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Is a Universal Phone Charger Standard Around the Corner?

Nick headshotWords by Nick Aster
Energy & Environment

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 headshotNick Aster

Nick Aster is the founder of TriplePundit.

TriplePundit.com has 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. It was acquired in 2017 by 3BLMedia, the leading news distribution and content marketing company focused on niche topics including sustainability, health, energy, education, philanthropy, community and other social and environmental topics.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He also worked 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.

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