks. Hopefully Boris brings it back, so we can look for electrical items with it on, and avoid it like the unregulated, dangerous, poorly-made, crap that it will be.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Zut alors

          It will get regulated, if only to make sure there's no accidental alignment to EU standards; 55Hz 230V in, 2¾V at 3¼A etc. M Francois will be in charge of standards.

  3. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

    I agree with the sentiment behind this. Having a single charger standard is a good idea in theory.

    However, the problem is that it will stifle development. Technology can move very quickly. What happens when someone comes out with "USB-D", or "Micro-C" or something, smaller and/or with more functionality, or in some other way more advanced and better for the devices? The EU will not be able to respond quickly with an update, and mobile devices will be stuck with an "outdated" connector until they do.

    To be fair, Apple have brought this upon themselves. They chose a proprietary connector from day one, excluding other devices (AFAIK they never licensed Lightning, or their older iPod connector, for use in other mobile devices) and restricting users of their devices from using accessories made for others. But in bringing the rules down on their own heads, they're also forcing the restriction on others.

    This is Apple ruining it for everyone else by refusing to play ball...

    1. fwthinks

      USB is over 20 years old - so already a mature technology. Wireless charging aside, I am struggling to understand what innovations have been made. Apart from reducing the size of the connector and making it reversible, there is little change. Incremental changes in power levels and control - but otherwise I don't see power deliver as an area that will see a quantum leap that requires complete freedom to deliver the next improvements. This is just a battle over revenue.

      At present waste and pollution costs are not passed back to the manufacturer. Why should large electronic companies be able to make large profits on products which cannot be repaired or recycled at my expense by my increased tax charges for environmental management. We should be charging an additional tax on every device based on how environmentally friendly it is. If someone still wants to buy the latest shiny shiny, then fine, but they should pick up the full lifetime cost of that product.

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Meh

        We've gone from 1.5Mb/s with the original USB 1 to about 40Gb/s with Thunderbolt 3 over USB C.

        1. fwthinks

          Sorry - i though this article was about charging - which is measured in volts and amps - not Mb/s

          1. katrinab Silver badge
            Meh

            OK, from 2.5W to 100W.

            1. elaar

              I believe the plan is to use the cable with devices with similar voltage requirements, rather than the 20v x 5amp (100w) capability, which would obviously result in the destruction of a lot of devices.

              Realistically, all that's required is a PSU of ~ 3amp+, and that would charge 99% of phones/tablets/SOCs/Controllers/Headphones/Gadgets etc etc.

              1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

                @elaar... Remarkably, the clever chaps at the USB-IF have thought this out, so _all_ USB Type C chargers put out 5V at up to 3A. To get to 20V and 5A requires an exchange of capabilities on the Configuration Channel. If both sides are happy with 20V, then the voltage is changed. Otherwise, it isn't.

                Cunning, eh?

        2. boltar Silver badge

          And ethernet has gone from 10mbs to 10gbs using the exact same connector. The only reason for changing the USB connector is for companies to maka more money by forced upgrading.

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            USB A & B haven't changed, though USB 3 is a completely different beast so it's essentially USB 2 + USB 3 crammed into the same mechanical package. USB-C attempts to solve common problems assoiated with the nearly symmetrical USB design: if it had been asymmetric from the start lots of people wouldn't have damaged cables and ports by jamming them the wrong way round. And this is easy to get wrong with micro-USB: the port on my reader is handily inverted from the way it generally is on a phone but I can only see this clearly if I take my glasses off and look at it closely.

            So, symmetric wasn't a requirement, but there's no doubt that USB-C is much more user friendly than USB-B ever was.

            1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

              "... lots of people wouldn't have damaged cables and ports by jamming them the wrong way round."

              Is this really a thing? I've seen and repaired lots of things, but never this. I don't really see how it's possible.

              1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
                Facepalm

                Hell, I've had someone insist on plugging a USB-A into an RJ45 socket.

                Never underestimate user stupidity.

                1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

                  OK - fair comment! Maybe I've just been lucky :-)

                  (Tomorrow I'll get two people wanting their devices fixed because of this, won't I?)

              2. Spanners Silver badge

                @Intractable Potsherd

                Is this really a thing?

                A question like that raises the possibility that you may never have seen a normal "user".

                1. Try and push the cable into the device.

                2. If it does not go in, push harder. Repeat several times.

                3. Without removing the cable, rotate through 540°.

                4. Plug other end of cable into charger/pc/telephone socket

                5. repeat 2 and 3

                6. Examine shredded cable plug

                7. Call IT informing them that you are putting in a complaint about yet another substandard cable

                There is something comparable for unplugging cables too

              3. phuzz Silver badge

                I've seen broken USB Mini connectors, although that seemed to be because the connectors broke loose from the board they were soldered too. No idea if that was because of some idiot plugging them in the wrong way round, but it just seemed to be a poor connector design.

          2. elaar

            You're comparing bandwidth with ampage.

            RJ45 has gone from utilising 2 pairs to 4 as well.

            1. boltar Silver badge

              " if it had been asymmetric from the start lots of people wouldn't have damaged cables and ports by jamming them the wrong way round"

              Oddly no one has suggested replacing the HDMI connector even though it has the same issue.

              Ampage is irrelevant. All USB connectors are capable of passing significant amperages as well as bandwdith. As for RJ45 - the point is the plug hasn't changed regardless of the technical details happening under the hood.

              1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

                HDMI tends to be a plug once and leave the cable plugged in until you replace the hardware not a "hang on I'll just plug the webcam" in sort of situation. Good design provides features appropriate to the use case which here is the case of the clueless user and the destroyed hardware.

          3. toejam

            Ethernet over twisted pair hasn't had the same pressures as USB regarding connector design. That's why everything from 10BaseT through 10GBaseT still uses the same 8P8C connector, even as the RJ45 cable it terminates has seen significant change. There have been connector alternatives like CX-4, but they were never that popular.

            Meanwhile, Ethernet over fiber has had 5 or 6 different connectors to choose from over the years since the pressures have been different.

            That said, I never understood why USB 1.x and 2.x needed six different connector types. And the new B and micro-B connectors for USB 3.x seem hackish. Stick with A and C for 3.x and higher.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            And ethernet has gone from 10mbs to 10gbs using the exact same connector

            They may look the same (and you can plug one into another), but the actual physical construction has changed as has the cable - you will be very, very lucky to get 10mbps infrastructure to do anything at 10gbps.

            1. phuzz Silver badge

              Re: And ethernet has gone from 10mbs to 10gbs using the exact same connector

              True, but I'd bet a 10Mbps network that was cabled by someone who knew what they were doing (admittedly rare in cabling, in my experience), would probably manage GB.

              Maybe not without a bit of re-transmission, but it would connect at that speed. Ethernet will put up with all sorts of crap at the physical layer before it completely fails.

          5. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

            Ethernet has kept the same connector, but gone from cat 3 cables to cat 6..

            Pedantically it's also changed for portable devices. When it originated in laptops it was a PC Card device with a pigtail and RJ45 port (with one notable exception). It then became standardised into a laptop itself, or at least in a docking bay, but on some of the more consumer level devices has now gone back to a USB to Ethernet pigtail arrangement again.

        3. s2bu

          Thunderbolt

          Not to be a pedantic bastard, but technically Thunderbolt isn't really part of the USB spec, it just happens to use a USB-C connector. :)

          1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

            Re: Thunderbolt

            True, but the USB spec does define how Thunderbolt should use the Type C connector!

