September 20, 2007 1:05 PM PDT

Pros seem to outdo cons in new phone charger standard

Pros seem to outdo cons in new phone charger standard
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The spaghettilike nightmare that forms many consumers' collection of phone chargers, headset connectors and data cables could be set to end after a major mobile-industry forum agreed to standardize on one type of connector.

On Monday, the Open Mobile Terminal Platform (OMTP)--a forum dominated by operators but including manufacturers such as Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and LG--announced that its members had agreed on Micro-USB as the future common connector.

Micro-USB, which is thinner than the currently ubiquitous Mini-USB standard and therefore better suited to the ever-shrinking dimensions of mobile phones and other consumer electronics, was introduced to the world by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) at the start of this year. Like Mini-USB, the standard also makes it possible to charge phones from PCs.

"The USB-IF was first to recognize a clear market need for a universal data and charging mechanism for devices," said USB-IF President Jeff Ravencraft. "We are pleased to see OMTP support the USB technology as the standard for connectivity in the mobile space."

Markku Verkama, director of portfolio planning for Nokia's technology platforms division, said the decision would have wide-reaching benefits for the industry and consumers. "With the reduction of cables needed for mobile data connectivity, we can further enhance user experiences in our devices while reducing the burden to the environment."

Telecoms analyst Dean Bubley, of Disruptive Analysis, pointed out the possible implications for some manufacturers. Speaking to ZDNet UK on Thursday, he explained that proprietary interfaces helped manufacturers control the market for accessories, which can be quite high margin.

However, he also suggested that having a standard connector might be in manufacturers' best interests due to environmental reasons. The EU's WEEE directive makes manufacturers responsible for some of the costs associated with recycling their equipment, and a broadly applied standard could remove the need for a new charger to be distributed with every phone or accessory.

"This is cheaper to the manufacturer, and also results in a smaller, less heavy box, which reduces on shipping costs, storage costs, warehouse costs and so on," Bubley said. "It has got to have beneficial effects for everyone."

Nick Allott, chief technical officer for the OMTP, agreed that manufacturers stood to gain more through standardization than they would lose: "The very fact that our membership was prepared to sit down and agree in the first place shows that the benefits outweigh the marginal competitive advantage that individual manufacturers might have had."

"We're speeding up the inevitable," Allott added, pointing out that the Chinese government has also recently mandated Micro-USB as the future national standard for phone chargers. "OMTP itself has no power to do anything, but by making that statement that includes our membership--representing about 85 percent of the GSM market--we are making a strong public statement that, as an industry, this is the way we want to go."

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.

See more CNET content tagged:
connector, standard, Nokia Corp., USB

20 comments

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First to Recognize
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"The USB-IF was first to recognize a clear market need for a universal data and charging mechanism for devices," said USB-IF President Jeff Ravencraft.
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Yeah, you keep telling yourself that, Jeff. Except that the market has been screaming for this kind of standard for a decade, only to be stonewalled by cell phone makers that like the idea of making an extra quick buck by selling you proprietary connections.
Posted by duerra (76 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How cool!
New charger/accessory standard and perhaps a new universal memory card format being developed by Nokia and other major manufacturers.

It's about time.
Posted by o2mcgovem-20822100750713932708 (34 comments )
Reply Link Flag
About time!!!
Why are companies so dumb?! Don't they ask their customers what they want, condsider social and environmental responsibilities, and see how they can cut costs? Obviously not, because this would have happened 10 years ago if they did!
Posted by rturner2 (125 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not really
Mini and micro usb did not exist ten years ago. What exactly would they have standardized on then? Full size USB would have been too large even for those phones.
Posted by zboot (168 comments )
Link Flag
Customer Focus???
I hope you're not relying on cell phone manufacturers for customer focus. The wireless cartel (carriers and handset makers) is moving used car sales off the bottom of the list for customer focus.
Posted by davisra3 (1 comment )
Link Flag
Just Cell Phones Chargers?
Just chargers for cell phones? How about all of the wall-wart malaise that is inflicting high tech? And what about batteries? Where would we be today if every flashlight mfg had a different battery for every flashlight it made? We need to reduce this idiocy to a few standard chargers, depending on the source power/output power requirements. The entire high tech industry needs to gather together, and create the high tech equivalent of the A/C/D/etc batteries.

--mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Batteries
Umm. . . lets see. . a battery for a Razr inside say a much larger phone. . .like a Nextel? unlikely. Consumers want long battery life. Some phone dimensions don't allow for interchangeable batteries. . . The only possible way to make that happen would be to ship all phones with the smallest sized battery possible. . .which would promptly result in 90% of all phones having a talktime measured in minutes.
Posted by zboot (168 comments )
Link Flag
You completely missed what he was saying - he's not referring to batteries at all, he's using battery standard sizes as an analogy to what he thinks the entire electronics industry should do as far as plugs for wall sockets. As in, the number of wall warts that various different devices use, as he clearly stated.
Posted by Iconoclysm (15 comments )
Link Flag
Headphone jacks
Now if the phone makers (particularly Nokia) would all just use standard 3.5mm headphone jacks all would be right with the world.
Posted by edsoliz (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Almost a non issue
Most new phones now have bluetooth built in. Who is still using a wired headset?
Posted by zboot (168 comments )
Link Flag
He's referring to actual headphones for listening to music, not headsets for chatting. Not everyone is ready to jump on bluetooth headphones and not all of the devices, particularly the iPhone, can use it.
Posted by Iconoclysm (15 comments )
Link Flag
Priorities!
This is a clear example of corporations pursuing profit goals without regard for the impact to customers, society as a whole and to the environment.
Posted by wawejones (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Umm did you read the story?
Now that I have your attention. . what exactly are the downsides of them doing this for the consumer. It seems like this would be good for the consumer, environment and profits. Kinda like the cell phone manufacturers are actually doing what you seem to be accusing them of not doing.

Perhaps you mean to suggest with your question that this should have happened years ago. I should remind you as well. . .the technology did not exist.
Posted by zboot (168 comments )
Link Flag
first to recognize
"The USB-IF was first to recognize a clear market need for a universal data and charging mechanism for devices," said USB-IF President Jeff Ravencraft."

Sorry to be negative but the rest of the world has been waiting for a long time for this!
Posted by nejj (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Don't you think that they've been planning and pushing for this for nearly as long?
Posted by Iconoclysm (15 comments )
Link Flag
motorola didn't cooperate with USB standards on the razr
will they cooperate with this standard?

the razr v3m, which features a mini USB plug, won't charge unless it's plugged into a motorola charger.
if you want to charge it on a pc, you have to load special software on the pc to enable the charging.

i emailed the consortium that runs the USB standard and they told me this is a prohibited use of the USB standard. the consortium lacks enforcement power - if they had the legal teeth and money, the USB people would have forced motorola from not cooperating with the USB standard.

this is one of the reasons i will never own a motorola phone again.
Posted by DoughboyNJ (77 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Motorola or cell phone company?
I wonder if this was really Motorola's decision or a company like Verizon trying to make it harder to transfer sound files and video to/from the phone (i.e. forcing you to pay $3.99 a song off "vCast").

I have what Verizon had just before the V3m, the V3c, and I haven't had trouble charging my phone with a computer.
Posted by bartszyszka (69 comments )
Link Flag
Actually, Motorola is one of the first companies to have adopted the standard. This standard is made specifically to disallow companies from requiring one charger over another as well.
Posted by Iconoclysm (15 comments )
Link Flag
Same with me, I recently brought a Motorola A1600, It refuses to mount on my MacBook Pro (Mac OS X) as Mass storage mode. seems to be it is drawing more power from the USB port for charging, hence making my OS kernel to fail mounting it. But on Windows XP PC it mounts as mass storage mode after the s/w installation. I thing I don't like about this phone is that it lacks 3.5mm audio jack, hence forcing me to use a Jabra BT3030.
Posted by shreeharsha (1 comment )
Link Flag
Consumers *are* the priority
A standard for cell phone chargers is a huge benefit to consumers. Have you ever had to buy a cell phone charger? For people who need an extra charger (one for home, one for work or boyfriend/girlfriend's house), it's ridiculous that every time you buy a new phone (especially a new brand) you have to get another set of chargers (usually a $35 or more extra).

At least the recent Motorolas all come with mini-USB, so that I can charge my phone with any spare mini-USB cable I can find (from cameras, printers, I've even borrowed one from a hotel's USB hub...). If every manufacturer did this, one charger or cable could last you *years* and there'd be billions less sitting at garbage dumbs.

I can't think of a single benefit to having a different charger for every phone.
Posted by bartszyszka (69 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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