back to article ITU to Europe: One charger for all mobes good. One to rule them ALL? Better

The EU is about to make micro USB charging mandatory on mobile phones, but the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is pushing to extend that regulation to everything handheld, making all electronic gadgets chargeable from the same cable. The EU regulation in question is the amended Radio Equipment Directive, which …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good news....

    this along with the proposed standard size power/ plugs for power adapters for things like laptops are making things so much nicer.

    1. handle

      Re: Good news....

      Hopefully you've re-gained a little faith.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good news....

      "are making things so much nicer"

      Well, I agree that there's a big convenience benefit. Just a pity that the ITU and EU have only taken thirty years to get round to it, and only then on fairly spurious eco grounds.

      1. AMB-York Silver badge

        Re: Good news....

        So what happens when someone comes up with something better? Not allowed?

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: Good news....

          What do you mean by "better"? A power socket can't really be improved, except by standardising.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: Good news....

            >A power socket can't really be improved, except by standardising.

            Really? MicroUSB was an improvement over MiniUSB; not only is it slimmer, but also designed so that if there is a mechanical failure it will occur in the cheap cable and not the expensive device being charged.

            And so in turn, it is easy to imagine improvements to microUSB. For starters, take the rough edges off so it can't scratch things, make it omni-directional and make it more amenable to using in docks. There is also the situation that a microUSB 3 cable can't be used to charge a microUSB 2 device...

            That said, the shortcomings of microUSB are more than made up for by its current ubiquity.

    3. N13L5

      Re: Good news....

      "mired in complaints from manufacturers who are more than capable of filibustering any amendments to existing laws out of, er, existence."

      Now why is it, that lowly gizmo manufacturers would be able to flaunt or derail the rule of law? Is that fascism I smell seeping over from the Oligarchy of the United - err Corporate States of America?

  2. Dave K Silver badge

    Suits me!

    So long as devices are built properly to pull a decent amount of current (not the base spec's 500mA) then I don't see a problem with it. It's already nice being able to charge both my phones and my satnav from one cable. Being able to use one adaptor to charge almost anything will certainly help to tidy up the mess of different adaptors under my desk!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good idea

    If USB does become the standard for charging then I can see a gap in the market for a double UK socket sized unit to replace a double socket with one 13A socket and a collection of USB charging sockets.

    1. Tom Wood

      Re: Good idea

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Tom Wood

        Thanks, might just have to buy me one of those!

      2. cupperty

        Re: Good idea

        I like how the left socket is for Apple, the right for everything else ....

        1. BongoJoe

          How apt

          The sinister side for Apple...

    2. G 14

      Re: Good idea

      these have been on the market for ages in australia

    3. graeme leggett

      Re: Good idea

      a combination of USB charger and 3way socket adapter? saw them at B&Q at the weekend. Reduced to a tenner from £15.

    4. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Good idea

      >I can see a gap in the market for a double UK socket sized unit to replace a double socket with one 13A socket and a collection of USB charging sockets.

      Maybe, but it would need to come with some 3' long microUSB cables to be left in semi-permanently, so you don't have to get down on all-fours to plug the cable in.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Good idea

        It depends where your sockets are. I happen to have ones above kitchen worktops and just behind a bedside cabinet which would be great for USB charging.Worst case you get some USB extension cables.

  4. Mike Brown

    great news

    I recently bought a new ecig that uses micro USB, and not having to carry around an extra charger is a relief. Micro USB is ubiqous now, you can find one almost anywhere.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: great news

      Friday's appearance of the "Ubiquitous" Grammar Nazi.... ------------>>>>>>>>>>>

      Mea culpa, I can't think of many other commentards that make as many spelling mistakes as I do, but ubiquos just looked weird...

      1. Mike Brown

        Re: great news

        i knew it was spely wrong, but i couldnt be arsed to cheeck it. life is too short

  5. Mike Bell


    "The EU regulation in question is the amended Radio Equipment Directive, which will require all radio devices to feature a microUSB socket."