            (And DisplayPort. And HDMI. It's pretty nifty...)

      2. Hugh McIntyre

        Re: "I am struggling to understand what innovations have been made"

        New versions are enormously faster. USB 1.x went up to 12 Mb/sec. USB 3.x can do 5-20Gb/sec, i.e. about 1000x faster...

      3. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

        Same for power...

        For USB 1/2 the spec was for 5v at 500ma, for USB 3 that jumped to 900ma, for USB-BC 1500ma, USB C can go upto 3000ma and USB-PD bumps upto 5000ma (at 20v not 5v).

        Better cables being a key to this so that they don't melt.. But all of them as a minimum should provide 500ma.

        1. Dr_N Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: Same for power...

          mA not ma.

          1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: Same for power...

            And definitely not MA, unless you're trying to vapourise your house...

            1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
              Devil

              Re: ...unless you're trying to vapourise your house...

              Or someone else's...

            2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

              Re: Same for power...

              "And definitely not MA, unless you're trying to vapourise your house..."

              I literally laughed out loud at that.

              Scared the cat.

      4. TeeCee Gold badge
        Facepalm

        Well, there are two competing fast charge "standards". Qualcomm's Fast Charge and Oppo's VOOC. The first is more widely adopted in devices, the second kicks its arse royally. The chargers are incompatible, as the first just stuffs a massive current into the battery (brute force and ignorance) whereas the second uses variable potential difference and parallel cell charging (elegant and builds on many years of known working and reliable tech).

        My guess would be that the ever-useless fonctionnaires of the EU will choose a third to avoid having to make an actual decision.

        This will stifle innovation, but is teh enviromunt yes and is have to be do sumfing.

        1. TheVogon Silver badge

          No, that's not correct. Qualcomm's Quick Charge has a number of technical advantages such as support for multipath charging, Qi wireless charging interoperability, and 20 Volt charging support amongst others.

    2. AntiSol

      "What happens when someone comes out with "USB-D", or "Micro-C" or something, smaller and/or with more functionality, or in some other way more advanced and better for the devices?"

      Why can't this new connector you imagine be backwards compatible? What advantage is there to it being a different plug?

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Any reason not to switch from a DB25 plug? Where do we draw the line?

        1. AntiSol

          Well, for one, a DB25 is larger than the bottom of most phones. Secondly, it's not very ubiquitous.

          But you haven't addressed my questions.

          1. Martin-73 Silver badge
            Joke

            To be fair it's quite ubiquitous. On every real computer.

            1. AntiSol

              I don't think so. I actually went looking for a laptop with a serial port not that long ago. DB25 would have been great but I would have settled for DB9. It's very slim pickings. The couple I did find didn't have other stuff that I needed. I ended up buying one of those USB serial port adaptors, which wasn't ideal.

          2. Roland6 Silver badge

            >Well, for one, a DB25 is larger than the bottom of most phones. Secondly, it's not very ubiquitous.

            Well, it was pretty ubiquitous back in the days of VDUs and modems, it was a big thing when PC's went from having a DB25 connector to a DB9 and the widely used 9-pin DIN keyboard connector was replaced by the 6-pin mini-DIN connector... Backwards compatibility being gained through the use of adaptors, which is also how you connect a 6-pin mni-DIN keyboard and mouse to a USB port.

            1. AntiSol

              It sure was. But we're talking about smartphones, not PCs. If you want to talk about whether they should still include DB25 ports on PCs, I'll be right there with you saying they should. But we're talking about smartphones.

              Having an adaptor or dongle for your computer is less of a hassle than for a phone because you're not carrying it around everywhere.

              1. John Robson Silver badge

                Congratulations for completely missing the point of the DB25 comment.

                At whatever point in history you choose to cement a single standard you prevent the next standard emerging.

                In 20 years time we'll still be using USB-C, whilst the rest of the world is on USB-Y, enjoying whatever unimagined benefits that might bring.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  A few years ago Europe was doing the same things but with Micro-USB (A) specified as the target connector. Now it's USB-C. In ten years time they will probably mandate your USB-Y, but in the meantime we will have the benefit of pretty much every adapter supporting every device. Except apple, apparently.

                  The EU's approach isn't perfect, but in my home at least it has made powering devices a little less complicated for the past decade. A nice side effect is that whilst the regs only apply to mobile devices, once such a standard is in place manufacturers of other small devices tend to fall in line with it too.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    A lot of talk about problems with USB-C and rarely a mention of Apple. Personally, since switching to Apple, I've not had problems with multiple charge cables. The switch to Lightning meant a couple of adapters were needed for the older kit bu, for the past 10 years, cable consistency. As far as the wall-warts are concerned, I rarely use any since fitting a few USB ported power sockets around the house.

                    Switching the phone connector to USB-C would mean having to replace cables. As far as charging from anyone else's adapter, no way without a USB data blocker - but that's a rarity as my iPhone easily lasts a couple days and, when on the move, a portable battery fills any gaps (which, of course, needs its own USB lead)! Sure, if everything started out as USB-C, no problem, and a standard would have made sense; but that's not where we now are and forcing a common standard on all phones, etc. will mean more leads, and more waste in the changeover - and, as others have said, USB-C is just today's flavour.

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Personally, since switching to Apple, I've not had problems with multiple charge cables

                      This statement is the equivalent of saying "Personally, since contracting HIV, I haven't felt sick...".

                      Just wait a while.

                2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
                  Holmes

                  I think maybe you're (possibly deliberately) precluding the possibility that the EU's recommendations aren't set in stone, and may change in the future if the requirements change. You know, like they already did.

                  1. tony
                    Happy

                    EU rules & regs are definitely not set in stone, for example take the rules around 0 vat rating for sanitary products, they've been in discussions since ~2006 and i think it should be settled in the next couple of years.

                    So more set in Tar.

                3. AntiSol

                  Perhaps you can explain to me why having a USB-C port means you can't also have a USB-Y port?

                  I'm also yet to see anybody address my question as to what the advantage of using a different plug is, and why it can't be backwards compatible. So if you could cover that in your response too, that would be grand :)

                  1. John Robson Silver badge

                    You’re seriously suggesting manufacturers would put 2 ports on a device?

                    1. JohnFen Silver badge

                      Devices that use USB-C should always have at least two of them. I know they don't, but they absolutely should.

                    2. AntiSol

                      You’re seriously suggesting manufacturers would put 2 ports on a device?

                      I sure am. In fact, the next device I plan to buy has two ports, and that's a big part of the reason why I'll be buying one.

                      Can you give me a single reason why a device shouldn't have 2 ports? I'm seeing a lot of incredulity and naysaying here, but no actual reasons or responses debating the merits (or lack thereof) of the issues/suggestions.

                      1. maaen
                        Flame

                        I completely agree with the two port facility in a gadget...I said the same infact about 4 days ago...I also wanted these manufacturers to have more than one slot for micro sd cards a few years ago.. but I did not manage to convince too many readers...there is simple logic in having two ports...just think about it...and once again if European Union had enough common sense to make it LAW then by now we in this world would have had the option of REMOVABLE BATTERIES IN SOME MOBILE PHONES SOLD EACH YEAR alongside those slick and sexy phones with imprisoned batteries which SOME people prefer...But I have a feeling there is some type of blindness and a serious lack of sense and intelligence in making the right decisions for the common good of us humans.

