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EU Committee Votes To Make All Smartphone Vendors Utilize a Standard Charger 415

Posted by Soulskill
from the which-will-surely-go-into-effect-in-a-timely-manner dept.
Deathspawner writes "The EU has been known to make a lot of odd decisions when it comes to tech, but one committee's latest vote is one that most people will likely agree with: Standardized smartphone chargers. If passed, this decision would cut down on never having the right charger handy, but as far as the EU is concerned, this is all about a reduction of waste. The initial vote went down on Thursday, and given its market saturation, it seems likely that micro USB would be the target standard. Now, it's a matter of waiting on the EU Parliament to make its vote."
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EU Committee Votes To Make All Smartphone Vendors Utilize a Standard Charger

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  • by ThatAblaze (1723456) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @04:34PM (#44981059)

    This bill had better have an expiration date, or else it might well interfere with new technologies like (perhaps) wireless power transmission.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by allsorts46 (1725046)

      Don't think there's anything to stop manufacturers including both micro USB *and* wireless charging. But yes, eventually we should probably move on...

      • by pspahn (1175617) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @05:05PM (#44981273)

        Eventually? The sooner the better, if you ask me.

        I currently have several devices that are nothing more than paper weights now as they are no longer chargeable due to broken micro USB ports.

        It's not a terrible design for something like an external hard disk or other device that generally just sits there. On a device that is designed to be handled constantly, however, it falls flat on its face. The connection is simply too fragile.

        If the EU really wants to reduce waste, they would mandate a connector that didn't break so easily, thus bricking the device. This is less of a problem nowadays with laptops, but they too have suffered this problem long enough that at this point the only reason you would keep releasing devices with fragile power connectors is that you are engineering obsolescence.

        • by pspahn (1175617)

          ...and thinking just a bit further, I have, in my lifetime, lost more laptops to connector failure than I have lost spinning hard disks due to any failure. I've had one spinning hard disk fail in my life (I've bought a new disk probably once every two years since about 1992). I have lost several laptops to broken connectors (both power and data connectors).

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Pokey.Clyde (1322667)
          This gets +5 Insightful? Really? You're a damn clutz who manages to break things that I've never broken in my life.

          Maybe you should learn how to take care of you things better.
          • by pspahn (1175617) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @06:30PM (#44981847)

            I must have been holding it wrong, right?!?!

            Let's look at the most recent device, a Samsung Galaxy Player 5. That one stopped working properly one day when I had unplugged it from the charging cord (like I would do each morning) only to find that the little wafer of plastic that sits in the middle of the female port came out of the device.

            Other USB connectors (of various sizes) I have seen do the exact same thing over the years across all sorts of devices. What did those devices have in common? They were handled constantly. On devices that do little but sit there, the connector works well.

            Kudos. You've managed to never break one in your life. This doesn't change the fact that other people will use these devices in a manner much less "sterile" than yours. Being a clutz has nothing to do with it, because, well, I'm not a clutz. I will admit, though, that occupational hazards probably contributed the majority of wear and tear on my devices.

            In the end, a micro USB connector (and other USB connectors to an extent) is terribly fragile and no matter if it breaks because you gave your phone to a baby while it was plugged in or if it breaks because of normal wear and tear, the end result is the same, electronic waste. If the goal of the EU is to reduce this waste, choosing micro USB is directly in conflict with that goal.

            • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @06:49PM (#44981935)

              And all the propritary connectors I've seen in that size constraint are equally flimsy. Including the Apple dock.

              I cannot comment on Lightning, never having examined one up close.

            • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 28, 2013 @07:42PM (#44982217)

              I must have been holding it wrong, right?!?!

              Or something, yes. I work in IT and support includes the phones (smart and dumb). I have never, ever seen someone break a microUSB connector. These are people that drop phones in coffee and in the toilet, who leave them on top of vehicles and who run them over with their cars. They are one of the more durable connectors I have ever seen, especially for their size. The fact that you manage to break multiples of them speaks way more about your own ineptitude than it does the plug design.

              • by Wycliffe (116160)

                Or something, yes. I work in IT and support includes the phones (smart and dumb). I have never, ever seen someone break a microUSB connector. These are people that drop phones in coffee and in the toilet, who leave them on top of vehicles and who run them over with their cars. They are one of the more durable connectors I have ever seen, especially for their size. The fact that you manage to break multiples of them speaks way more about your own ineptitude than it does the plug design.

