back to article Mobile phones to get universal charger

You'll be able to charge any new mobile phone from the same universal charger beginning on January 1, 2012. Except the iPhone. A new charging standard was announced by the GSMA Tuesday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and endorsed by 17 mobile handset manufacturers and service providers, including heavyweights such as …


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  1. David Barr

    It doesn't really matter about the Church of Jobs

    Because Apple consumers won't buy anything unless it's made by Apple, so they'll have their standard 30 pin connector, and everybody else has their standard micro USB.

    Ironically the way it seems to be going...

    I'll have a single device which will be a mobile phone with an electronic paper screen which I can roll out, a nice big video screen for playing TV and videos, and it'll have Spotify on it. So it won't matter that it uses micro USB since I'll only have one charger.

    Realistically though that's some time away yet :P

  2. Cucumber C Face
    Paris Hilton

    Outbreak of common sense?!

    Next laptop power supplies please - or even their confounded mains cables for a start! Take a bow Dell and Sony - never the same plug twice.

    Closely followed by those f*(&ing little round silver Lithium batteries which no two appliances have ever shared.

    Paris - because she features universal socket compatibility

  3. Robert
    Thumb Down

    green not

    I'm always amazed at the ignorance of standards organizations. Releasing a new standard is not necessarily eco-friendly nor economical. Most people keep the same brand from phone to phone, so for example, my Nokia charger from 2001 will work in my new Nokia from 2008 (the same applies to Apple, who you're taking the opportunity to flame). That means I won't have to buy a spare, and I can reuse the old one, hence not trashing it. So congrats, GSMA, while you just made the AC/DC industry richer, we all have to throw away our old useless chargers. Really green.

  4. Calvin Davidson
    Jobs Halo

    This story's back-to-front.

    Using a micro-USB cable, the current iPhone charger, having a USB socket, is already able to charge any mobile phone conforming to this new standard.

  5. Roger Barrett

    I thought we were all getting

    Those cool wireless charging plates? I want to be able to charge my mobile ( If I ever get one) my mp3 player, my digital camera and my electric toothbrush all from one easy to use plate, I'm sure we were promised this, weren't we?

  6. Dave

    USB Leads

    Provided the universal charger has a standard USB A socket and a normal lead terminated with a micro-USB plug, even the iPhone would cope fairly well by unplugging the micro-USB lead from the charger and plugging in the iPhone. The same is true of a lot of phones on the market today - mine (a Sony Ericsson) uses a non-standard phone connector, but the other end is a normal USB lead that will work with any of the 5V-producing gadgets on the market.

  7. Steve Hodson

    Dock to mini-usb adapter?'s hardly a stretch is it now?

  8. Jared Earle
    Jobs Halo


    Are you saying no-one can make a micro USB to iPod dongle? You've got three years to manage, starting ... now!

    I mean I charge anything I come across with my Power Monkey, including my iPhone. I can probably plug stuff I have in my cable drawer together to charge an iPhone from Micro USB.

    Also, in three years time, I'd be expecting the Japanese to have fuel-cell phones on the market, rendering this whole standard obsolete.

  9. Shane Orahilly

    @ Robert

    "Most people keep the same brand from phone to phone, so for example, my Nokia charger from 2001 will work in my new Nokia from 2008"

    I just replaced my Nokia 6610i with a Nokia 2630. The charger jack is different, and won't fit.

    Standardisation will provide a long term benefit, as long as chargers stop being shipped in every phone's box, and instead are available as an add-on (at a price) when you purchase the phone.

  10. Pieter Vos


    Yeah, like that makes a difference. I'll bet every phone you've bought between 2001 and now, no matter whether they had the same connector, came with a charger anyway, so it makes no difference to change it now, as all phones will still have one included.

  11. Graham Lockley

    <insert pithy title here>

    Surely its more a case of Apple finding it harder to adopt the micro-USB port ? A switch to that would kill off the small industry of i-plugins that has grown up around the Pod/Phone socket ?

    >Using a micro-USB cable, the current iPhone charger, having a USB socket, is already able to charge any mobile phone conforming to this new standard.

    But not the other way round, i-whatevers cant be charged by industry-standard chargers which is surely the point of the piece ?

    I'm sure Apple will eventually fall into line but it will simply take a little longer.