      2. low_resolution_foxxes

        Well, 28 gauge cable has the luxury of being thin and using small and cheap amounts of metal.

        You can try putting 3A down the cable, but when your gran has set fire to the house you might not be happy.

        Changing the current rating and cable thickness? Probably best to change the connector,or some bellend will complain the cable doesn't charge properly. Also USB C is reversible.

        I likes USB C.

    3. devTrail Bronze badge

      > However, the problem is that it will stifle development. Technology can move very quickly.

      May I suggest you a great innovation? Two ports of different format side by side. Please don't tell me that there's no space in a crammed device or that it would be more expensive. For medium to high end devices production cost is just a small part of the price. As for the space if they can't solve the problem it means they are not so good at innovation.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        I can see it now, any number of "fanbois" queuig at the "genius" desk in the Apple store to get their latest iDevice fixed because they forced a USB-C connector into the thunderbolt port or vice-versa.

        When the form factor dictates that the port is necessarily small, and bearing in mind that very few people have perfect eyesight, having multiple ports of similar size and shape next to each other really doesn't seem like a very clever idea.

        1. devTrail Bronze badge

          Classic corporate propaganda: users are idiots therefore we decide for them

    4. Roland6 Silver badge

      >However, the problem is that it will stifle development.

      Standardisation can and does drive markets...

      We only need to look a few years back to the time before USB to see the (mobile phone) market's normal response to to things: do very much the same thing, but just make sure it is ever so slightly different to both the competition and last year's connector. Result: the drawer of useless adapters, that people don't remember which device they go with.

      Yes, it does introduce a hurdle to the rapid introducton of new technology, but that can be addressed by the creation of suitable forums, just as we see with the IEEE 802 committees and the managed evolution of the RJ-45 connector and associated twisted-pair data cable Standards.

    5. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

      (a) USB-D will be back-compatible to the extent of conforming with the rules. History suggests this is not an undue burden.

      (b) If industry (as opposed to some lone Apple-wannabe or breakaway group) really see a good reason to change, they can lobby for it, and the commission is responsive if they present a good case. It'll take time, but industry will need to take time too if it's not to be a botch job.

    6. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      "This is Apple ruining it for everyone else by refusing to play ball..."

      Apple own the ball, the playing field, all the kit worn by the players, both goals and the stadium. They pretty much get to choose what connector to use, and it becomes a de-facto standard by virtue of sheer volume of sales.

      Most other manufacturers have to conform in one way or another because they're not big enough in market volume to go it alone.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        > it becomes a de-facto standard by virtue of sheer volume of sales.

        This is what irritates me about Apple. So many of their design decisions are things that I actively don't want (if I did, then I'd use Apple devices), but they end up polluting all the competing products anyway.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    why

    well done eu. Leave this stuff to the techies and they come up with stuff like the mind numbing optical spdif.

    Any reason why a round fibre cable has to fit a certain way when you are groping around in the dark round the back of your tv?

    I want this person found and interrogated by Andrew Neil.

    Next he can terrorise the ipv6 guys and other professor frink types.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Isn't this a non-story, the evolution for mobile charging should be wireless?.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      Eventually... wireless charging will be the standard, but in the meantime, standards anyone? I read that it isn't so much the connector, but the technology behind it. Not a sparky\engineer I may have misinterpreted the concept.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        No it wont - unless you use toothbrush type charging its far too inefficient.

        1. Dazed and Confused Silver badge
          Facepalm

          > unless you use toothbrush type charging its far too inefficient.

          Is the charging on toothbrushes efficient?

          When it comes to electric toothbrushes the usage model should be pretty simple to understand, we're all told to brush our teeth twice a day, after breakfast and then before bed. So the charging model should be pretty damn simple to understand. It should charge between the morning and evening tooth brushing session.

          From the number you see in shops the Oral-B/Braun ones are the most popular.

          Well they don't fully charge between sensible morning and evenings. Yeah, maybe when I start work at 00:30 and don't get to bed till 23:00 or so, but not for a normal day.

          Oh and don't get me started on who in their right mind makes charging units that don't work in both the US and the rest of the world.

          My old Panasonic electric razor recharges wirelessly with induction coils in under and hour.OK it has two coils but works without the peg in the middle which Oral-B uses.

          1. keith_w

            I thought the peg in the middle was to keep it upright

            1. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

              you may be right, I've never taken one to bits to find out if it forms a more active role.

            2. Benson's Cycle

              That's where the driving coil is.

          2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

            Your toothbrush is broken

            I have an ancient Oral B toothbrush which now has to be charged every few days, whilst before it would go weeks. The easiest way is to keep it permanently plugged in, but if you leave it in after brushing in the morning it should have enough charge for the evening.

            1. Duffy Moon

              Re: Your toothbrush is broken

              I got one of the non-rechargeable Oral B ones. Seven quid. I put Eneloop batteries in, so it'll last as long as the motor does.

              1. JohnFen Silver badge

                Re: Your toothbrush is broken

                I use the old manual ones. No need for power at all! I think it's the superior solution.

    2. codejunky Silver badge

      @AC

      Dont tell them that! The idiots will want to dictate how that works too!

    3. David Webb

      Which wireless charging standard? Isn't there 2 or 3 different standards?

    4. JohnFen Silver badge

      I hope not, out of environmental concerns. Wireless charging wastes a lot of electricity.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Looks like it is time to link to this again.

        1. ITMA

          So it's rather like using significant amounts of processing power, all the minerals etc necessary to make the electronics, the data communication infrastructure to send the data back and forwards between client device the system the does the donkey work of voice recognition - all so a lazy so and so can sit on their backside and not be bothered to get up to operate a light switch.

    5. elaar

      Cables always win.

    6. Alan Brown Silver badge

      I see all the downvotes but there's a reasonable suspicion that might be Apple's response to this directive and fast Qi has already won there by default

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Isn't wireless charging about 70% efficient?

    8. Steve 122

      huh, I thought el reg was for techies

      Suggesting an inflexible, less reliable, less effecient way should replace something that works is not what I expected to see. should "wireless" charging be a feature? sure. does that have anything to do with connector standardisation? no

  6. Andy Non Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Tangle of cables

    In 2018 El Reg suggested a much better solution to all this tomfoolery; namely, labelling of cables and accessories to make it clearer which standards they supported.

    I'm in favour of such cables being standardised. Granted the standard may need to be updated again in a few years, but that's not the end of the world. The mrs has on one occasion managed to shove the wrong charging cable into a mobile phone; thankfully without damage (a wedge shaped micro usb plug into a round shaped micro usb socket). I've ended up sticking labels to each cable indicating which device it is for as we have different cables for each of our mobiles, different one for the camera, different one for the GoPro, another for the tablet and various other cables for other bits and pieces. It had got to the stage of needing to wear my reading glasses to ponder the end of cables to figure out which one was required for which device and to make sure it was inserted the correct way up. I've got a bird's nest of mostly defunct / rarely used cables and chargers in a draw.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Tangle of cables

      >It had got to the stage of needing to wear my reading glasses to ponder the end of cables to figure out which one was required for which device and to make sure it was inserted the correct way up.

      Bright coloured nail varnish is a great help here. I've used it to great effect with both elderly parents and the kids when they were younger.

  7. Totally not a Cylon
    Boffin

    What's wrong with a round power connector?

    Just standardise on a proper barrel power connector.....

    5.5mm diameter, those ones....

    Have the nice side effect of making the damn phone thick enough to hold properly!