                If I had to guess, working in IT, you probably only support devices for 1-2 years max so it's not surprising that you've never seen one fail.
                In my experience, if you don't accidently damage the phone, the first thing to go out from normal wear and tear is the micro usb port.
                Also, In my experience, it does ironically seem like "planned obsolescence" as the microusb usually fails about the 3 year mark shortly
                after my contract is up and it's time to pony up more money for a new phone.

                • If I had to guess, working in IT, you probably only support devices for 1-2 years max

                  I actually laughed out loud at that.

            • by thegarbz (1787294) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @11:22PM (#44983093)

              I must have been holding it wrong, right?!?!

              Well let's put it this way. MicroUSB connectors were designed specifically so that the plug was sacrificial. I use them a lot for hobby electronics, and my phones I use at work for convenient usb storage. I would on average plug them in 10+ times per day. I have had a lot of the cables fail, like they are supposed to, but I've never seen a device itself fail.

              Anyway this is all beside the point. I'll open the floor back to you to tell us what alternative plug you can suggest. Only criteria is that it has a current carrying capacity higher than 1A, is capable of supporting high speed data transfer, can be easily centred and inserted without looking and is no more than 3mm high.

              By the way I assume you took the device to get repaired right? I mean surely you didn't throw it out or replace it because a $0.60 component (in single quantities), which any competent soldering iron user could replace, broke right?

              If you didn't then shame on you.

            • by amck (34780)

              AIUI, the reason micro USB was invented was that, in the event of a break, its the connector / cable end that breaks rather than the plug-end.
              Phone chargers / USB cables are relatively cheap. Phones aren't.

          • by DMUTPeregrine (612791) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @06:39PM (#44981881) Journal
            I had a micro USB connector break on my phone recently. The phone was just under four years old (Samsung Vibrant) so I got a new one, but removing the old connector from the vibrant, cutting up the old cable and soldering it straight to the board where the cable used to be let me get my last week's data off. Replacing the micro USB connector would have been easy enough, they're jellybean parts. Four years, assuming I only plugged it in/removed the plug twice a day, is 2920 uses. I actually probably came near 4x that, so about 11k insertion/removals. Micro USB is designed for 10k, so it very likely outlasted its design lifetime.
        • by redback (15527)

          It sucks for hard disks too, people break them all the time.

        • by besalope (1186101)

          Eventually? The sooner the better, if you ask me.

          I currently have several devices that are nothing more than paper weights now as they are no longer chargeable due to broken micro USB ports.

          It's not a terrible design for something like an external hard disk or other device that generally just sits there. On a device that is designed to be handled constantly, however, it falls flat on its face. The connection is simply too fragile.

          If the EU really wants to reduce waste, they would mandate a connector that didn't break so easily, thus bricking the device. This is less of a problem nowadays with laptops, but they too have suffered this problem long enough that at this point the only reason you would keep releasing devices with fragile power connectors is that you are engineering obsolescence.

          There are micro-soldering repair shops that can reseat the ports with new connections to the board that will fix that issue. A friend of mine needed it done for his Galaxy S3, I think the total cost was around $45 including shipping and guarantees on the work being done.

        • by RMingin (985478)

          Actually, there's nothing in MicroUSB itself that makes it particularly fragile.

          It's the handset manufacturers who don't want it to be robust. They're very happy selling you a device with a 90 day warranty and an expected lifespan of about a year.

          • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@worfMOSCOW.net minus city> on Sunday September 29, 2013 @03:02AM (#44983861)

            Actually, there's nothing in MicroUSB itself that makes it particularly fragile.

            It's the handset manufacturers who don't want it to be robust. They're very happy selling you a device with a 90 day warranty and an expected lifespan of about a year.

            Avtually, it being small is reason enough - it means it's small enough to be installed via automated pick and place machines.

            But it also means the only mechanical attachment it has to the board is a set of solder pads - two big ones near the part where the cable inserts. If you want tabs that go through the PCB, it requires a separate through-hole process to finish the attachment, extra costs.

            The problem with soldered mechanical attachment points is that they result in the weakest part being the glue that holds the copper to the PCB. Wiggle the cable a little bit or jam it a touch too hard and you delaminate the copper foil from the board. Eventually the tabs break off the PCB and the connector is literally held by the 5 pins at the back which aren't strong enough to withstand much insertion and removal cycles.