  12. Benny


    Im sure I read this earlier......I did, I did read it earlier!

    Slow news day?

  13. Thomas Silver badge

    Conflating issues

    What has the shape of the connector got to do with the power efficiency of the transformer? And why make no allowance for the fact that most iPhones and a significant chunk of all other phones (I'm singling the iPhone out because it is so closely connected with iTunes, take it as a slur if you must be childish about it) are charged nowadays by plugging into a computer, not the wall?

  14. Sonya Fox
    Thumb Up

    About time

    Have you ever seen LG's charging jacks on their low end phones? Why do they think you would need a complicated and expensive, fragile, inch wide, locking 32 pin connector just to connect two wires? USB is a solidly built little connector and already works for everything. Applause for GSMA.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    micro USB plugs are horrible

    I owned two different HTC Windows Mobile phones and the microUSB plugs broke on the phone. Generally the failure isn't in the plug itself, but the way it is attached to the motherboard of the phone. A lot of stress is placed on the power plug over time and the connector will break.

    For Apple it makes sense for them not to change... the iPhone and iPod is probably the most ubiquitous plug out there. It would be ridiculous for Apple to change their standards, they've sold over 100 million ipods (as of 2007)...

    As always with Apple, their design is superior. The 30pin plug is tried and true and superior to the MicroUSB. I feel saddened for the phone industry.

  16. Doug

    It's still yet another little black box

    ...that has to be plugged in somewhere.

    With all the low-voltage devices we carry around and have in our homes these days, how about a low-voltage (12v DC?) "mains" system in buildings, derived locally from the 110/230v AC mains? Stick a handful of small connectors alongside each standard mains socket and design appliances to use it. Bye bye all those small and not-so-small black boxes that obscure mains sockets and collect in drawers and cupboards.

  17. Charles Manning

    Please NOT a stainless steel plug

    Please make the **socket** stronger than the plug. If something is going to break I'd rather have the plug break on an easy-to-replace cable than the socket on a handset.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    >>"Releasing a new standard is not necessarily eco-friendly nor economical."

    Just releasing a new standard isn't, but when the new standard specifies an power-saving design then it is. Not having to put a charger with every phone also reduces the number of chargers made.

    >>"Most people keep the same brand from phone to phone"

    You mean "I keep the same phone from brand to brand"?

    >>"my Nokia charger from 2001 will work in my new Nokia from 2008"

    Lucky you, seeing as Nokia changed their plug a few years ago to a much smaller one. Therefore the old chargers wouldn't work without an adapter and vice versa. A few years before that they had an even larger one.

    >>"That means I won't have to buy a spare, and I can reuse the old one, hence not trashing it."

    You don't *need* to buy a spare anyway, usually, unless you want one in the home and one in the office for instance. However with a standard it means that you can borrow a charger from anyone. Charge it down the pub using their charger, charge it at your friend's using theirs, have a connector built in to every car, charge directly from your PC or laptop (without buying a kit with 10 different connectors in it), etc.

    As mentioned every phone comes with a charger anyway - so the idea is that the manufacturers no longer provide a charger with their phones. That, therefore, helps your argument because if you change your phone every 2 years, between 2001 and 2008 then you already have 3 chargers. With a universal charger you would only need one.

    >>"So congrats, GSMA, while you just made the AC/DC industry richer"

    Why would AC/DC get richer? I know their trying to make a comeback at the moment but their latest single is pretty awful ;-)

    On another note - how would it make electricity companies or phone charger manufacturers richer? Surely they will lose money as they will now be making less chargers (no longer 1 per new phone)?

    >>"we all have to throw away our old useless chargers."

    Why do you need to throw away your old charger? If you still have the phone it will work, of course. If you are going to buy a new phone this year (assuming every 2 years again) you will now have 4 chargers. Do you use all of them? If not you just have useless chargers lying around anyway.

    >>"I'm always amazed at the ignorance of standards organizations"

    I'm always amazed at the ignorance of forum ranters.

  19. J. Cook Silver badge

    I love Standards! There are so many to choose from!

