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Europe still wants a single universally compatible phone charger

By Greg S ยท 9 replies
Aug 7, 2018
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  1. Regulators from part of the European Union are looking to revisit a proposal to force a universally compatible phone charger. Between phone manufacturers, there are dozens of different charging blocks, not all of which are compatible with one another. The result is a lot of electronics ending up in the garbage and often needing replacement units every few years.

    Going all the way back to 2009 when the EU first visited these issues of unnecessary electronic waste and consumer inconvenience, 14 companies signed on to a memorandum of understanding. Under the voluntary agreement, there was to be more widely compatible chargers launched by 2011. Clearly that did not work out as well as regulators may have hoped.

    Moving forward, several businesses signed new agreements in 2013 and 2014 following the expiration of the original memorandum in 2012. Looking around at a few different Android phones and the current iPhones, it is clear that universal compatibility is still not a reality.

    "Given the unsatisfactory progress with this voluntary approach, the Commission will shortly launch an impact assessment study to evaluate costs and benefits of different other options," said EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager.

    Arguments for switching to a more universal standard are fairly clear. Over 51,000 tons of chargers are discarded annually and more than 13 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions could be saved using more efficient designs. However, this direct regulation could potentially stifle longer term innovations since legislation rarely keeps up with research and development.

    Apple, Samsung, Huawei, and Nokia all were signers of the first voluntary memorandum. Now that the majority of Android smartphones are using USB-C as their primary port and Apple is considering implementing USB-C support on future iPhones, it seems that the EU is at least a little closer to getting its wish.

    Unfortunately, just because most phones will have USB-C on at least one end of their charging cable does not mean all chargers are compatible. Different fast charging technologies such as Qualcomm's Quick Charge found on many flagships and OPPO's Dash Charge found on OnePlus devices have different electronic requirements.

    Plugging in devices that support various fast charging protocols into a charger without appropriate power capabilities will result in slow charging or sometimes even a complete rejection, as is the case with many non-Apple certified chargers and lightning cables.

    From a consumer standpoint, it would be absolutely wonderful to have several days worth of battery life, but the next best thing would be a device that can use just about any charger laying around the house instead of running off to find the one working charger.

    In the event that the EU does pass new regulations, it will be interesting to see how companies with proprietary technologies like Apple adapt. Non-compliance with EU rules typically does not go over well and can result in hefty fines or even outright bans until changes are made.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Cycloid Torus

    Cycloid Torus Stone age computing - click on the rock below.. Posts: 3,795   +1,101

    I think I would strongly support a 'universal slow charge' standard. Then let the fast charge folks charge more for their special convenience feature. (bad pun, ha, ha)
    Reehahs likes this.
  3. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 4,872   +3,311

    A universally acceptable electrical system might be a start ......
    Sausagemeat and Reehahs like this.
  4. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 12,562   +1,442

    It's very typical that FAST CHARGING lessens battery life. The biggest challenge is to manage settings to reduce battery drain (aka a user issue) to give the greatest battery life while you are out-n-about on you daily activities, hike, or tourist tour.

    I would expect that someone with one brand would NOT also have other devices from a competitor - - those Android fanboys go apoplectic at the mention of an iPhone and conversely (aka me) so there's NEVER an issue to locate the "correct charger" in the first place. Brand name bias permeates whole families.
  5. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,719   +1,135

    This far it's the most universal landscape we've ever been, either USB, USB-C or Lighting. Normally all charges comes as a wall plug with a female USB plug, then you get the cable that is one of the mentioned already.

    If and when we reach a single cable that should be it, right?

    This sounds like a 90s story necroed back... from the day when Nokia, Sony, LG and Motorola had their own port.
  6. Theinsanegamer

    Theinsanegamer TS Evangelist Posts: 1,448   +1,619

    This is just the EU mucking around with consumer's choice.

    We have universal standards. If apple wants to be special, let them. They are almost irrelevant market wise outside of the US and europe, and apple is losing ground there. They are gaining marketshare in china, but android has a huge head start on them.

    Let the market decide what they want to use. The market settled on USB, and it has worked well. We dont need governments telling us what charger to use.
    we already have that. You can charge any android phone with an apple charger. it already works, its called USB 2.0. This also works in the other direction.

    We also have a universally accepted fast charging system, in fact we have several, integrated into the USB standard. Apple just feels like being a pretty princess and ignoring standards. Given that 9/10 phones are android worldwide or something like that*, this is a non issue.

    If apple wants to use special cables, let them. If consumers dont want it, apple will be forced to change by declining sales.

    *correction, 80% of phone sales in 2016 were android. 15% were apple. The point still stands.
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2018
  7. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,719   +1,135

    Wow man... wow, if there would be a skill to pull numbers out of your behind, you would really rock @Theinsanegamer

    Only in Mobiles Android has a 70% and Apple almost a 30%, when it comes to tablets they are almost 50/50. There is also a link where you can read about the methodology used. Source (Yeah, it's important).

    Also... almost irrelevant market outside of the US and Europe? Come on, seriously.

  8. Capaill

    Capaill TS Evangelist Posts: 777   +400

    Go wireless charging. Maybe we'd have better luck finding a universal standard there.
    Also, just because there are lots of technologies doesn't mean we have to pick one. Legislate instead that every wireless charging pad must support a standard method of charging all devices. Then manufacturers can design their own unique features for fast charge or RGB or whatever the latest buzzwords are.
  9. Footlong

    Footlong TS Addict Posts: 123   +62

    Apple is far from irrelevant. In fact for the past 8 years or so they have been setting standards in tech companies.
    This is a good initiative for consumers and companies. The problem is that some companies rely more on selling hardware than others. If people and companies did what they want all the time there would be no standard specifications in anything. The most recent example that comes to my mind was the creation and regulation of the distribution of electricity. Back in the early days of the XX century, every power company wanted to do things their way which created the debate of 110V vs 220V.
  10. merikafyeah

    merikafyeah TS Addict Posts: 164   +113

    There is already a standard called "USB Power Delivery". It was designed to unify the different charging implementations like Qualcomm's "Quick Charge" or Samsung's "Adaptive Fast Charge", or Oppo's "Dash Charge" used in the OnePlus series.

    It WILL succeed in being the charging standard of the future simply by the fact that it's USB. If you control the market share for the physical port (Type-C), then the electrical standard will logically follow in due time. It's a fairly new standard so it will take time to permeate the market like with USB 3.0 when it was first finalized, but it WILL happen. So as of now it would be stupid for manufacturers to continue development of their own charging implementations instead of adopting USB-PD.

    For a time, I predict there will be a graceful "dual compatibility" scenario where new phones support a manufacturer's proprietary charging implementation in addition to USB-PD, but in 10 years time there will only be USB-PD, and by then even Apple won't be able to ignore USB-PD.

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