            Perhaps the EU should mandate that the connectors be epoxied down to the board so an accidental bump or jerk doesn't destroy the connector. Once the pads rip off, it's the only way to reattach the connector.

            Be especially wary of docking stations that attempt to do an Apple and have a micro-USB jack stick straight up and be a mechanical attachment point for the docking station and that port is not generally expected to withstand much mechanical strain.

            Heck, the EU should probably go with something similar to Lightning - where there's no plastic tongues inside the connector. I've seen them break off - on both the device and the cable ends. Making the jack a solid piece with external connections like lightning or those 2.5mm plugs is far more structurally sound than relying on flimly slivers of plastic.

      • Didn't everybody in Europe switch to Micro USB a couple of years ago?

        I've still got a couple of devices that have Micro USB but don't seem to use it for charging. My GPS has a cradle with a proprietary connector that's fed by a Mini USB from a cigarette lighter adapter, and while it has Micro USB for a data interface, it can almost run from that but doesn't actually charge (as you might guess, I know this because the Mini USB on the back of the cradle is broken.) And I've got a Coby Android tablet that ha

        • by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash@@@p10link...net> on Saturday September 28, 2013 @06:23PM (#44981801) Homepage

          Didn't everybody in Europe switch to Micro USB a couple of years ago?

          Everyone significant except Apple did. Apple decided to keep using custom connectors for the phone end. They make adaptors but they don't include them as standard, genuine apple ones are fairly pricey and they don't really solve the problem (who wants to carry an adaptor arround with them all the time, that's barely better than carrying the USB cable for the phone arround all the time).

          I wonder if this is related (unofficially of course) to apple's recent aggressive move over third party lightning (apples current charge/data port) cables.

          Sigh - if they could still use 12V we could just use simple car adapters

          Note that car electrics are only nominally 12V. For reasonably reliable operation you need to be able to run continuously anywhere from about 10V to about 15V and to tolerate significant dips and spikes outside that range.

          It's actually easier to produce a stable 19V from a car supply than a stable 12V. For a stable 19V you just need some surge protection upfront and then a boost converter. For a stable 12V you would need a converter that can convert both up and down which is quite a bit more complex.

        • Didn't everybody in Europe switch to Micro USB a couple of years ago?

          No. Unless you don't include Apple in "everybody".

  • by plover (150551) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @04:35PM (#44981069) Homepage Journal

    How will my iPhone possibly work if it has to be charged with a tool as common as a wall wart? Eeeww. It's 20% less cool than a Lightning cable!

    • by sl149q (1537343) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @04:43PM (#44981133)

      20% less cool and half the amps..

      Not a huge problem for your iPhone probably. But definitely a problem for your iPad.

      And literally (really literally not emphatically literally) the iPad chargers are not less cool. They get pretty warm :-)

      • by arbiter1 (1204146)
        Um i think this only effects phones not tablets.
        • by sl149q (1537343)

          If we don't defend our Lightning cables when they come to take them away from our iPhones, will we be able to defend them when they come to take them away from or iPads and iPods!

          For people in in the IOSphere iStandardization across our various iDevices is more important than across other devices we simply do not, would not and will not ever own. Especially when that standard is sub-standard in various ways (orientation of connector problem, inferior design of jacks and plugs, lower wattage available for ch

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          Because it's MUCH more annoying when my phone doesn't use the same connector as everyone else's than if the phone and tablet I actually own myself use different connectors.

      • by Plammox (717738)
        Your iPad will charge, connected via USB, even though it says it isn't. It just takes forever.
  • Not a big deal (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Renegade Lisp (315687) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @04:36PM (#44981085)
    Manufacturers can still keep their bottom line by making cables and connectors so bad they have to be replaced even more often than before. As a matter of fact, I think that already happened.
    • by roc97007 (608802)

      Manufacturers can still keep their bottom line by making cables and connectors so bad they have to be replaced even more often than before. As a matter of fact, I think that already happened.

      True, but I suspect this creates a market in reasonably constructed cables and connectors that last longer. And because the connectors and voltages are standard, one could buy premium chargers from a third party and throw away the junk that comes with the phone.

      Although, come to think of it, that doesn't help with the waste, much.

      • by MtHuurne (602934)

        To really cut down on waste, new phones should be shipped without a charger. A lot of people opt to get a new phone when their two-year contract ends, while a charger could easily last 10-20 years.

  • That's odd (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 28, 2013 @04:38PM (#44981101)

    I thought there was an international law against governing bodies making common sense decisions?
    Someone is going to receive a very sternly written letter.

