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Cellphones Power

Handset Vendors Plug Micro-USB Charge Ports 363

Posted by timothy
from the kicking-and-screaming-to-the-briar-patch dept.
ketan324 points to a Register story touting an agreement among several phone makers to settle on Micro USB for their phones' charging ports, writing "It's about time for these cellphone manufacturers to wise up and design a universal phone charger. Although many manufacturers have already 'standardized' to a mini-USB interface, there are many more out there who use proprietary adapters. I wonder how Apple will feel about this? Will they finally realize that their oh-so-special adapter is nothing more than a fudged USB interface?" No legislation required.
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Handset Vendors Plug Micro-USB Charge Ports

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @12:48PM (#26888561)

    I have working USB on my computer. Why the hell do I need to install a Motorola XP driver to charge my RAZR?

  • Yay! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nerdposeur (910128) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @12:50PM (#26888571) Journal
    About time.
  • by goombah99 (560566) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @12:53PM (#26888637)

    cell phone cables need to be able to support digital data, power and analog multi-channel audio input(microphones) and output (speakers). Some also need to support RGB or S-video out

    USB can do the first two. I may be mistaken but I don't think that USB can support those analog channels.

    So the connectors are not "oh so special" they are actually accomodating what is needed.

    If you want a minimalist approach of having a single docking connector then you need to have all that functionality.

    the alternative is to have a lot of different input/output ports or even mulitle ways of doing it.

    For my simple cell phone, I say yes! all I want is a USB charger so I can charge it off my laptop with any available cable. That's great. But for people with those uber-phones well USB is not going to hack it so it is kind of silly to complain.

  • oh-so-special? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @01:07PM (#26888907) Homepage

    I wonder how Apple will feel about this? Will they finally realize that their oh-so-special adapter is nothing more than a fudged USB interface?"

    Oh, like Apple is just using the dock connector to be "special"? It's true that the dock connector is *mostly* USB, but it also can carry audio and video so that, with only a dock, you can output to a stereo or TV. Also, the audio put out through the dock is supposedly different from what comes out of the headphone jack (I believe they aren't amplifying the audio from the dock), meaning you can get better quality for outputting to a stereo.

    So I don't know why the submitter has to turn this into an Apple-bashing thing. Apple actually uses standards pretty often. And often, when they do stray from a standard, it's in order to provide specific functionality-- and even then they often release the specs for their version, allowing others to adopt it. For example, I believe they released the specs for their custom "mini display port" that they're using without requiring any kind of licensing fees or anything.

  • by Otto (17870) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @01:29PM (#26889319) Homepage Journal

    I take it this means that if I have a USB hub then my cell phone is always on low power charge mode. Otherwise I don't see how a computer could decide how much current to supply when multiple devices are attached in parallel via a hub.

    USB hubs are more than mere wiring, they have to have some minor amount of intelligence. There's two basic kinds of hubs: bus-powered and self-powered. Self-powered hubs have a separate power source (wall outlet, etc) and are allowed to provide up to 500 mA to devices connecting to them, which is the same as the high-power mode for normal USB ports. This allows those devices to charge. Bus-powered hubs can't do this, they're basically limited to the amount of power they get from the USB port itself.

    A second question is, why don't devices supply their own drivers when you plug them in?

    Because that's not possible in the USB specification. The "no-driver" devices really use a default set of drivers that have their characteristics predefined in the USB specs.

    Also, it's a bit of a security risk for a device to be able to send executable code to the PC and actually have it get executed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @01:29PM (#26889323)
    Yeah, and you don't have to install webcam drivers either. Linux (and Ubuntu especially) has put a lot of effort into making hardware compatibility automatic. MS has no stigma to worry about on this front, so they are unsurprisingly lagging behind in this ease of use comparison.
  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @01:46PM (#26889665) Journal

    My Best Buy/Insignia MP3 player doesn't have a driver, and yet it still manages to charge in every USB port I've ever tried - home PC, work PC, home laptop, even my LCD screen (which is a dumb gadget not attached to anything).

  • Apple connector (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @01:47PM (#26889685)

    While I too wouldn't mind a more standard charging connector, I see no reason why a mini-usb for getting power, AND a custom plug with more ability than simply power and a slow one to one data comm protocol for one host (the PC)

    http://pinouts.ru/Devices/ipod_pinout.shtml [pinouts.ru]

    That link shows both the iPod and iPhone connector. I am actually in the process of designing some nice attachments to the iPhone using a combination of USB, firewire, and a ttl serial port.
    None of those things outside of the one USB connection would be found in USB.

    Mini-USB won't let me get composite video out, or audio out to plug in my car stereo, or audio IN.

    However, the practice of bastardizing the USB jack so it is only useful for power, and rare (or nonexistent) data purposes, totally needs to die.

    I mean, I can understand if the phone doesn't Have those abilities at all, then of course the USB jack shouldn't. But just using iPhone as an example, plugging it in with the USB connector only makes it show up as a camera device to access pictures. Nothing else. And those antics are BS and should go.