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: What's wrong with a round power connector?

      "Have the nice side effect of making the damn phone thick enough to hold properly!"

      And would remove any excuse for a phone not to have a 3.5mm headphone jack.

      1. jason 7 Silver badge

        Re: What's wrong with a round power connector?

        Deeper phone would mean better lens tech too!

    2. paulll

      Re: What's wrong with a round power connector?

      "5.5mm diameter, those ones....

      Have the nice side effect of making the damn phone thick enough to hold properly!"

      ...leaving room for a big, replaceable battery and giving the possibility of driving 8+ amps into it. I see no downside.

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: What's wrong with a round power connector?

        @paulll I can only upvote that once, sadly. So have a pint in lieu.

        I was only thinking yesterday on the drive home, wouldn't it be wonderful to design a phone along modern smartphone lines, but including NO battery.... (thus allowing the designer to stuff it full of sensors, communication devices etc)... then double the thickness and make the second half a battery.

        Removable/swappable would be a cinch

        An oft neglected advantage of replaceable batteries is if the device DOES somehow get liquid ingress, removal of all power is doable. (thus saving the innards)

        1. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: What's wrong with a round power connector?

          That makes me wonder how much the world would be improved by having a range of standard batteries to power I things....... You know like the AA and AAAs of the past.

          It's a radical concept but I thnk reasonable engineers could design their e things around a standard set of batteries.

          Anyone know how many different phone batteries are currently on the market?

          1. Martin-73 Silver badge

            Re: What's wrong with a round power connector?

            Now that is an awesome idea. It would require competitors to agree to a common standard, but this HAS happened in the past (the STANDARD cell sizes you mentioned are a classic example)

            The thing that's changed is the fact the public are now involved... including me and you... partisan views can influence companies. Previously actual engineers were pragmatic :\

    3. Carpet Deal 'em Bronze badge

      Re: What's wrong with a round power connector?

      Given that universal barrel connector kits had at least four power settings(at least here in the US), I don't see that being an improvement.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: What's wrong with a round power connector?

        And don't forget the two possible polarities for each voltage!

    4. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

      Re: What's wrong with a round power connector?

      Which 5.5mm diameter one?

      Those with a 2.1mm inner pin, or those with a 2.5mm inner pin?

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Quarter Inch Jack

        Quarter Inch Jack

        Is the connector on cables for guitars, amps stuff. Which is 6.35mm and cool looking.

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: Quarter Inch Jack

          PO A gauge (fit most guitar amps, break if you look at them funny) or B gauge (hand carved from solid brass, nuclear bomb proof, don't actually work in A-gauge sockets)?

          It's always good to have a choice!

    5. Steve 122

      Re: What's wrong with a round power connector?

      No thanks. Apple would just polarise it in an opposite manner to all others.

  8. Fuzz

    connector not the only issue

    If the plan is to get rid of waste then as well as a standardised connector you also need.

    1. Detachable cables as standard. I've got a box of micro USB chargers at work, all of our phones are now USB-C. The cables on the chargers are hard wired so they're all waste.

    2. Manufacturer replacement program for broken cables. The problem with lightning cables is not so much that they're different it's that they're so flimsy which means that although you start off with a team of 10 people who have one cable each you very quickly end up with 1 working cable between 10. If manufacturers were forced to replace the cables it would encourage them to up the quality.

    3. Include other devices, not just phones and tablets but laptops, cameras, headphones, TV dongles, smart watches, wireless keyboards and mice.

    1. paulll

      Re: connector not the only issue

      "problem with lightning cables is not so much that they're different it's that they're so flimsy"

      That's not a problem with the cables, the problem is - all together now - "YOU'RE HOLDING IT WRONG!"

      1. Tessier-Ashpool

        Re: connector not the only issue

        You may scoff, but only idiots break their lightning cables. Pull it out by holding the connector, not the cable, otherwise you are literally begging for trouble.

        Some people.

        I include my lazy son in that group. He has a habit of picking up his laptop by the screen, and lobbing it down somewhere, regardless of where the cable is. He’s the kind of person who will go on an Internet forum to complain about shoddy cables.

        1. frankk

          Re: connector not the only issue

          There’s always a sanctimonious person who thinks their lived experience is universal and people who deviate from it are deficient.

        2. springsmarty

          Re: connector not the only issue

          I have always been very careful with my cables, but the lightning cable in my car for CarPlay only lasts a few months before needing a replacement. I chalk it up to all of the flexing that happens when I plug it in, set the phone in the car phone holder, pick it up for some reason, set it back down, hand it to the passenger to look up something, unplug it when I step out of the car, etc.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: connector not the only issue

            I have a in iPhone cable from poundland or poundshop in 2012. Still charges iPhones. Doesn't do connection to laptop any more but it's not needed for that.

    2. BitEagle

      Re: connector not the only issue

      The clumsiness of the cables is a feature, not a big-time how else can device manufacturers get a steady income stream except by engineered obsolescence?

    3. Terry Barnes

      Re: connector not the only issue

      Those charges aren’t waste. Just get some adaptors for them. That way you can still offer charging for people who turn up with a different phone.

      I guess the EU’s point however is that this used to happen every time you changed your phone. Every manufacturer had their own cable. I had a universal charger for travelling not so long ago that had 14 adaptors in the bag. It was a brave person who made a hole in their car dashboard to fit a car kit knowing it would only ever work with one model of phone.

  9. SkippyBing Silver badge

    51000 tonnes?

    I'd like to see the maths for those figures, since USB chargers became a thing I haven't thrown any away because they get repurposed. Is the rest of the continent just more wasteful than me?

    1. Tom Chiverton 1

      Re: 51000 tonnes?

      You get one everytime you upgrade your phone/tablet, pointlessly

      1. Irongut

        Re: 51000 tonnes?

        Its not pointless if you have 1 at work, 1 in the living room and 1 in the bedroom. In fact it's really useful because you never need to look for a charger, they're always where you need them.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Re: 51000 tonnes?

          The still not quite ex Mrs OncomingScorn would get very very territorial over which charger was supplied with her phones (Even with His n Her identical phone models & woe betide me if I used "hers" in error).

          The Lady L also likes to acquire phone chargers (Just as well I always salvage them from electronic waste scrap piles), at least she does have the courtesy to buy a charging station to deal with 6 devices at a time though.

          Icon - Multi Function IO Ports.

        2. tfewster Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: 51000 tonnes?

          Just think how profitable convenient it will be when you can replace those neat, portable, near-universal cables with bulky, incompatible £20 charging pads everywhere. And it will break you of your phone addiction, if you can't use your phone while it's charging.

        3. druck Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: 51000 tonnes?

          Plus a couple left over to use with Raspberry Pi's.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: 51000 tonnes?

            That's how I work. But I still have a plastic storage container full of the power supplies. In case one packs in. But they never do.

    2. ibmalone Silver badge

      Re: 51000 tonnes?

      I'd forgotten how heavy low frequency transformers were until this Christmas, when I stumbled across an old-school set of incandescent lights with transformer. It's now gone into WEEE (despite being nicer colours than most LED sets, as the wiring was a bit dodgy), and probably makes one of those tonnes by itself.

      1. ibmalone Silver badge

        Re: 51000 tonnes?

        On the estimate...