  • I fully support this, and a side-effect that I'm leaning on for one of my energy-efficiency projects (see @OpenTRV) is a supply of cheap efficient commodity 5V micro-USB supplies.

    Rgds

    Damon

  • waste? LOL !!! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gadget junkie (618542)

    "[...]but as far as the EU is concerned, this is all about a reduction of waste"

    I wonder how many times they shuffled between Strasbourg and Bruxelles while they decided that I do not need three 15 EUR chargers.

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @04:45PM (#44981147)

    No need to legislate this. Most people I know go out of their way to avoid buying products that don't charge with a USB connector if they can avoid it - at least computer-related products.

    Me, the last device I bought with a special charger was a Casio Exilim camera that has unique enough features that I had no other choice. But I hate that charger each time I have to carry it with me on business trips when I already carry a USB charger that takes care of all my other devices.

    • Too bad there are so many differences between the phones that I almost certainly won't find a model that is exactly the same as the phone I want except it uses USB for charging.
      Though since Nokia phones use 5V for charging, a simple wiring adapter can make it charge from USB (though my current phone, the E90, has a USB port, it does not charge from it).

    • by dutchwhizzman (817898) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @05:04PM (#44981261)
      There are millions of people that have iPhones, none of them are your friends? This whole "must be chargeable with micro USB" was already mandatory in the EU, they are just changing the regulations so you don't need an adapter like the iPhone currently requires. They had to, because evidently vendors weren't having it and found ways around it, so yes, there really is a need to legislate this.
      • by msauve (701917)

        This whole "must be chargeable with micro USB" was already mandatory in the EU

        No, there was a strong push for standardized charging ports which resulted in a voluntary agreement [internatio...office.com] among many phone manufacturers. Apple only agreed to provide an adapter which would allow micro-USB chargers to work with their phones.

        in March 2009 the commission issued an ultimatum to mobile phone manufacturers: either to become subject to mandatory EU legislation or to voluntarily adopt a common charger. The manufacturers chose

      • by fermion (181285)
        Problem with your rant is that the iPhone is not the problem. It is the proliferation of USB cables, A to B, A A, to mini A, mini B, micro A, micro B. I have to have multiple sets of four different cables to run everything. OTOH, with the Apple stuff two or three cables were enough. And the lighting cable, like the magsafe, is an elegant solution that requires much fewer materials, and I have only had one or two break. When the dock connecter was out, it meant I could usb or firewire, which was good be
    • by icebike (68054) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @05:47PM (#44981561)

      No need to legislate this.

      Wrong.

      You need only look at power outlets across europe [wikipedia.org] to see what happens when you don't legislate standards.

      When an otherwise popular device foists yet another cable requirement on the market, that, in most cases will over-ride users
      resistance to having a new cable. All you have to do is LOOK at all the Apple fanbois tossing out their 30pin connector,
      (which we were assured by Apple was the best thing ever) and substituting the new Lightning cable, which is also now the best thing ever).

      In the mean time, the rational for doing ANYTHING thru the cable besides charging is virtually non-existent.

      A world standard almost exists for phone charging. There is really only ONE holdout.
      Wired charging will eventually be supplanted by wireless charging, and you will need standards there as well.

      Standardization is ALWAYS something that needs legislation. Always.

      • by khallow (566160)

        Standardization is ALWAYS something that needs legislation.

        But the "legislation" need not be provided by a government. For example,

        A world standard almost exists for phone charging. There is really only ONE holdout.

        In other words, it's an informal (or perhaps a formal standard - not like I looked here) standard that has only ONE holdout. Now, if you're trying to force the holdouts to use a particular standard, then well, you have a somewhat better case for government involvement.

        • by icebike (68054)

          Standardization is ALWAYS something that needs legislation.

          But the "legislation" need not be provided by a government. For example,

          True. But the point of mentioning Eu Power plugs was to point out that standards bodies tend to be provincial, plagued with NIH and inertia. The electrical industry, like the plumbing industry before them, has been given hundreds of years to unify their systems, and have failed to do so on their own. All they did was create fiefdoms.

          Even when the industry adopts a standard, such as the National Electrical Code [wikipedia.org] it STILL requires the force of State, or Local law to make it enforceable. There are still par

          • by khallow (566160)

            Even when the industry adopts a standard, such as the National Electrical Code [wikipedia.org] it STILL requires the force of State, or Local law to make it enforceable. There are still parts of the US that don't mandate the code.

