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EU Votes to Adopt Standard Connector for Mobile Devices

Late last week the European Parliament voted to push for a single standard charger for mobile devices. I’m sure you can guess what will happen next:


This new initiative, which passed with an overwhelming majority, came as part of a effort to update laws and regulations that cover radio equipment (including mobile devices). Technically last week’s vote was only a draft of the new law; it won’t become a law until the European Council approves the provisions, and after that EU members will have 2 years to change their national laws so they comply with the new rules.

The new standard has not yet been chosen, but the proposed design for a universal charger uses a microUSB connector – the one which is already used by a significant minority of device makers, including Amazon, Samsung, Asus, and others. (Apple, of course, does not use the same connector.)

On some levels this move makes sense, but I have to question whether it will achieve the stated goal. According to rapporteur Barbara Weiler, this is intended to reduce electronic waste: "I am especially pleased that we agreed on the introduction of a common charger. This serves the interests both of consumers and the environment. It will put an end to charger clutter and 51,000 tonnes of electronic waste annually," she said.

I seriously doubt anyone discards a mobile device simply because the charger is dead – not unless it was nearing the end of its life anyway. Universal replacement chargers are readily available in Radio Shack and other electronics stores, and you can even find plugs which will fit virtually any mobile device made in the past 20 years.

I also wonder why the EU is going to push for a standard connector but not wireless charging. It would seem that they are planning to adopt a standard which is rapidly going out of date.

Sure, wireless charging is still uncommon, but by the time the regulations percolate through the bureaucracies that will probably no longer be true. I would bet that wireless charging will be more common than not 2 years from now. Anyone want to take that bet?


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Loïc March 17, 2014 um 9:50 am

Wireless charging, while practical, is not energy efficient. Its efficiency is at best of 72%, so do EU should really push a standard that makes us waste 30% of energy for the sole purpose of charging our mobile devices? Let’s plug the damn thing in, people, earth will thank you.

Popup March 17, 2014 um 12:17 pm

The current implementations of wireless charging also have other problems. They heat up the charged device much more than using cables, which indirectly affects battery life.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my Qi charger for my Nexus 5 – but for now it comes with serious drawbacks.

Nate Hoffelder March 19, 2014 um 9:02 am

Yes, but by the time this regulation goes into effect wireless charging is going to be much more energy efficient. And as Jon pointed out below, it saves on the wear and tear of plugs.

LCNR March 17, 2014 um 10:12 am

"I seriously doubt anyone discards a mobile device simply because the charger is dead"

I rather thought she was referring to all those discarded chargers everytime you change devices, not to mention having to have one separate charger for every device: who hasn’t got a bag/drawer/box full of those? (Though to be honest I have no idea whether chargers alone make up for 51,000 tonnes of waste p.a.) The concept of one charger to charge them all appeals to me.

By the way, your question missed its cue at the beginning of the paragraph. 🙂


Nate Hoffelder March 17, 2014 um 10:32 am

Reducing the number of chargers made and discarded is a laudable goal, but I think it would be better served by new packaging requirements. I would like to see chargers only be sold separately. This would reduce the number produced and sold, thus reducing the number thrown away.

And besides, device makers have already largely adopted a few standard plugs, down from the dozen different plugs of only a few years ago. I don’t think they need more pressure to adopt a standardized connector; they’re already doing it.

Gertjan March 17, 2014 um 10:58 am

True, but it may not be totally self-motivated. Back in 2009 EU signed agreements with the major (smart)phone manufacturers that they should adopt a standardized connector (although it allowed for shipping a converter connector).

The agreement expired last year, and (s0?) now they try to put it into law.

Nate Hoffelder March 17, 2014 um 11:02 am

That I did not know. Thanks!

I don’t think that agreement was very effective; Samsung (to name one example) was using their own docking connector on their tablets in 2011. That only went away in 2012.

Popup March 17, 2014 um 11:12 am

Technically the earlier agreement only covered mobile phones, not tablets. I’m not sure that the new one covers any more devices.

Gertjan March 17, 2014 um 11:33 am

To my understanding the agreement targeted mobile phones only, not tablets (probably because 2009 was the pre-iPad era). More here;

(Popup beat me to it)

Robin March 17, 2014 um 10:13 am

Though I dislike the plethora of USB connections (got another last week) if they are eradicated what happens to progress.

Popup March 17, 2014 um 11:11 am

There’s a good overview of the current situation in the wikipedia:

(Technically Apple comply, as they can provide an adapter to µUSB. They also use an almost-standard USB power supply. (even though their additions to the standard are abhorrent).)

Popup March 17, 2014 um 11:15 am

We can already see the savings for manufacturers, as e.g. Amazon don’t provide a charger for Kindles any more. (Did they ever? I remember when I bought my first Kindle (2010) and the charger had to be ordered separately.)

Nate Hoffelder March 17, 2014 um 11:20 am

The first 2 kindles had chargers. Of course, the very first Kindle had a funky round plug, not any type of USB, so it had to have its own charger.

But the later models lacked chargers becasue Amazon is cheap, not because of regulations.

Popup March 17, 2014 um 11:50 am

Of course, the only reason the manufacturers agree with these deals is because they can save money.

Jon Jermey March 17, 2014 um 4:26 pm

I have had several devices which became useless because their charging ports were bent or damaged by continual use to the point where it became difficult and ultimately impossible to charge the device. If wireless charging can prevent that then it will pay for its 'wasted' electricity many times over.

Bubba March 17, 2014 um 5:19 pm

It’s surprising that wireless charging is improving at such a slow pace considering that at least one guy (Tesla) was famously experimenting with wireless power almost a hundred and twenty years ago (with some success, albeit low tech – but then, it was over a hundred years ago!) At the speed most other tech is improving now, it’s weird no one really picked up this torch and ran with it.

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