EU adopts microUSB cell phone charger standard

As billions of handsets and and thousands of mobile phone models have filled the pockets (and, eventually, the landfills) of the world, they’ve been accompanied by another device: phone chargers. And as anyone who has owned more than one phone can probably attest, most of those chargers only work on one or two phones. Now, the European Commission has put the final touches on an agreement between fourteen leading phone manufacturers to standardize on charging via microUSB—and that should lead to a future of chargers compatible across a broad range of devices…and fewer chargers going into landfills.

“I am very happy that the European Standardization Bodies have met our request to develop within a short space of time the technical standards necessary for a common mobile phone charger based on the work done by industry,” said EC commissioner for industry and entrepreneurship Antonio Tajani, in a statement. “Now it is time for industry to show its commitment to sell mobile phones for the new charger. The common charger will make life easier for consumers, reduce waste, and benefit businesses. It is a true win-win situation.”

The effort to settle on a common charger technology was launched back in 2009 with an eye not only towards making life easier for consumers, but to reduce waste, since phone customers will no longer have to throw out a perfectly good charger (complete with its environmentally-hazardous components) whenever they get a new phone. Fourteen companies are on board with the new standard—Apple, Emblaze Mobile, Huawei Technologies, LGE, Motorola Mobility, NEC, Nokia, Qualcomm, RIM, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, TCT Mobile, Texas Instruments, and Atmel—and the first products using the new standard should reach the European market in the first part of 2011. If the idea takes root—and plenty of mobile phone owners probably hope it will—manufacturers could bring the technology to other markets.

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