        100 grammes per person at 10 million people is 1000 tonnes. My phone's charger is 60g, EU population is about 513 million, if you assumed every person threw away one charger a year you'd get to about 30,000 tonnes. So the estimate is at the high end, not everyone gets a new device that needs a new charger every year (though I've got other things like power-bars with usb power sockets), you can usually get away with a new cable rather than a charger (lighter). If you assumed about 100g per person every year you'd get around their figure.

        1. frankk

          Re: 51000 tonnes?

          I throw away many a year. There are 3 types: micro usb, usb-c and lightning.

          A lightning cable rarely survives 5 minutes with a toddler. I confess that I don't have the ability to supervise a toddler 24/7, due to needing to do frivolous things like cook, have a shower or use the loo or even answer the door.

          1. druck Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: 51000 tonnes?

            I'd just got past the stage where kittens had stopped chewing through the phone charger leads, then the children started using them for teething practice.

          2. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: 51000 tonnes?

            A standard apple lightning cable is not so robust. But there are many toughened ones on the market.

  10. TRT Silver badge

    Hm...

    Not perfectly germane but I actually quite liked the MagSafe connector. Innovative, reversible, easy to use, functional... And then that gets thrown out again for USB-C.

    Question is, would we even HAVE the current form of USB-C if it weren't for MagSafe and Lightning?

    And I agree with the earlier comments about the electrical functionality of USB-C and the fact that physically identical cables & accessories that fit into the same hole might well not work or not work very well due to differences in protocols and signal frequency and all that jazz.

    I had to admit almost turning purple when the simpleton newsreaders were suggesting that one charger would do everything... like charge a gaming laptop from a bluetooth earpiece PSU??? erm... no. This way madness lies.

    1. Irongut

      Re: Hm...

      Wasn't MagSafe proved to be poorly made, unsafe garbage?

      Oh yeah, they were a fire hazard, nice.

      1. keithzg
        Flame

        Re: Hm...

        MagNotSoSafe.

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Hm...

        But nothing intrinsically wrong with the concept. That link is to information showing a problem 10 years ago with MagSafe 1.

      3. Francis Boyle Silver badge
        Flame

        There's

        plenty of magnetic USB/Lightning cables/adapters on the market these days. They work as advertised. Long term robustness is yet to be determined but I haven't had any go up in flames yet.

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lock-in

      I have an assortment of Lightning cables, and I'm afraid they're not perfect. Whether it's a slightly off-spec cable, or a bit of wear on my iPhone's Lightning port, I don't know, but one or the other somehow conspires that when I use certain of my charging cables, all it takes is the very slightest nudge and they lose electrical/charging connection. Others (and not necessarily the Apple ones) seem to handle a little bit of wobble much more gracefully.

      Charging or data cables should be cheap and cheerful (I mean, they really aren't rocket science), and you shouldn't need to have pay stupid money to Big Shiny to get an "official" cable from them, at several times the price of cables from other manufacturers.

    2. SuperGeek

      Re: Lock-in

      Micro USB is the WORST USB connector out there. They're too thin, break too easily, and they can short circuit if the end is bent slightly, I remember trying to straighten a bent one and it started to get really hot, needless to say it went in the bin. Even UnBREAKcable cables which are supposed to be much more resistant are awful, the wire going into the connector was the first bit to go.

      I hate modern connectors. SATA, HDMI, Micro USB, they're certainly not designed for real world use. Parallel, IDE and SCART were much tougher and seemed to last longer. It's the industry following the Apple trend of making everything smaller that's the culprit. It all comes back to the forbidden fruit!

      1. Tessier-Ashpool

        Re: Lock-in

        I agree that micro usb is the pits. Thank Christ that industry ignored the EU’s direction on that one. Just imagine if now we’d all been lumbered with that awful connector.

        SCART is/was no good. Far too chunky, too many pins, pins inherently not strong. And polarised (if that’s the right word).

        I always hated those D-Type connectors in the days when people used RS-232 or parallel printers. Unless you were looking head on it was actually quite tricky to see which way round you should hold the connector. If you added up all the hours of humanity spent fruitlessly banging a polarised connector against its counterpart, it would surely amount to many lifetimes.

        I like USB-C. It works for me.

      2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

        Re: Lock-in

        Poor attempt at trolling, 3/10.

        Micro USB are very convenient but I'll agree they eventually break and the sockets gather fluff. However, it's a small socket, so there's probably an engineering limit there.

        SCART is awful. Multiple standards in one capable, too easy to pull out, too difficult to push in, horrible when constructed cheaply. HDMI is brilliant, coupling high bandwidth and sound in one sturdy connector.

        There's nothing IDE did better, unless you count connecting two devices to one socket. Routing SATA or SAS cables is far easier.

        Parallel you sort of have a point as it's extremely tough, but seeing as standard parallel port tops out at 1Mb/s, and the rarely configured ECP/EPP at 20Mb/s, as opposed to USB 2 at 480Mb/s, or wireless at an absolutely minimum of 50+ Mb/s these days, and more probably more than 100Mb/s. No, I think we can say parallel does not win.

      3. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        Oh please

        There's nothing I was more pleased to see the end of than IDE cables. SATA's fine as long as they have a clip which they all do these days. Parallel, well thankfully I had little to do with it. The cable was solid enough but using it felt like wrestling a python.

  12. mark l 2 Silver badge

    One problem is that even though your old phone and new phone might both use the same connector for charging whether that be Micro USB, USB-C or Apple Lightening. There is no option when buying a new device to say you don't require a new PSU and cable as you already have one, as they are usually bundled inside the box with the device. And therefore you end up with several chargers all the same. I have 2 that are surplus to requirement now and are just collecting dust in a drawer as they are not even worth selling on ebay due to their low resale value.

    But on another note there are a few different manufacturers using incompatible fast charging power supplies which if you don't use their specific charger you will only get slow charging even if the physical connector (USB-C) is the same.

    1. frankk

      Give it away for free only postage paid or collection. That is, if you truly care about reducing waste. Someone who buys yours will not need a newly manufactured one.

    2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      It's not uncommon these days to NOT get a charger in the box. Just a cable (and sometimes not even that) so you can use whatever USB power supply you have lying around.

  13. Wade Burchette Silver badge

    Good start

    Next step: require all devices with a battery to include instructions on how the user can change the battery in under 5 minutes.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Good start

      And while they're doing that, make it mandatory that car headlight bulbs can be changed at the roadside in 5 minutes as well. With no special tools.

      1. Def Silver badge

        Re: Good start

        These days it's not usually the bulb that needs changing. Last time I had a front light go out on me, it was the power ballast down under the front wheel arch that needed replacing. (At a tenth of the price Nissan offered to "fix" it. To be fair to them they assumed it was the bulb - fuck those things are expensive. Whether they would have told me that though, is another story.)

        That said though, actually accessing the bulbs themselves is fairly straight forward on my Qashcow.

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Good start

        This was absolutely possible with the last car that I owned. I did it roadside (well, in the parking lot of the auto parts store) in about 3 minutes without tools.

        1. RM Myers
          Unhappy

          Re: Good start

          And with my current car (older Outback), there are auto mechanics who can replace one bulb in under an hour - with the right equipment. You basically have to take the car apart!

      3. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Good start

        On my old truck it was possible to get the headlight bulb swapped out, without too much difficulties.

        Indicators, sidelights etc, not so much - Turning the front wheels inwards so you could remove the plastic liner to get to the bulbs was much more involved, got better with practice. It was usually a good (wasteful) practice to fit all new ones at the same time, especially with the onset of winter -20C to -30C (Extreme cases -35C) & snow.