    I have an amusing anecdote to add:

    I just finished processing some 4 years worth of old (and not-so-old!) phones that my company is recycling- there were no less then 10 different connectors between the 4 brands. the Motorola ones were (fortunately) the newest of the lot, and almost all used a mini USB connector. (the lone exceptions were the iDENs and the V-series phones) The worst offender? LG, with each model having a slightly different connector, none of which was compatible with the other models. (These were all VX series phones too- one might expect at least something along the lines of accessories compatibility within the major product line!)

    Mines the one with the handful of 2nd gen MotoQs in the pockets.

  20. Jay

    But will it last ?

    Lets hope Micro USB is sturdier than Mini USB as that is frankly crap going by the power sockets on GPS equipment which corrode too easily.

  21. Ben Lovell
    Jobs Halo

    What motivation is there for Apple to sign up for it?

    Since the dock is used for data transfer, adding support would have to add another socket. How does that extra production help in making it more energy efficient? It doesn't. How about economical? I doubt it'll make much of a difference, but if it does, it would be undoubtedly negative.

    And what about demand? Now you're weighing up Apple's green cred. vs having a sleek phone. Now which do you think affects Apple's demand at the moment?

    No-one buys an iPhone purely for the phone anyway, and so I doubt many would be too worried because of lack of support of the standard. The main advantage of the new standard is that you can charge from a usb port - something already possible with Apple's option.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Three words ...

    Psycho-kinetic induction.

  23. the hatter


    Apple's not the only company that makes use of extra communication lines - it's good news for nokia and lesser phone users who face a range of barrel-type 2-pole connectors, but for example SE phones have used the same multipole connector for many years, so it's not hard to locate someone with compatible wall, usb or car charger, anyhow. I'm in no hurry to see a second, redundant connector on my new phones, and definitely would be peeved if SE changed their current standard to accomodate the extra connector. Replacing the other wired functions with bluetooth or other radio options is hardly power-efficient.

  24. Rocco
    Thumb Up

    Sony Ericsson chargers


    My wife had a 2003 SE handset that has a different multipin port than my current one. SE & Nokia might use a specific connector for longer cycles than other manufacturers (stand up, LG), but they could have decided tomorrow to change to yet another connector.

    What this agreement means is that they can no longer do this. For many reasons, this has to be a Good Thing. With R&D focussed on one connector, best practice and ruggedised ports will become the norm and phones should be all-round better for it.

    I seem to recall that, in a rare move planet-friendly move, China was the first to mandate this move to a microUSB connector and this decision by the world's largest mobile market has no doubt spurred the industry along. Well played there, Beijing.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    They've got it all wrong again

    Surely, rather than peeing around with the micro-USB connector, they should have agreed to license the Appled dock connector - the undoubted Scart connector of the portable AV device market.

    It's highly likely that these new chargers will have their own USB socket with a USB-to-micro-USB lead, so as long as there's an appropriate cable to hand, iPhone users will be sorted anyway.

    And before long, you'll be able to get micro-USB to dock adapters dispensed from condom machines anyway.

  26. lIsRT


    But what would wrong with crocodile clips to the mains?

    After all, my razor [says it] copes with anything from 4.5-250V AC or DC...

  27. David Wilcock

    If only MicroUSB were standard!

    Sure, 5-10 years ago, eveyone had the Nokia charger..... Then came the HTC and BlackBerry - [did you mention BlackBerry?!] with the mini USB.

    Some BB models required specific chargers - but ostensibly, HTC-type and BB-type chargers are interchangeable - I know because I field test lots.

    THEN Blackberry brought out the 8900, with a 'different' mini USB - it has rounder edges.

    There is no bloody way that we will ever see "one size fits all" - we all secretly know this.

  28. James Robertson

    fm transmitter

    my fm transmitter for the iphone takes a standard USB connector and will change and sync to the computer so I don have to your the apple supplied cable if I don't want to. I guess apple figure that most people can already use a standard USB connector if they want to so why bother changing the connector. As stated in the article the connector is used for more than just charging, so if 3rd party hardware will do the trick wheres the problem.

  29. nobby

    usb is a sensible idea - so why can't ipohn use it?

    if i'm not mistaken, i'm sure i read somewhere that its possible to send things other than power over a USB cable.

    Let me see..

    Yep. frikking everything attached to my pc except the monitor plugs into usb. There is no Functional Reason to use another cable type for charging or data(*).

