Universal Mobile Phone Charger By 2012

It might be difficult to believe, but 17 different mobile phone manufacturers and mobile service providers all agree on something that will actually make your mobile life a little easier in the coming years. Unfortunately, it is nothing as earth shattering as agreeing on a standard mobile operating system or reducing handset or service costs industry-wide, but more of a gesture of convenience, energy efficiency, and less environmental impact: they have all agreed to adopt a "universal charging solution for mobile phones" by January 1, 2012.

One of the problems that this initiative aims to address is that many phones come with a proprietary charger that can only be used with that specific unit--this means that multi-mobile phone homes and offices need a different charger for each unit. Also, when a phone is replaced or upgraded with a different unit, the new unit requires a new charger and the previous unit's charger is now useless. And let's not forget the desperate act of frantically trying to find and pack the right charger when you travel.

Credit: Wikipedia
With a universal charging standard, you can use a single charger to charge multiple phones (assuming you don't mind charging one unit at a time). A universal charger also means that fewer users will need a new charger when they acquire a new phone--they can just use the charger they already have from a previous unit. The GSM Association estimates that with an industry-wide universal charging solution, there will be 50-percent fewer chargers manufactured, which represents a "potential elimination of up to 51,000 tonnes of duplicate chargers," and that "the industry can expect to reduce greenhouse gases in manufacturing and transporting replacement chargers by 13.6 to 21.8 million tonnes a year." (The GSM Association states that "an estimated 1.2 billion mobile phones were sold in 2008, of which between 50-80 per cent were replacement handsets.")

This new universal charging solution will use a Micro-USB connection as the charging interface. While the GSM Association's announcement only focused on chargers, the adoption of a USB-based charging solution also opens the door for the possibility that mobile phones will also be able to be charged by connecting them to the USB port of a computer. Not only do some phones already support this, but also an increasing number of systems are capable of charging devices through their USB ports even when the system is powered off or in standby mode, making this an even more viable solution.

Another benefit to this universal charging solution is that all chargers will "include a 4-star or higher efficiency rating, which is up to three times more energy-efficient than an unrated charger." The GSM Association estimates that this will net "an estimated 50 per cent reduction in standby energy consumption."

The current group of manufacturers who have agreed to the new standard include LG, Motorola, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson. Service providers include AT&T, Orange, T-Mobile, and Vodaphone. While not explicitly stated, it is implied that additional manufacturers and service providers will sign on to this initiative as well.