        Lady L off course insisted her vehicle have new LED's at the dealership at time of purchase & boy does that makes us popular on country roads with oncoming traffic that think we are driving with main beam on, with a intensity on that would rival some trucks.

        Icon - What the oncoming drivers see's as we approach them.

        1. Duffy Moon

          Re: Good start

          "boy does that makes us popular on country roads with oncoming traffic that think we are driving with main beam on, with a intensity on that would rival some trucks."

          I've been driving for thirty years (no, not continuously) and used to enjoy driving at night. Now I avoid it whenever possible, as headlights are mostly far too bright. Half the time, I can barely see the road markings, as my eyes are constantly adjusting to mild flash blindness. I have the brightest halogen bulbs I can get, but even at full beam they are half as bright as new car lights.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Good start

            > I've been driving for thirty years (no, not continuously) and used to enjoy driving at night. Now I avoid it whenever possible, as headlights are mostly far too bright.

            This -- I call those "I-hate-you-and-want-you-to-die" headlights.

            Even worse -- I bicycle as my primary transportation, and starting a couple of years ago, people have taken to using bike lights that are even brighter than car headlights. It's impossible to bike by them without being utterly blinded. I get actively angry at bicyclists who use those things.

      4. dajames Silver badge

        Re: Good start

        And while they're doing that, make it mandatory that car headlight bulbs can be changed at the roadside in 5 minutes as well. With no special tools.

        ... by a person with normal-sized hands.

    2. dajames Silver badge

      Re: Good start

      ... require all devices with a battery to include instructions on how the user can change the battery in under 5 minutes.

      ... and require manufacturers of devices that use batteries to ensure that (newly-manufactured and not crap) replacement batteries will be readily available at non-rip-off prices for some set period (say: 10 years) after the sale of the device.

  14. conel

    Binding Micro usb

    What if the EU had made micro usb mandatory. Would we now be waiting on new rules so we could move to usb-c?

    51,000t might sound like a lot but split across 500Mn people in the EU it's only 0.1kg per person. And that's not an annual figure, it's total.

    What's the best case scenario with these regulations, reduce the waste by 10%? 20%? So maybe a few 10s of grammes of waste saved per person...

    1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

      Re: Binding Micro usb

      Well, the EU is not a dictatorship, they set up recommendations for such tings, not making it mandatory. For a good reason. I bet you would have screamed louder than anyone else it if would have been mandatory.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_external_power_supply

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

          Re: Binding Micro usb

          Oh that old "EU is regulating just for fun!" nonsense. It is the other way around: The people ask for one standard. It is, or WAS, the same with cucumber regulation: The sellers (Aldi Lidl Netto and so on in Germany) were asking for a regulation so they can sell cucumber by the number instead of weighting every sale. And the EU said: okay, you want regulation, done. And then so many screamed: Wohoo, bad EU regulating nonsense without anyone asking! So the cucumber rule was kicked not long ago. But the sellers still follow that regulation since it is practical.

          You can now go on with your "EU sucks nonsene", which you are legally allowed to do in the EU. Can't speak for Britain though, care to tell?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Binding Micro usb

            No, you appear to be confused about who “the people” are.

            Large companies (particularly in Germany and France, Italy not so much) like regulation, request it, and are sufficiently well-represented in the corridors of power that they get what they want.

            Whereas human citizens acting in their personal capacity are neither asked nor represented, and just get handed the consequences of the reasoned horse-trades of their elders and betters.

            Can you, just possibly, see what the problem might be here?

    2. AdamWill

      Re: Binding Micro usb

      You're sort of looking at it *exactly* the wrong way, though. 51m *is* the right figure, because that's how much actual waste there is. The whole point is "heck, there are a lot of people on this continent and most of them own phones, so even if each one only throws away 100g of phone charger, that adds up to a *lot*".

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The greater part of waste must be the charger and not the cable. If DC supplies were standardised instead then they could be built in to new buildings and do away with the inefficient "wall wart" thingy. Mains sockets with USB type-A holes are available but essentially the same on the inside, namely a capacitive dropper, and just as bad for the environment. No what we need is a mains DC ring in our homes that could supply all sizes of device and then manufacturers would only need to use the standard plug for that and whichever cable is best at the time.

    (NB. I don't really mean all sizes of device. Clearly heavy loads like electric cars and showers require substantially more current but generally aren't what you carry into the living room)

    1. Def Silver badge

      Not entirely sure why you were downvoted.

      I've been thinking about trying to develop this for some years now. When you get down to it, there are very few devices/appliances in the home today that actually need AC power. Most simply transform down to DC internally. Even lights now that the world has gone LED bonkers (finally).

      IANAElectricalEngineer, but given that most high voltage transmission lines are DC anyway, surely it would be more efficient to not convert to AC outside of a town and then back to DC in every device.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        > IANAElectricalEngineer, but given that most high voltage transmission lines are DC anyway, surely it would be more efficient to not convert to AC outside of a town and then back to DC in every device.

        It's complicated.

        HVDC is used for long-haul transmission lines because it's more efficient and there isn't the need to do a lot of converting between voltages. But it has to be high voltage to work -- at lower voltages, the losses would be too large and you'd need to use much thicker cables.

        When you're near consumers of electricity, though, you need to convert those voltages to something more reasonable that your customers can use (and not all of them use the same voltage -- you have to account for industrial uses too). It is far, far more efficient to shift voltages up and down with AC vs DC.

        The current system of using HVDC for long-haul transmission, and converting to AC when you're near customers actually using the electricity, is pretty much the most efficient way to do it. Power companies and grid operators have a very strong economic incentive for maximizing this efficiency.

        1. Def Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Cool, thanks for that.

        2. Mike 16 Silver badge

          Thank You!

          For the reasoned response.

          In my own case, as soon as I read the notion of a high-power DC ring-main I had a vivid image of some

          "No need to call an electrician, I can fix this outlet" type setting their family up for ArcAGeddon.

          My current home has traces of a former DC distribution system to living and dining rooms, the places most likely to have a (valve) radio. It was fed by an electrolytic rectifier from AC mains, so not quite the terror of "whole house DC, make sure you have exceedingly macho fuses".

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Not to mention the fact you don't have to worry about phases when dealing with DC, so you can more easily combine power coming from multiple sources.

        4. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
          Boffin

          AC transmission is safer when faults develop. If you get a spark on DC, that spark is there for as long as the power is there; whereas with AC the spark has a lapse 100/120 times every second.

          That makes it far easier to disconnect as switch contacts things don't weld themselves together in quite the same way (ie switch ratings are about 10x higher when switching AC vs DC)

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Go and buy a houseboat or a caravan, then. Give it a go.

      3. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

        Some historic part one that (the old Edison vs. Westingouse fight):

        Every voltage drops when transported over the line. If you go down a few kilometers you start with 600v and end up with 300v or less on the other end. You would need an DC-DC voltage regulator for every house, which is expensive (well, nowadays not that much, but back then very very very...).

        Now we kick in AC. We still have the voltage drop, but we can use cheap-ass transformers which require no special parts and can work for decades, even centuries, without needing any maintenance.

        See the history about that, there is enough around on the net ;).

        The reason for DC are very long cables (1000 km or more). The speed at which electricity (here: signal speed, not electron movement speed) is transported in copper is above 200000 km/s.

