One mobile phone charger to rule them all?

Highlights
  • Apple, Motorola, Nokia, Sony, Samsung and others have endorsed a standard for all smartphone chargers that is now global. That means you should be able to share a charger between different phones, potentially lightening your on-the-go load.
The drawer that holds your tangle of chargers could get less cluttered. Or maybe it already has. Or maybe it won't. Stay with me, here.

Apple, Motorola, Nokia, Sony, Samsung and others have endorsed a standard for all smartphone chargers that is now global. That means you should be able to share a charger between different phones, potentially lightening your on-the-go load.

The new standard is from The International Electrotechnical Commission, and is liltingly titled, "Standard IEC 62684: Interoperability specifications of common external power supply (EPS) for use with data-enabled mobile telephones."

If you have more than one phone (or a tablet), you may have already discovered that you can swap chargers without harm. That's because standardization was first proposed in 2009 in Europe. Since then each manufacturer has standardized at its own pace.

For instance, in an e-mail Nokia said the "first products will enter the market in Europe during 2011." But a company spokesman also wrote, "with some devices you can swap chargers now." Motorola, with a between-the-lines shrug, responded in an e-mail, "Motorola's latest wall chargers and product interfaces for mobiles phones already meet the universal charger energy requirements."

Several standards bodies have been involved in drawing up the particulars. At least one other organization involved in standardization, the GSM Association, said the standard was already global, but the I.E.C. said no, not until it published its standard last week. This gives you idea why it is so hard to achieve standardization. But no matter.

What does matter is multifold. Right up front there is the convenience of fewer chargers. There's the ecological advantage of eliminating the manufacture of 56 tons of redundant chargers each year, according to the GSMA.

Perhaps most important, the I.E.C. said this led an effort to standardize all chargers, so if this could succeed for smartphones, it might hasten the day when all laptops, cameras, and other portable devices each would use a single kind of charger. Eventually, maybe one single charger could power all portables.

But there is a fly in the ointment. The standard is voluntary, which means that even though Apple is a signatory, for instance, it can still use its proprietary 30-pin connector instead of the micro USB connector prescribed by the standard. Apple didn't respond to an e-mail.

If anything actually moves these standards forward, it will be that standardization saves money for manufacturers, and it should.

In the meantime, it wouldn't hurt to dig those outdated chargers from you junk drawer and recycle them.
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