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EU Commissioner Wants Standard For Mobile Phone Connectors 374

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the things-that-will-never-happen dept.
Jantastic writes "European Commissioner Günter Verheugen wants manufacturers of mobile phones to come up with a standard connector for chargers and microphones. If companies fail to do so, proposed legislation should speed up this process. In theory, this could improve competition, while enabling longer life cycles for these devices."
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EU Commissioner Wants Standard For Mobile Phone Connectors

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  • Re:USB? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16, 2009 @05:53PM (#26877829)

    Nokia already made the switch.

    Most of the new phones have mini-usb already. Instead of having two connectors, one for power and one for data, they can now have just one on the phone. Also, mini-usb is quite convenient for the other end's requirement and cheap to implement.

  • Re:USB? (Score:3, Informative)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday February 16, 2009 @05:53PM (#26877833) Journal

    I've seen two LG phones now that have some sort of pseudo-mini USB which will not fit a standard cable. It's a scam to force you to buy overpriced cabling from them.

  • Re:USB? (Score:5, Informative)

    by plover (150551) * on Monday February 16, 2009 @05:57PM (#26877907) Homepage Journal

    It is very nice. Motorola standardized on the mini-USB connector back around the time they introduced the RAZR. Every Motorola product I've bought since about 2005 uses a mini-USB jack for power and charging. This includes a Bluetooth stereo adapter, a couple pairs of Bluetooth headphones, a Bluetooth handsfree ear-bud, and at least five different models of cell phones.

    And I have never had to buy a separate cable to connect my Motorola phones to my PC when it's time to upload new content. That's not true of my Sony-Ericsson or Nokia phones.

    And because they're all the same, I have several identical power bricks, which is ideal for having one at work, a couple in different rooms at home, my wife has one, and our car chargers are all interoperable.

    It's one of those levels of convenience that seems stupid and shallow (and probably is), but it definitely drives me back to Motorola as a customer.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16, 2009 @05:59PM (#26877923)

    The cellphone industry would soar ahead if there was an ISO standard for connection of peripherals, power sources and accessories.

    Then why don't they do it without legislation?

  • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Monday February 16, 2009 @05:59PM (#26877931)
    Apart from different connectors, different models of phone also need different voltages and current ratings. I have 3 Nokias that don't interoperate with each other's chargers.

    Same deal here. The connector isn't enough. There has to be standardised voltages and currents to make the scheme work.

  • Re:USB? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Andy Dodd (701) < minus threevowels> on Monday February 16, 2009 @06:06PM (#26878071) Homepage

    The problem is that there is no way to charge phones in a standard way with USB.

    USB dictates that a device is only permitted to draw 100 mA unless it has negotiated a connection with a host AND that host has given it permission to draw more.

    As a result, any device that charges from USB must either:
    a) Limit itself to 100 mA or less (not going to happen)
    b) Limit itself to only charging when it enumerates with a PC (see the "special driver" scenario, although there are admittedly better ways to do this - behave as a "standard" device for which all modern OSes have drivers, but still this is a very restrictive approach as it doesn't allow for "dumb chargers".)
    c) Have some sort of method to signify the presence of a "dumb charger" to the device. THIS IS NOT COVERED BY ANY CURRENT USB SPECIFICATION. As a result it is at best covered by "de facto" standards. For example, mini-USB connectors have an additional pin not found in normal USB connectors. (Why, I do not know, I'm guessing "future growth" for later USB revisions). It is defined as "not connected" in standard USB, but it's a "de facto" standard (adopted by Motorola, Blackberry, HTC, Holux, and quite a few others) to signify a "dumb charger" by grounding this pin. (Unfortunately, most devices will fail to operate as a data device when this pin is grounded.)

    Sadly, Apple does it in a different manner with weird resistances and voltages.

    Unfortunately there's no way to standardize this without somehow incorporating it into USB 3.0. I sort of recall that this might have actually been taken into account for USB 3.0, but if not, it's too late for the EU - USB 4.0 is a looooooooong way away.

  • Re:Sounds good to me (Score:2, Informative)

    by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Monday February 16, 2009 @06:07PM (#26878089) Homepage
    Because when you give your government precedent to expand beyond it's social contract of protecting life, liberty and property...even on your behalf, then you give it permission to expand to ALL facets of life. It isn't a government's proper role to tell a private company what features it can/cannot sell. If company A finds a market demand for connector X, company A is free to build for that market. It is free not to. It's what we call a free market, which is to say, the market system of free people. Otherwise, you are trading freedom for convenience.
  • Re:USB? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kokuyo (549451) on Monday February 16, 2009 @06:08PM (#26878101) Journal

    Ah, you mean like the N95 8GB that lets me connect with a standard mini usb cable but will not charge over the same?