    According to the Amended Radio Equipment Directive linked to in the article:

    "On the basis of the Micro-USB interface, the companies have agreed to develop a common specification in order to allow for full compatibility of chargers and mobile phones. These specifications have been translated in European standards.

    N.B.: The agreement allows for the use of an adaptor."

    How does that equate to all radio devices being required to feature a microUSB socket? If the agreement allows for the use of an adaptor, surely manufacturers can use any old socket that they like?

    1. MrXavia

      Re: Required?

      yeah, that is a bit off really, I don't want to carry an adapter around with me just to charge a device!

  6. AndrueC Silver badge

    ..and it will still be the wrong way round the first time you try to insert it.

    1. SteveK

      Only the first time? I have to turn most USB devices/cables round about 3 times before it'll go in.

      1. Greg D

    2. Gunnar Wolf

      USB: This side up

      The fact that it's usually easy to identify the side of a USB cable (even tactily(sp?)) is not as widely known as it should be. Granted, having a cable connector look identical from both sides is frankly stupid. But the USB logo that's usually embossed on every cable end means "this side up". For ports embedded in a computer, it means "this side facing the user in our most usual configuration". Granted, in my desktop computer it really means "you are not a usual user", but at least my fingers know the right position for the cables. And over the years, I guess I have saved at least a work-week worth of fuming about the stupid shape of the connector.

      1. SteveK

        Re: USB: This side up

        If It's in my computer, yes, I know generally which way is up as long as I'm concentrating. My main problem is when I have to go and use unfamiliar computers, especially fruity ones that have the USB ports sideways somewhere on the back where you can't see them, intermixed with similarly sized firewire, DisplayPort-variant-of-the-week, etc. I don't care if it's marginally uglier, put them on the side where I can actually find them without knocking over assorted photos and pots of pens trying to fumble around blindly.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: USB: This side up

        Problems with USB 2:

        1. Only Type-B and Mini-B plugs are sufficiently different visually and tactually for a person to be able to pick them up and know in which orientation they are holding them. The EU standard is for Micro-USB using the Micro-B plug, whilst this plug can be visually orientated, I doubt many have the tactile sensitivity to orientate it without looking or in poor light.

        2. The socket also gives little real information on it's orientation, yes visually you can orientate the plug and socket correctly, but try doing this blind or in poor light...

        Yes some cable manufacturers do put a USB logo on the cable, but this also is typically too small for a person readily recognise it's presence by touch alone.

        The silly thing is that there are plenty of good examples of plugs and sockets, the best know being the old RS-232 D-type connector. Another is the IDE connector with cable key.

        Another problem area is robustness of connector, particularly the contacts within the micro-B socket.

        But at least it is a standard!

        1. AndrueC Silver badge

          Re: USB: This side up

          I've often wondered - given that it's a serial connection - why couldn't they be uni-directional? I wouldn't want to be so crass as to suggest that it's just to piss me off. Presumably there is some, sound, engineering reason why they have to physically polarised?


          It can be done.

          1. Mike Bell

            Re: USB: This side up

            Sure it could be done. Apple did exactly that with their Lightning connector.

      3. Tom Wood

        Re: USB: This side up

        There doesn't seem to be any standard way round for inserting the "micro" end of the USB cable into a phone or whatever.

        At least, my HTC requires it the opposite way up from the missus' Samsung.

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: USB: This side up

          My phone has the "up" side of the connector as if the screen is facing towards me, my e-reader as if the screen is down, and my camera changes every time I use it ...

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: USB: This side up

            A connector that can be drastically improved by the user by adding a dab of Tippex wasn't properly designed in the first place.

  7. Annihilator Silver badge


    Yes but it's an EU directive which Farage will jump on and insist we don't use and Cameron will no doubt try to placate the grass-root Tory voters by withdrawing from the EU and allow our manufacturing industry to come up with its own Blighty-inspired standard – hopefully one with a union flag on it or something.

    Although funnily enough, they don't seem to bleat on about these ones?..

    1. No Quarter

      Re: EU?

      This is the sort of thing the EU actually has a use for. There may be three or four others, I just can't think of any off-hand.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The EU

    More often than not it comes up with crackpot ideas and rules but this is one I whole heartedly agree with.