        So if you use AC on a long line the signal gets an offset between both ends, enough to produce quite an amount of loss and problems. This is where high voltage DC is used. China is currently building the most long land lines that way, but we have quite an amount of those in Europe as well.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-voltage_direct_current

      4. tellytart

        Actually, the majority of HV transmission lines are also AC, and depending on need could be running at anything from 1,000VAC up to 800,000VAC. (Due to the nature of AC, the higher the voltage, the lower the current required for transmission, and therefore the further it can be transported with minimal losses - the losses are caused by resistance, so the less current flowing, the less the resistance affects the transmission)

    2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Boffin

      I've looked at lots of built-in USB sockets and never seen one using a capacitive dropper. LED lighting PSUs, yes, but not USB sockets.

      They just use small switch-mode PSUs with the actual transformer around 15mm square.

  16. JohnFen Silver badge

    I know I'm weird

    But I just took a quick mental inventory and I'm sure that I don't own a single device that has a USB-C port on it (nor do I own Apple devices). I'm not looking forward to having to wade into the USB-C cabling mess.

    1. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

      Re: I know I'm weird

      I know I'm weird ... But I just took a quick mental inventory and I'm sure that I don't own a single device that has a USB-C port

      Is not being the sort of person who must have the very latest model of phone the moment they're released now classified as weird? If so I'm also guilty as charged :-)

      Not seen a new feature on a mobile that would make me want to change for years. It's get changed when it breaks. I guess the new one will have the new connector.

    2. Totally not a Cylon

      Re: I know I'm weird

      I have a total of 2 USB-C powered devices:

      A Lumia 950XL yes a Windows Phone, happily running Windows for ARM

      and

      A RaspberryPi 4

      And I have to say that from experience the lightning connector is much easier to plug in than USB-C and feels stronger..... (YMMV)

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: I know I'm weird

        Having just bought a cheap Android phone to replace my aging Samsung (Don't want to get locked into a contract or "Tab") which comes with a USB-C connector. I now find myself having to go to the bay of fleas to get spares as the scrap pile & local $Stores (TTBOMK) don't have them in stock yet.

        I wish I'd kept more of the USB-A - USB-C adaptors that we got with some HP laptops.

    3. frankk

      Re: I know I'm weird

      Your apprehensions are misplaced. I've got several usb-c devices, phones, ipad, macbook. I haven't yet fried a cable or device, and i can charge all my stuff from the macbook charger, being the highest powered one.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: I know I'm weird

        I'm sure that I'll find out. It's inevitable that I'll eventually be unable to avoid USB-C. However, literally everybody that I personally know has had problems (occassionally, serious problems) because of the cable confusion.

        I suspect that I'll have to start doing what we used to have to do in the bad ol' days -- label all cables and dedicate them to certain devices/uses.

  17. DougS Silver badge

    What problem are they trying to fix?

    Do they really believe that "e-waste" of old chargers is such a problem? If you added up all the wall warts thrown out since 2000 does that compare to throwing out bulk items like old TVs or "smart" refrigerators that probably are disposed of on a far more frequent basis than older ones (or at least that's the hope of Samsung and LG) It is probably a 50,000 phone chargers for every one fridge in terms of bulk and weight. Why wouldn't Apple's solution of having a cable that's separate from the wall wart be sufficient, just have a USB-C wall wart and then Apple's charging cable is compatible. Apple's USB-C wall wart can charge a Samsung phone and vice versa, so how would that not solve whatever problem the EU is trying to solve?

    There are bigger issues though. Imagine if they'd made mini-USB mandatory back when originally discussed. So no one would be able to have a micro-USB connector on a phone, or an MHL connector to support more functionality. How would they accomplish the switchover to USB-C (if, in fact, they EVER did?) Would they give manufacturers long enough so that products with a 3-4 year lifetime (not everything is a phone that gets replaced yearly) would not become obsolete early due to using the "wrong" charging port?

    That ignores the problems with USB-C itself. Exactly how many different iterations of USB-C are there as far as power delivery? Which one are they going to mandate? Does it have to accept 100 watt power delivery? Are they going to mandate USB-C cables with particular functionality to insure they meet the power delivery profiles they do require? USB-C is already a mess, because as with previous iterations of USB they try to support everyone's needs so there are all sorts of optional things you can do with the ports, cables and profiles creating plenty of room for potential confusion. This is only going to get worse as USB-C evolves, not better.

    1. Ivan Headache

      Re: What problem are they trying to fix?

      We've been redecorating at Headache Towers (I think they call it 'remodelling' in some parts).

      This has entailed several trips over several weeks to our local recycling/waste disposal centre.

      We have to separate metals from other recyclables and green waste from general waste. etc.

      When I look into the electronic waste bays I am amazed by the numbers of tower computer cases and microwave ovens being chucked away. (I remember microwave ovens lasting for donkeys years).

      But I am absolutely staggered by the number of massive flat-screen TVs in the skips. - recently they have introduced a skip especially for them.

      I wonder , are all these TVs failing or is it the marketing hype that's making them be replaced?

      Back on the USB thing. We bought a new (electric) reclining sofa for the lounge. When It arrive we discovered a USB A charging socket at each end.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: What problem are they trying to fix?

        > I wonder , are all these TVs failing

        I don't know -- but I do know that people in my area have been putting these things out on their curb for collection often enough that many of my friends have been picking them up. They are almost always not operating correctly, but almost always because the electrolytic capacitors have failed. A few dollars worth of new capacitors and an afternoon with a soldering iron gets them working as good as new.

  18. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

    Let's make Qi great again!

    Whenever possible I choose Qi. No wearing down, no fiddling, when it is ringing just pick it up and walk around with it. The phone survives much longer. And since I don't drop the phone at every occasion it is reality here ;).

    They could have gone the 18 Watts Qi right away.

    And Qi got quite efficient and is around the 90% mark. I noticed the difference between Lumia 950 XL and Xiaomi Mi 9 (the one mode with Qi): The Qi charger is the same old Nokia one. But the new phone has a bigger battery, it charges much faster and does not get warm. While the Lumia gets quite warm and takes longer to charge. The latter is now running Win10 Pro ARM64 instead of mobile ;) so I will use it much longer than MS has planned.

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Let's make Qi great again!

      And how do you power the wireless charging mat?

  19. slartybartfast

    Don’t you dare EU. I love having to shell out for new expensive dongles every time Apple chooses to change their proprietary connections ;-) ;-) .

  20. Giles C

    Usb-c isn’t really standard

    There are charging cables

    Data cables that won’t charge

    Charging but slow data

    Charging and fast data

    And you can’t tell which is which because they all look the same

    It isn’t that robust a port, hp laptops have particularly weak sockets, the socket doesn’t grip the plug that well

    The best usb is the A to mini B, you can tell which way round it needs to go unlike micro-b and it stays put although the orignal b end as on printers is a properly designed plug.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Usb-c isn’t really standard

      Oh, USB-C is a standard, all right. It's just a bad standard.

  21. martinusher Silver badge

    There is already a standard

    I know that manufacturers of the latest and greatest phones and slabs are pushing USB-C but realisticlly if buy anything that uses USB power for charging then its going to include a Micro-USB port. If I list other devices that I have that have these connectors I've got stuff as diverse as a music desk light and a bike rear lamp. The micro became the de facto standard because of Chinese standardization; they make the stuff, after all.

    USB has always been a bit messy because it tries to pretend its a sort-of serial port instead of what it really is, a token bus network. This original architecture was really a master/slave** protocol, nothing happened without the controller's OK, but that's the price you pay for only having two data lines and no time lost due to collisions. Now we've got technological Mission Creep -- what was originally two data wires, two power wires and a couple of connectors in a passive bit of wire has become 24 wires and built-in intellignce. Overkill, but then you can't fight City Hall....