            Contract law also can make it enforceable. If someone attests in a contract that they're wiring a building to the standards of the National Electrical Code, then that's enforceable. It still requires the force of contract law (or some private equivalent), but it's a generic sort of enforcement applicable to many things other than electrical standards.

      • by msauve (701917)

        Standardization is ALWAYS something that needs legislation. Always.

        Good thing that Ethernet, Wi-Fi, TCP/IP, HTML, the C language, Java, HDMI, USB, etc. were all legislatively mandated, or we'd be stuck with ARCnet, AX.25, IPX, Gopher, FORTRAN, BASIC, RS-170, 20 mA current loop, etc.

  • Not so cut and dry (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wjcofkc (964165) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @05:11PM (#44981325)
    At first glance this is a fantastic idea, but it may not have been thought out all the way. I like micro usb chargers and even as an Apple fan was dismayed when they developed lighting instead of going micro usb. However Apple did have good reason to develop the lighting port - it's much more than a charging port. This is slashdot and we talk about Apple enough that I am sure enough of you understand what makes the lighting port leaps and and bounds more advanced the micro usb. Therein lies the problem. Technology is moving forward faster and faster and in a matter of time the obsolescence of the micro usb charger will rear its head as new technologies demand something with more advanced capabilities. It's all well and good for many reasons to have a standard port, but this cannot happen without a plan to reconvene every five years to settle on a new industry wide port with more capabilities. This of course brings us right back to the waste issue, and demanding a stop-gap generation of phones that support micro usb and whatever is next would be too costly for manufacturers. We can't live on micro usb forever and so the problem comes back full circle. In this situation adapters are not practical and are too easy to loose. If we are going to have a standard port, we need to first come up with something wicked advanced that will last as long as micro usb has and then go through a period of extreme waste with some recycling as we move over. It would be nice if Apple would just open up their lighting port for everyone to implement - but that of course will not happen. In other words: I sure as hell don't know what to do about the situation.
    • by Nerdfest (867930)

      Micro-USB is also more than a charging port. Apple only went with a proprietary connector to continue the lock-in.

    • And even if they do standardize on micro-USB, which version? 2.0 is the most common one right now, but micro-USB 3.0 is starting to see adoption [theverge.com], despite the fact that if we asked the average Slashdotter to design a port that was ideal for use by everyday users on mobile devices I'd expect them to do a better job than that thing.

    • by Solandri (704621)

      However Apple did have good reason to develop the lighting port - it's much more than a charging port. This is slashdot and we talk about Apple enough that I am sure enough of you understand what makes the lighting port leaps and and bounds more advanced the micro usb.

      There is no EU directive that phones can only have one port. The Android phones which do video and audio out like the Lightning port simply use two ports. MicroUSB for charging and data, microHDMI for video and audio (newer HDMI implementat

  • by bheading (467684) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @05:29PM (#44981439)

    A fine idea.

    What about laptop chargers too ? Every laptop I've owned has had a different charger plug. In some cases machines made by the same manufacturer have different plugs. Have a set of standard charger ratings and a standard way for the laptop to detect it.

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @05:32PM (#44981459) Homepage

    This is just making mandatory the Common External Power Supply [wikipedia.org] EU standard. That's been a voluntary standard since 2009, and most cell phone vendors in Europe have been on board for years. It's simple enough - phones use a MicroUSB B connector, and chargers use a USB-A connector if they have a connector at the charger end.

    China standardized on MicroUSB-B back in 2007. The GSM consortium standardized on MicroUSB-B in 2009.

  • It's #927 in case you're wondering.
  • But all the phones use different amounts of power. I just read today that while the google nexus uses a USB mini connector for power, the to versions 2012 and 2013 use different wattages, and are somewhat incompatible.

    And yes a lot of this is just BS to get more money, but smartphones are not all the same, and this is good. Their is a wide range, and their is some necessary differences in their batteries and their charging cables.

    Also, I use micro USB, and it kindof sucks.

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Saturday September 28, 2013 @07:28PM (#44982141)

    Not that the EU passed a law... I get that... its just sad that they needed to do that.

    The vendors should have created their own standards a long time ago to not be this obnoxious. Every phone needs a new charger even though practically all of them are just USB. But they all have a different type of USB connector which is different for no apparent reason.

    Look, obviously there are times and reasons to have different types of charges. But they seem to go out of their way to confuse the situation.

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