  • Re:USB? (Score:3, Informative)

    by corsec67 (627446) on Monday February 16, 2009 @06:10PM (#26878145) Homepage Journal

    Then again it could be the plug manufacturers for not wiring all the lines up in the USB portion of the plug.

    All 4 lines have to be wired up, or many things would fail to recognize/use the USB port.

    The issue with Apple is that the device being plugged into the port is only supposed to draw 100mA (1 "unit"), and can request more, but shouldn't draw the extra power until being told it is "ok". So it seems that instead of just drawing 100mA, the iPhone draws either 500mA with authorization or none without.

    Many devices just grab 500mA without authorization, (like USB vacuum cleaners, lights, etc.), so in this case Apple is actually correct. I think the issue is that the computer OS doesn't authorize the extra power draw if it doesn't have a driver for the specific device that was plugged in.
    (More here [])

  • Re:USB? (Score:2, Informative)

    by JohnAllison (838880) <> on Monday February 16, 2009 @06:20PM (#26878299)
    This was one of the reasons I purchased my SLVR years ago.

    I later discovered that I can not charge the phone, and use the audio out at the same time. (Think cross country road trips) Other than that I do like the idea of a singular connector to charge.

    As devil's advocate, let's look at the iPhone, because I have one and am familiar with it. Two connectors, one for audio/mic, another, the proprietary dock connector.

    I assume Apple and those with other proprietary connectors would have to retool how they output video, audio, line out, control, in/out, PWR, GND, and anything else over USB. Annoying, but possibly worth it to consumers.

    However, how much competition are we losing by specifying which connectors or what interfaces should be mandatory. When the tech industry shoots past this legislation do we really want devices tied to legacy connectors?

    Should the government regulate or is this an area where the speed of the consumer to adapt to the market will better provide the winners and losers of an industry?

    I'd like to see what the industry has to offer before I call for regulation

    P.S. I hate mini-Displayport.

  • Re:USB? (Score:5, Informative)

    by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot AT worf DOT net> on Monday February 16, 2009 @06:25PM (#26878381)

    Yup, that would be good, or at least require them to include an adaptor in the box. The other thing that they should sort out is getting these phones to be able to recharge with any USB power plug. The iPhone and the iPod are guilty here, requiring you to buy special 'iPod' capable power adapters. Then again it could be the plug manufacturers for not wiring all the lines up in the USB portion of the plug.

    Actually, that is the problem. A USB charger doesn't just supply 5V on Vbus and that's it. A USB device that's properly spec'ed can't draw more than 500mA from a USB port, but given some USB devices, that could mean it takes days to charge via USB, or even, it doesn't charge at all. (There are devices out there that draw more than 500mA when busy, so it's actually possible to drain the battery while in use.)

    To cope with this, there is a "USB Charging Specification" that specifies how to identify the charger, so devices can do a quick detection, and if it is a charger, start drawing 800mA, 1A, 2A or however much they want to to ensure a fast charge, or even slow charging while busy. This is done via a specially selected set of resistors hooked to Vbus and ground to the D+ and D- lines. The charger itself shorts D+ to D-, and whe connected, instead of the idle state that is expected (D+/D- low - pulled by weak pulldowns from the host), it detects a "1" state on both pins. The device then knows it's safe to draw whatever it wants.

    Oh yeah, unconfigured USB devices can only draw 100mA for a limited time - long enough to charge its battery so it can identify itself, at which point it must disconnect, boot up, and identify itself, at which point, it can draw 100mA or 500mA from the port (depending on what the bus can supply).

    Cheap devices can use just 5V on Vbus and charge. Proper USB drives that pass USB certification can't, and if they attempt to draw more than 500mA from a host port on a PC, it's a fail. Hence schemes like these so they can pass certification, but still be able to "fast charge" properly. It's surprisingly difficult to do USB power "properly."

    USB 3.0 devices can have 150mA unconfigured or 900mA (I believe) configured.

  • Re:USB? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Zackbass (457384) on Monday February 16, 2009 @06:37PM (#26878571)

    You sure? My LG Keybo (aka enV2) most definitely has a standard USB micro B. I'm looking at the cable right now.

  • Re:USB? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Johnny2225 (965346) on Monday February 16, 2009 @06:50PM (#26878775)
    Some of the newer nokias also allow charing over Mini USB. Think the N96 does.
  • by jrumney (197329) on Monday February 16, 2009 @06:54PM (#26878851) Homepage
    In Japan the networks have forced standard connectors on the manufacturers. There are 4 types of connector available in Japan (which is really annoying when you travel there and forget your charger) - NTT Docomo/Softbank 3G, Softbank 2G, KDDI 3G and KDDI 2G. It means that every convenience store can offer mobile phone charging points as part of its service, because the number of connectors is vastly reduced compared with the manufacturer and year specific connectors found elsewhere.
  • Re:USB? (Score:3, Informative)

    by QuantumRiff (120817) on Monday February 16, 2009 @07:01PM (#26878945)

    FYI, the newest Motorola's seem to have moved to a Micro-USB connector. While you can find adapters from mini-USB to Micro-USB, they are about the same price as buying a new cable.