    (**I pretty sure that this old fashioned terminology is not supposed to be used these days but I can't for the life of me recall what the modern equivalent is.)

  22. vir

    Let's Bring It All The Way Back

    Forget all this connector BS, let's bring back two big metal pads on the back of the phone ala 1998.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Let's Bring It All The Way Back

      The 2mm Nokia charger jack/port was perfect and nobody can convince me otherwise.

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Let's Bring It All The Way Back

        Yep - that should have been the standard for charging. Small, efficient, and as idiot-proof as anything could be. Separate micro-USB for data, with perhaps the option to charge when in use (? I can never decide whether that's a good idea - pros and cons).

  23. FIA

    Confused?

    Sure;y we already have a standard? Most chargers I have have a USB-A socket on them? Other than a laptop pretty much everything I own will charge off the generic USB charger I got of Amazon.

  24. LateAgain

    Ooh a standard connector - just like rs232

    One connection so many uses

  25. elaar

    USB A

    A good few years ago, a friend that designed and built a new modern house took great delight in showing me the ~ 50 power sockets with USB-A connectors, so he could charge "everything". No doubt they're rated for about 1amp, it won't be long until he ends up changing all of those.

    1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

      Re: USB A

      Well, no. The PC/Charger Side can still have USB A, they regulated the smartphone side. He won't have to change his sockets, only the cable to his newfangled usb-c thingy.

    2. Giles C

      Re: USB A

      All that the older ports will mean is that stuff charges slower, I have several of these in my house, there might be quicker versions but I plug my devices in when I go to bed and they are charged when I get up in the morning. I don’t need to use my phone when I am asleep and usually leave them downstairs as well. (I use a conventional alarm clock)

    3. AIBailey Silver badge

      Re: USB A

      I've got a couple of double sockets in the kitchen that have 3 x USB-A connectors built in, rated at 3.1A total.

      They're really useful for charging most devices, and save having to dig out a multitude of plugs to charge the family's' phones at the end of the day.

      The exception is the wife's phone, that somehow tries to draw as much power as the national grid can supply to the whole estate. This means that after about 10 minutes, all the devices that are plugged into the USB sockets periodically stop charging for a few seconds as the circuit inside the plug has got hot enough to trip the thermal cutout. The socket itself gets too hot to keep a finger against it for more than a second or so.

  26. dajames Silver badge

    Adaptor

    My current phone (a Moto "One") has a USB C sync/charge port. I charge it from the micro-USB charger that came with the phone before last, and a £1 micro-USB to USB C adaptor. Fortunately the power supply puts out enough current to make this feasible.

  27. DrXym Silver badge

    Good

    Europe tried this before relying on the good faith of phone manufacturers to comply, i.e. allow micro-USB charging of phone devices. Except Apple decided to be dicks about it and only allow micro-USB charging via a dongle.

    It should be mandatory for phones to support a single charging format and Apple should not be allowed to escape either by using dongles, or by moving to wireless-only charging.

    But really Europe should be going further to combat waste by mandating that consumer devices such as laptops, phones, tablets, earbuds etc should be user serviceable with regard to replacing the battery. And that other vulnerable components such as the screen should be serviceable by independent technicians.

  28. maaen
    Flame

    More importantly EU should make all manufacturers sell phones with REMOVABLE BATTERIES....including APPLE.OR in the very least all manufacturers should be required to sell at least two or three mobile phones each year with removable batteries alongside the slick sexy products they make to sell to the customers who prefer to not want phones with non removable batteries.

    That freedom to choose to buy a phone with the removable battery should never be denied to the consumer and EU should be fighting this cause also ....

    There would be millions of customers who would choose this above option at the drop of the hat were this to become possible.

    Regarding USB C....why not consider two slots in all phones with USB C?..Surely it would allow for greater portability?

    Now this above is what EU should be doing for all its millions of people...snd thereby help all the rest of the world's consumer market...

  29. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    A headphone jack should be legally required for all phones

    1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

      I don't care

      I don't need a headphone jack, I don't listen to music while riding a train or bus but rather read. The only time I listen to music while driving is when the steering wheel is in my hands. And then I don't use headphones.

  30. Richard 126

    Should make it illegal to supply a charger bundled with the phone. Most of us have plenty of chargers gathering dust that will work fine with the new phone, many already have USB ports incorporated in our power points and for the people who really need a charger with the phone they can buy one.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      >many already have USB ports incorporated in our power points

      But these are variable...

      Just rewired an office and we've included USB charging in the power points. Getting appropriate sockets wasn't easy, as many don't fully support full V/A USB charging across all outlets ie. only support 2A/3.1A across the two ports and not per port. At the time Knightsbridge were good and had power points with both USB-C and USB2 ports.

      But with USB charging standards still rapidly evolving, I'm not sure how useful the sockets will be in 3+ years time.

  31. Phil Kingston

    I imagine Apple will just go fully port-less and thumb their nose at the EU. I can't see there's a need for any ports these days (yes, cue the "but mah doggles" crowd).

  32. Tigra 07 Silver badge

    "Curiously, Apple was a signatory of that pact: it went on to ignore it completely in 2012 when it introduced Lightning."

    When the BBC reported on this they said it was because Apple was exploiting a loophole, where offering an adaptor allows you to bundle a different charger

  33. tiggity Silver badge

    little impact

    I'm probably odd as I use things until they break (be it a mobile phone, fridge, TV etc.).

    Main additional waste I will see from this rule is (when my various micro-usb using devices expire) some micro-usb cables that I no longer have a use for.

    It's a long time since I saw a charger with integrated cable, only ones I have seen for years have USB socket and you add in your cable of choice.

  34. BOBSta
    Unhappy

    Apple Lightning lost opportunity

    Power differences in charger aside, I've got to say that I have been annoyed with USB for a long time. Why did we need USB (A) and USB (B) {the square one on printers and scanners}, then get USB-mini, then micro-USB, and now USB-C?

    Apple lightning has been with us since 2012 and IMHO is a much more elegant solution for connecting devices. Physically, I much prefer it to the user experience of USB-C (even though USB-C is street ahead of mini and micro USB). Apple need their head's looking at for not licensing the tech to the USB forum and it being standardised as the USB-C connector for all devices.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Flirting with fascism...

    Just a book definition found via a quick search.....

    "Fascism is an economic system in which the government controls the private entities that own the factors of production. Under fascism, national interests supersede all other societal needs. It subsumes private people and businesses into a vision of the good of the state."

  36. bigmacbear

    Obligatory xkcd

    https://xkcd.com/927/

    (How 14 competing standards become 15.) Note "A/C Chargers" is the first thing mentioned.

    1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Bronze badge

      Re: Obligatory xkcd

      That comparison is flawed. The EU did not make a new standard, they defined an existing standard as encouraged.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Batteryless Devices and Notebook

    They need to define a USB-C socket that does not allow the plug to slip out at a slight pull. Many don't like to use USB-C for equipment that' does not run on batteries and a. USB B device connector is the better option. C might be ok for phones but how to figure out what modes a C on a MOBO or anythng else supports ? P.S: have more power adapters with unusable connectors types or voltage ratings in the archive than USB devices. Are they finally going to standardize the notebook adapters as well, that would be progress !

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