  • by raehl (609729) <raehl311 AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @01:54PM (#26889821) Homepage

    Legislation (or threat of legislation) had nothing to do with it. The legislators are already all bought and paid for.

    The problem is that selling replacement chargers only works from a profit perspective when the profit from the replacement chargers you're selling offsets the cost of the free chargers you're including with the phone. That worked for a little while, but then generic manufacturers got involved, and the money made selling replacement chargers stopped beating the money spent including free chargers.

    So the phone companies are switching over to the printer+USB cable/HD TV+HDMI cable model. With standardized chargers, they don't need to include a charger with the phone anymore, saving them money. And then the retailers can sell you a phone, and then also sell you a $2 charger for $80. $120 if it's gold plated. $180 if it's gold plated and made by Monster.

  • Windows USB functionality is severely backwards... why is my damn phone a different device when I plug it into a different USB port? Does the port address somehow magically make it behave differently? Can you tell that it's annoying having to plug every new device into every single port on my computer and installing the driver so that I don't have to worry about that when I actually want to use the device?

    Glad I only use Windows for gaming and to update my Blackberry's software.
  • by torkus (1133985) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @02:14PM (#26890175)

    Seeing as how their phones don't like to charge with a plain-jane blackberry wall-wart I'm going to lean towards the phallic choice you suggest.

    Try explaining to a secretary why the "right charger" - 'look, it fits' won't charge her VP's phone when it clearly works 'it just charged his blackberry!'

    Ugh...

  • by db32 (862117) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @02:19PM (#26890275) Journal
    I know! I was going into the comments to see what other amusing jokes may have been made and was stunned to see all of these people frothing about the post. I don't know if I should applaud the GP or be deeply depressed by so many people not getting the PAINFULLY obvious sarcasm.
  • by 2short (466733) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @02:30PM (#26890517)
    You don't (and can't) "detect" power on a line, nor can a hub "throw" power at them.

    The hub is supposed to keep the voltage at 5V. How many amps that causes to flow through a device is up to the device, which is supposed to be smart enough to limit itself to 100mA until has gotten permission via software to draw more. All manner of devices ignore this because it's a few cents cheaper to not include those electronics, and just pull whatever you feel like. Hub makers must deal with this or have their products melt and not sell, so they deal. But it's the device that is wrong. No machine maker in their right mind will include a port that can't supply 500mA right off the bat, because the standard is so universally ignored.
  • by sjames (1099) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @04:55PM (#26893291) Homepage

    I couldn't convince him to make the device charge without a driver though,

    GOOD! If you think charging slowly will piss people off, see what dragging down vcc until every device on the hub mysteriously and randomly malfunctions will do! Or if the hub is smarter, try no charging at all because the device violated spec and the port was shut down to keep it from causing problems for compliant devices.

    Keep in mind that if several devices all try your strategy, it's quite likely that one or more will introduce terrible ripple. It's also possible that some poor hub that's perfectly compliant (though a bit fragile) will be damaged.

    There is, however, no reason the phone shouldn't present itself as one of the standards defined devices so that a generic driver can enable it for full power.

    At the same time, there IS a battery charging specification for USB. A dumb charger can comply just by having a current limiting resistor across the data lines. A USB port can also use the spec to agree to provide 1.5A to the device if it is designed to do so.

    By staying within the spec, the phone gets to charge, won't damage anyone's hardware, won't cause random malfunctions, and WILL be permitted to bear the appropriate USB logos. One of the best things about USB is that there are actual specs and most everything obeys them reasonably. That's why USB devices tend to just work if the OS has decent USB support. The last thing we need is for a bunch of phones to start cheating and turn USB into a random crapshoot like Plug'n'Pray.

  • by glennrrr (592457) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @05:15PM (#26893605)

    USB can supply everything and the sooner a giant like Apple is pushing it, the sooner we all get these ridiculous cables out of our living rooms and offices.

    There's no need for video-out, there's no need for line-level audio out.

    This is just not very well thought out. USB is only useful when connected to a master computational device, almost always a Mac, PC or Linux box. It's ridiculous to expect it as a means to connect to the stereo system of a car. It's also ridiculous to force people to use a non-line level output to connect into a stereo. What would you have me do in my 2003 Civic? Install an onboard computer which somehow knows about some non-existent protocol to get a digital stream of music out of my iPhone. Use the headphone jack so I have the joys of balancing the audio every time I plug in?

    Or maybe I can use good old analog line level out of my iPhone's dock connector. Plug it in to a single cable which charges the phone and gives me a line out. I can even keep the headphones plugged in and in one ear so I can handle incoming calls or conveniently controlling the audio with the clicker button.

    Honestly, where do these memes come from? USB is a horrible hack of a connection protocol (spoken as someone who's written the occasional USB driver), which does a slow, shoddy job as a charging connection, and who's only benefit is ubiquity. I'm still unhappy Apple dropped Firewire charging mode, at least that was a decent power connection, not this pathetic 500mA USB mode.

IF I HAD A MINE SHAFT, I don't think I would just abandon it. There's got to be a better way. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.

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