    FU Apple.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: The EU

      Yeah, but over same time period that Apple stuck with their old 13 pin connector, my assorted gadgets used around nine (?!) different power connectors:

      2 different Nokia plugs

      3 different Samsung plugs

      A weird Sony-Ericsson thing

      A fairly generic fat round 5v jobbie



      ...and some of the above gadgets even used their proprietary connectors for headphones, FFS!

      It seems the EU's hand was forced by manufacturers like Sony-Ericsson and Samsung being so daft as to never twice use the same connector; I'm sorry, I just don't see Apple as being culpable in this instance. Forcing something on them for the sins of their competitors is just silly.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The EU

        Yes but they never put IC's in their cables to make sure you only bought Apple lightening cables and screw the third party market.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: The EU

          AC, I was talking about the 13-pin connector, since it was contemporary with the mess the EU sought to fix. The Lightening connector came out afterwards.

          But whatever...

  9. Jonathan 29

    Standard for 6 months?

    I think I said this last time, but it won't be long before Android tablets and phones start coming out with micro USB 3 sockets. You can still shove an older cable into the over sized ugly hole, but most of the time you are going to want the new cable because it charges faster. I would sooner see a wider adoption of wireless chargers and a common wireless standard in the EU.

    1. chipxtreme

      Re: Standard for 6 months?

      So i'm guessing you have never seen the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 which has a USB 3 socket on the bottom then

  10. Big_Ted

    2 requests

    Set a date where an adaptor is no longer allowed on new products so that Apple and all others must incoperate a micro USB for charging in any new kit but not need to on kit released up till then. Failure to do so will mean they can't sale anywhere in Europe. That wil serve them right for going to lightning and causing problems for those with older docks etc.

    Secondly can we please have a standard for if the narrow side is to the front or to the back of all kit and then say a coloured spot or USB symbol or something showing which side cable is to the front. I have 2 phones and they are different......

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: 2 requests

      Apple will standardise the power socket, but change the other connectors according to plan. You'll still need to change peripherals every time ...

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: 2 requests

        C'mon, it was the likes of Sony-Ericsson and Samsung who had almost as many power connectors as they did models of phones. It is them that created the daft situation that the EU sought to rectify, not Apple.

  11. n317

    Won't we all be wireless charging soon? Lets just forget about cables...

  12. andreas koch
    Paris Hilton

    While I like the unified charger idea

    I must confess that even 500mA already frightens me a bit when I look at the contact size of micro USB.

    A bit like M4 screws for everything. PCs, watches, lawnmovers, glasses, tractor wheels . . .

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: While I like the unified charger idea

      I've had some disquiet about this for a while. If I had a choice, I'd have another connector, but I'll accept any standardisation at the moment!

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: While I like the unified charger idea

        Agreed, having a near-standard (if not perfect) connector is preferable to holding out for something perfect.

  13. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    I can see situations where the power output from USB may not be enough to properly charge a device, though. Certainly mid-range or high-end digital cameras must need more oomph. If they're going to require USB charging for non-phone devices, they should modify the requirement that the device *CAN* be charged by USB, but that an alternative charging method is also available. Replacable batteries (with a suitably standardized recharging device, of course) could be a good alternative. I would expect, though, even if you allow for alternative chargers, they'll have to make sure manufacturers at least make the USB charging usable.

  14. dmartin

    Only in the EU

    It could only have happened in an EU committee. Select the most user-unfriendly plug/socket combination and mandate it.

    Has anyone (for example) given any thought to our older population? I'm not there (quite) yet, but isn't the govt trying to get them all 'online' and web-wise? How does this help?

    An elderly person buys a device for which the charging plug is (a) not obviously polarised (but it is) and has no clear indication of 'up' or down (unless you look *really* carefully - why couldn't colour have been used?), and (b) will even then only mate with a socket with extreme care (i.e. careful alignment and insertion).

    The actual spec should have been: a plug that is NOT polarised and which will locate into a socket from a reasonable range of angles.