    Why would this "kill" the 3rd party iAttachment manufacturers? Surely if there was a standard connection that worked with *everything*, and we took the next step to a standard control protocol (they managed it for bluetooth headsets/speakers) then I could sell one speaker/microphone/shite/docking station that attached to.. wow, *all* phones and all mp3 players (and all the buttons/remote control facilities worked on all of 'em!).

    (*) or the horrendous situation Nokia got themselves in with a usb-connection for data BUT ye olde rounde socket for charging. Bang! Their toes must hurt with that shot.

  30. michael

    @ apple and data transfer

    sorry but I was assuming that micro usb could also be used for data transfer as that is what usb is all ready used for plese tell me if I am mistaken?

    also it is not the connector that is being a problem on iphones it is probley goign to be the volatage

  31. David Bell
    Thumb Down

    Retarded idea......

    I got a Cowon S9 (ok so an MP3 player, not a phone) and one of the things that was being bitched about on the forums was the fact that it didnt use a mini-usb connector.

    Reason being that the connector also does line-in for microphones and tv-out.

    By going "non-standard" they are able to provide much more functionality from a single port.

    For the record the cable is similar to an LG data/phone cable.

    As phones get more functionality, they too may need more than 4 pin connectors, and I would rather have one cable for all that functionality than a micro-usb port for power and syncing and then ANOTHER port for extra functionality

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    So long as the handset manufacturers allow you to easily charge from the USB socket on your PC/laptop/car stereo. That way chargers could be optional rather than being boxed with the phone - save money, packaging and all the bits in the charger and be able to charge pretty-much anywhere.

    Have had phones before that charge using a mini-usb port but required (windows, naturally) drivers or proprietary mains charger to do so which was a real pain.

  33. Ben Hodson

    Splashpower anyone ?

    I remember a system called splashpower.

    A simple inductive pad (like a mousemat) that you could put devices onto - phones, bluetooth headsets, mp3 players. All would then charge, no connectors, no multiple chargers.

    Why couldn't a system like this have been specified, it would have given it the critical mass needed to become a de-facto standard across all small personal electronics devices.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Well they messed that up didn't they. Nice little earner; they replace their phone, flog 'em a new charger. And now look what they've gone and been and done.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    @ Rocco

    WTF is "Ruggedised", Rocco ?

    Do you mean "robust", perhaps, or even "reinforced".

    "Ruggedised" sounds like something to do with the 6 Nations Rugby Tournament, or, a bizarre deviant activity involving 9-inch vibrating Pink Bunnies and lashings of Johnssons Baby Oil !!

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cost savings

    I can see why manufacturers like the idea, and it's no doubt the same reason why printers don't come with USB cables. By not including one it shaves a few cents of the manufacturing costs. It costs them money to include one with every device, the packaging can be reduced in size and weight. Don't include one, save some money and save the environment. I'm not against the idea, but it would be nice if manufacturers came clean on their reasons, instead of jumping of the 'we're saving the planet' bandwagon.

  37. This post has been deleted by its author

  38. M7S
    Thumb Up

    Power problems on USB already

    They need to ensure that the power from all chargers is sufficient for all phones that could connect to them. I bought a 12v to mini-USB lead from a local shop. It worked fine on their standard phone with their 12v test output, but when in my car wouldn't power my XDA Exec, it would only do a very slow charge, and I could not use the phone when plugged in if the phone battery was flat, it took at least a half hour (often more) to get enough charge to power the device which is no good.

    I went to an O2 shop and got a branded one that worked fine, charging and letting me use the phone from flat within about a minute of connecting it to the cars 12v supply. I suspect that the XDA takes quite a bit of juice and the generic charger simply didn't provide it. Lets hope this doesnt become a problem between chargers for say the future equivalent of a Motorola F3 and someone trying to use it for a Nokia Communicator, otherwise people will lose faith in the idea, which would be a shame.

    It will also be nice to see common standards as I have a few Nokia phones and chargers where the jacks are the same, but the voltages are different. My wife often plugs her 6310i into the charger for my 9110 which fits, but gives about twice the voltage. I suspect its not doing her battery any good in the long term.

  39. Thomas Bottrill

    RE: micro USB plugs are horrible

    HTC phones use an ExtUSB port, which can accept MiniUSB cables. MicroUSB is even smaller than that:

    I haven't managed to break the ExtUSB port on any of my HTC phones though.

