Is a Universal Phone Charger Standard Around the Corner?

The constant evolution of technology has been breathtaking to behold, but it does have some dark sides. Not the least of these is the mind numbing frustration generated by having dozens of types of incompatible power cords for various mobile devices. For years it seems, even within the same brand or product family, cord types have changed at random, making replacement costs difficult and adding yet more refuse to the world’s stream of ewaste.

Imagine if all cell phones used a standardized type of power cord regardless of device type or brand? You could borrow a friend’s cord without difficulty. Companies could sell you new devices without the cord knowing you likely already have one. Costs for replacement cords would plummet. \ And one less piece of consumable matter would have to be produced, recycled or disposed of.

Now, so I’m told, the world is one step closer to that reality.

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the people who apparently organize this sort of thing, announced today that an international standard for data-enabled phone has been revealed and agreed upon with Apple, Motorola Mobility, Qualcomm, Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, and others. The one-size fits all power plugs will be based on the micro-USB format which is already in use on many phones.

The result? Less headaches, less waste, less cost for everyone involved.

ED note: Updated

As to exactly how enforceable this new standard is, it remains entirely voluntary for now. No government or regulatory agency has the power to require mobile phone makers to use it – although, according to contact at the IEC, a memorandum of understanding with the European Union should show some standardization in Europe early this year.

Given the number of companies on board, however, global movement in this direction is clearly underway, regardless of whether the standard remains voluntary. The cost savings to a manufacturer would be foolish to turn down. Until then, we’ll have to rely on market forces and consumer decisions to accelerate the evolution.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has since grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He was instrumental in the creation of TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years as well as an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.