    However I think this is a lost cause and history will record mankind as having the most stupid choices both when setting USB plug/socket physical standards, and now this ...

    A nice rant may help me, but will it change anything? Unlikely :-)

    1. andreas koch

      @ dmartin - Re: Only in the EU

      I think you have a very valid point there. To my shame* I must confess that I am a mega-fan of the MagSafe connector. Slap it on any old way and it works. Rip it off and no damage has been done. That would be it.

      Unfortunately it's patented by a sometimes uncooperative company. This should be FRAND and they could skim 5 cents/pence off every charger. It would be a better world.

      *Shame. Yup. I don't like Apple, for various reasons: the nannying, the 'you're to dumb for controls'- attitude, the snobness and many more.

      But a few Apple things are just so close to perfect. Like the MagSafe.

      And it's not below my station to admit it: I envy you Apple users when I look at your MacBook chargers.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: @ dmartin - Only in the EU

        Agreed, an old-style 'Nokia' plug is much quicker and easier to use than microUSB.

        The only ray of light for the people with reduced dexterity is the promise of wireless charging mats (aside from various proprietary docking solutions such as used to be featured on old Nokias or some new Sonys)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Excellent news.

    I now only buy gadgets that have MicroUSB, as I only take a single charger on holiday (one with 4x USB ports) and 3x cables. I can charge my phone, my tablet, my camera and e-reader all in one go. No clutter, no hassle.

    it's also one of the many reasons I never buy Apple products.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Excellent news.

      I like Panasonic cameras, but they don't charge over microUSB- and annoying use batteries of much the same size but with millimetre-scale differences so that different chargers are required.

      So I bought a Hana universal LiOn charger- just align its pins with the battery contacts, and voltage and polarity are automatically set and charging begins. It will also charge a couple of AA or AAA cells, and has a female USB A socket too. Obviously it doesn't work for gadgets with built in batteries, but is a handy bit of kit to have around.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Now if they can just redesign the connector and plug to be more physically robust, I'll be happy.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: good

      I've read somewhere that microUSB (unlike microUSB) is designed so that any mechanical failure will occur in the cable and not in your expensive gadget.

      1. andreas koch
        Paris Hilton

        @ Dave 126 - Re: good


  17. Infernoz Bronze badge

    Stupid Technocrates; its not going to work for all devices!

    Some portable computer devices require a high voltage of 12 to 24V because their power requirements are much higher, and even if adapted for 5V charging, this will be too slow, because the cable and PSU will not be able to supply the voltage, and current required, at the micro-USB plug and socket device connection!

    Power companies don't use High Tension Voltage power transmission lines because the sparks are pretty, but rather because the lower the current, the lower the resistive power loses; same principal at lower voltages.

  18. James 100

    Power grab!

    I like the idea of a common connector - though micro-USB doesn't seem ideal. Can it handle 2A or more, for bigger devices to charge at a sane speed? I hope the next version of the plug doesn't care which way up it's inserted, and delivers decent current when needed.

    Perhaps if the adapter options remains, we'll be OK: the future phone with a superconducting 10A nano-USB socket can still be charged much more slowly from micro-USB to keep compliant until the legislation is updated.

  19. BongoJoe

    Design by Committee

    When the EU have finished their design rules for the connector it will strongly resemble a SCART connector and fall out 95% of the time.

  20. Alex Bailey

    I like standards, they make things simple for everybody and not having to carry several different chargers around is great... but surely this stifles innovation as new features start to get harder to add on, it also makes if easier to blow your phone up because that cheap-and-nasty charger looks so tempting compared to the manufacturer-approved version.

    And no matter how much you try to "standardise" you'll always get one manufacturer who will screw things up by adding something just outside the specs which will make your shiny device useless when you upgrade your phone. SCART anybody?

  21. Chris Evans

    Won't we all be wireless charging soon?

    Can anyone quote the efficiency reduction in using wireless charging?

    I'd find it difficult to believe that it isn't significant!

    Also won't the extra/replacement components weigh more?

    It would be very convenient if it could done efficiently, power and weight but I doubt it is possible.

    "Ye cannae change the laws of physics, captain"

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