  40. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    The logical thing

    Would, of course, be to ensure that all phones used the same cable to charge and send data, and stick a USB A plug on one end of the cable (the other end can be a USB mini/micro or propriatory connecter if necessary, but USB 'B" would be best).

    That way, the charger can power ANYTHING that has a USB compatible cable, gives the advantages that people can charge from their computers (thus actually saving a little power and space in your bag if you are on a trip and need a laptop anyway) and means that those of use who do use phones and other devices with propiatary connectors don't have to buy any accessories or replace the devices.

  41. Rocco

    @David Bell

    @David Bell

    "As phones get more functionality"? Well, the USB port on my PC manages to support just about any device that you could conceivably hang off a mobile. Even reasonable resolution display devices can be driven via USB. What device do you think wouldn't be able to be connected by USB?

    The 'S' in USB means we shouldn't need any more than 4 pins: 2 data, 2 power...assuming the serial link is fast enough that is, which it should be for whatever you can think of using USB on a phone for. As there is backward compatibility for the mechanical connector, a move to the even higher data rates of USB 3.0 would not obsolete the millions of compatible chargers either.


    Soz, too much time spent looking at US .mil stuff. Robust would have been a better choice :)

  42. Jon H

    Finally some sense

    I have a draw full of old mobile phone charger cables... they're ALL different even though they're nearly all from the same phone manufacturer (I should probably bin them!).

    A couple of years back I changed phone to an O2 branded HTC Windows Mobile phone with microUSB. Makes so much more sense, I can charge the phone, my bluetooth GPS, my little digital photo frame, my TomTom satnav and transfer data between my PC and all the devices, all with just the one cable plugged into my PC. Same in the car, if something needs a power boost, it's just the one car 12V to MicroUSB converter required.

    Simple and tidy.

    Question is, will this "standard" in 2012 be USB3 compatible?!

  43. James

    RE: This story's back-to-front.

    Calvin Davidson Posted Tuesday 17th February 2009 22:39 GMT

    "Using a micro-USB cable, the current iPhone charger, having a USB socket, is already able to charge any mobile phone conforming to this new standard."

    Apparently not. I was looking for an additional charger for my X1 which uses a charger-with-USB-socket & a usb-to-mini-usb cable. The shop had an apple one but I was informed that it detects, & only provides charge to, apple products. So I got a motorola one instead.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    "Well, the USB port on my PC manages to support just about any device that you could conceivably hang off a mobile. Even reasonable resolution display devices can be driven via USB. What device do you think wouldn't be able to be connected by USB?"

    A television. Or an audio amplifier. Is your monitor connected via USB?

    Which is precisely why the iPhone can't move over to a single micro-USB connector.

  45. Steven Raith
    Paris Hilton

    "Is your monitor connected via USB?"

    No, but it can be:

    No real reason why the hardware couldn't be put inside a monitor so you just plug your mini/microUSB into it directly. USB *can* be used to drive a display - I'll swear on a stack of bibles I've seen those in the CES reports too.

    Might not work for HD yet, but USB3 is aroud the corner...

    Honestly, I thought reg readers knew about this stuff?

    Steven R

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    I just can't see the Apple angle in the original story.

    Now if I were as mischevious as the author I might liken the "standardization" on micro USB to MSX - a substandard standard ;-)

    But of course that'd be as dumb as suggesting Apple should dump their dock connector!

  47. Jim


    Wouldn't it be simpler just to specify that the device should be able to charge from an, already standardised, port like, oh I don't know, a USB port? The connector on the device end is of little import, all that needs to be standardised is the power source end of the cable.

    Of course the device also needs to be designed to accept a standard power input too. I still can't understand why myself and the missus both had Moto V3s (one iteration apart) and, while her's would charge with either brick, mine (earlier) would only take charge from its own.

    And as regards Apple, they have done a better job than most of standardising across their range of media products but just try charging a newer, USB only, device with any dock equipment made during the firewire era...

  48. John H Woods Silver badge

    Anti-wikipedia bias

    ... as usual on the Reg. Instead of linking to a useful Wikipedia artcle with pictures, el Reg chooses a 'wisegeek' article with much less information and no pictures. Typical.

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