  • Re:USB? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Archimonde (668883) on Monday February 16, 2009 @07:12PM (#26879083) Homepage

    Those are actually Micro-USB connectors.

    For example Nokia E71 [].

    You can read more about those types of usb connectors here [].

  • Re:USB? (Score:3, Informative)

    by roc97007 (608802) on Monday February 16, 2009 @07:44PM (#26879541) Journal

    ...Also some Motorola phones, and Blackberry. (My Bold and daughter's Curve will charge with a standard USB cable.) Dunno, other than the high price of cute white interface cables, Apple hasn't changed over to mini-USB. Their current products already charge and communicate over USB, just with a proprietary connector at the device end.

    Regarding headphones, I've noticed that the headset that came with my Blackberry (with microphone and mute switch) works in Daughter's Curve and (oddly enough) in her iPod Touch. Here's the really interesting thing -- when used with the Touch, she can get it to do various things by clicking the mute switch quickly one, two, three times. Like start over, go to next song, etc. Pretty amazing for a peripheral not made by Apple.

    And yet... Speaking of headphones, if I could go slightly off-topic, if Apple supported A2DP, like Blackberry already does, you wouldn't have to mess with funky, hardwired adapters. It'd just start playing when it got in range of the headset or the radio, as my Bold already does when I get in the car. That's such an elegant solution I'm astonished that Apple didn't think of it first (and patent it).

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday February 16, 2009 @07:45PM (#26879569) Homepage

    Wasn't that a clear cut case of laissez-faire capitalism to the rescue? Did some government body force IBM to open their platform?

    Well, in a way... when IBM lost their copyright infringement lawsuit against Compaq for reverse-engineering and clean-room-reimplementing the IBM BIOS. That's not so much a government body saying "You must open your platform" as "you can't stop others from opening your platform for you as long as they abide by the law."

    You better believe IBM didn't want anyone else to be able to make compatible hardware. But there was a huge financial incentive for anyone interested in making clones to make compatible hardware, and the law just happened to be on their side. I actually shudder to think what would have happened if the legal environment then had been like it is now.

    So it kinda is still a bad example. IBM was forced against their will to open their platform, but this was actually a result of a weakness in the anti-laissez-faire monopoly granted by copyright law.

    The problem in this case, is that just about nobody has an incentive to make compatible chargers. At least not phone makers. Why, when they can charge extra for proprietary cables? I really couldn't say if there's any patent or copyright related protection makers of these proprietary chargers could claim, but it isn't clear it would matter either way.

  • by don.g (6394) <<zn.gro.sid> <ta> <nod>> on Monday February 16, 2009 @07:46PM (#26879579) Homepage

    Wasn't that a clear cut case of laissez-faire capitalism to the rescue? Did some government body force IBM to open their platform?

    Actually, yes. IBM got sued for antitrust violations in 1969, and according to a documentary I saw on TV once, was a major factor in their decision to release the PC with a manual that included full BIOS source code and circuit schematics [].

  • Re:USB? (Score:2, Informative)

    by damaki (997243) on Monday February 16, 2009 @07:47PM (#26879605)
    Yeah, and nokia sells USB charging cords for N95. These are around $25.
  • Re:USB? (Score:3, Informative)

    by danger zone (2172) <> on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:05PM (#26881761) Homepage

    In China, USB charging has been mandatory for new mobile phones since 2007. By and large, phones will also sync using standard USB cables. However, I have noticed that my smartphone will actually drain the battery when "charging" if I have WiFi turned on... I guess there's just too much power drain when powering a GSM, bluetooth, and WiFi radio simultaneously. []


  • Re:USB? (Score:3, Informative)

    by shawb (16347) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @01:57AM (#26883233)
    My guess would be that a significant portion of that battery drain comes from bluetooth. My phone can go about a day and a half with normal use without recharging. When bluetooth is on, the battery drains to the point that the phone turns off in 3-4 hours with no use.
  • Re:USB? (Score:3, Informative)

    by hedwards (940851) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @10:04AM (#26885739)

    That's not true, it's because Motorola uses a non-standard USB cable. I think the official line is so that they can connect the head set up to the port, but you have to physically mod a cable if that's what you want to do.

    The _only_ thing standard about those is the fact that they have the mini-USB jack.

Neckties strangle clear thinking. -- Lin Yutang