September 21, 2006 10:00 AM PDT

Your cell phone is charged--please unplug

A mobile industry task force led by Nokia announced on Thursday that it has agreed to do its part for the environment--by reminding you to conserve electricity.

The members of the task force, a project of the European Commission (EC), agreed to include alerts on the cell phones they make that will remind people to unplug their charger once a phone is fully charged. If 10 percent of the world's cell phone owners did this, the group's final report said, it would reduce energy consumption by an amount equivalent to that used by 60,000 European homes per year.

Nokia announced that it will have the alerts in place on its phones by the middle of 2007.

The initiative is part of a pilot project by the environmental agency of the EC intended to encourage industries to "reduce the environmental impact of their products throughout their lifecycle." Groups from various industries looked at everything from raw materials to manufacturing processes to the effects of product decomposition.

Nokia volunteered to start a group for the mobile phone industry, according to the EC.

"We are quite happy with this first approach, though obviously we would like to go deeper. We will issue a report on what has born fruit from this and we will look at, in a year from now, the results. This is an ongoing process and hopefully other companies will come on board," said Barbara Helfferich, a spokeswoman on the environment for the Commission.

In addition to adding the "unplug" alerts to their phones, the mobile group committed to voluntarily eliminating or reducing the amount of certain flame retardants, heavy metals and phthalates used in cell phones. Other commitments included phone recycling incentives and the posting of "eco-fact" panels listing a product's environmental impact.

Notably absent from the commitments was one relating to an early observation, made on Feb. 15, 2005, in Nokia's own report to the EC on the environmental impact of mobile phones (Click here for PDF). It said that one of the mobile industry's leading environmental impacts is the energy consumed during the component manufacturing process. Cell phone power use was the other leading impact.

Helfferich, however, said that the EC did not intend for the voluntary task force to tackle that issue.

"We have other policies in place that encourage limiting the emissions from manufacturing or reducing the energy consumption that is part of the manufacturing process, other ways of detailing that. In the voluntary agreement we don't cover it. And companies--Nokia, for instance--have voluntarily agreed to design for reducing the energy consumption of the actual phones or charger," said Helfferich.

Companies that participated in the EC mobile task force, whose research spanned two years, include AMD, Epson, France Telecom/Orange, Intel, Motorola, Panasonic, Teliasonera, and Vodafone.

The EC listed passenger cars, meat products and housing as having the largest impacts on the environment overall.

See more CNET content tagged:
manufacturing process, impact, manufacturing, Nokia Corp., cell phone

24 comments

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Block the Charge
Wouldn't it make more sense to stop the charging automatically instead of alerting the owner? Surely an onboard switch could be added to keep the phone from continuing to charge until it needs it. Not that hard.
Posted by quig06107 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Block the Charge
I agree. The last thing I want is to get up at 2AM to remove my cell phone from the charger. My current cell lights up and there is a message on the display when the charge is complete, but if I'm asleep I don't see it.
Posted by Galxc (1 comment )
Link Flag
Fix your phones
Redesign the power management and charger. Jeese... What a surprise Nokia finds this to be the user's fault.
Posted by woggs123 (22 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What they don't mention is...
I saw a very similar news story a year ago, except it wasn't by a major cell phone manufacturer. What Nokia doesn't say is that charger technology has improved to where they can be made to not leak electricity, or at least a small fraction of what they do now. But of course instead of spending more on better chargers, they just are going to annoy their customers. Which do you think would have the greater impact in the long run?

Nokias have turned into such ugly things anyway.
Posted by mkhecker (4 comments )
Link Flag
Why you should unplug things.
From what I have heard, devices (such as cell phone chargers, TVs, or anything else electronic) continue to use electricity even when they're not in use. So, the point of the request is not to wake up at 3am, but rather to only have your cell phone charger plugged in while being used.
Posted by daveatvt (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Power Saving
I think that's rich coming from anyone because just about any company that makes such proposals, wastes far far more in powerful light displays & in many other ways themselves. Maybe Vegas lights should be shut down & nobody use a private car or take a plane ride. Get real. I'm every bit in favor of saving power consumption but lets start with the really big users as they consume considerably more than Cell (or Mobile) phone users might do with their battery charges.
Posted by davidvh2 (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The solution is simple.
Require makers of cellphones and their companion chargers to sense when the charge is complete and turn the charger off automatically. Problem solved with a micro circuit. Christ corporations and their overlords are morons. I suppose next they'll want us to stop using forks since we could save more energy by only having to produce spoons.
Posted by nuckelhedd (70 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mind telling me how that works?
"The members of the task force, a project of the European
Commission (EC), agreed to include alerts on the cell phones
they make that will remind people to unplug their charger once
a phone is fully charged. If 10 percent of the world's cell phone
owners did this, the group's final report said, it would reduce
energy consumption by an amount equivalent to that used by
60,000 European homes per year."

Ok, so now that you've told me how much energy we can save,
mind telling me how this works? I wasn't under the impression
that chargers use any energy other than when they're charging
phones. Do they suck electricity out of the wall and spit it into
nowhere the rest of the time or what?
Posted by Dr. B (91 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They are little heaters
Low-quality chargers are always on. The energy is wasted as heat. Therefore, in the winter, this heat is actually NOT totally wasted. Same with lights being left on, or any inefficiency. If it's real cold outside, it doesn't matter much. In the summer, though, it's a double waste. Not only do you not want the waste heat, but you have to run the A/C more to compensate.
Posted by dmm (336 comments )
Link Flag
So I'm going to get up in the middle of the night...
Um.. you force us to use those rediculously large plugs on the phone, why not use those connections for something? You want to save energy? The phone knows when its charged. How much would it cost to add circuitry to tell the charger to shut off??? Pennies, I'm sure.
Posted by chrisw63 (26 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So I'm going to get up in the middle of the night...
Um.. you force us to use those rediculously large plugs on the phone, why not use those connections for something? You want to save energy? The phone knows when its charged. How much would it cost to add circuitry to tell the charger to shut off??? Pennies, I'm sure.
Posted by chrisw63 (26 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Unplug THIS!
I am constantly amazed at what passes for news and product improvement. Why in heavens name wasn't that basic design built into the charger?
If I were Nokia, I would be embarrassed to even mention this "improvement". They (Gov)should slap them (cell phone makers, not just Nokia) with a fine for such a stupid and penny pinching oversight.

I have 3 batteries that my cellphone provider tells me have been overcharged, causing the battery to last a shorter time between charge AND voids the 1 year warranty . Who the heck put their phone in a cradle then set an alarm for 3 hours to go take it out when it's "charged".

Morons, the whole lot of them!
Posted by patruga (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Charging phones
I think it would work if you turn your phone off at night and then when it gets fully charged the charging will stop. If you leave your phone on it keeps using some of your battery and therefore needs to keeps charging. At least that is how my phone works. I just charge it in my car on the way to/from work each day and never charge it by AC unless I am on vacation or something.
Posted by abrady55 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Smarter charger more likely than smarter consumers.
Eating two less slices of toast for one day would save as much electricity as a year or two of trickle charging.

That said, smarter chargers would stop current when battery capacity is reached
Posted by disco-legend-zeke (448 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So long as I can turn it off...
I charge my phone over night while I sleep. If it woke me up to tell me it was full I think I'd put it through a window.
I like the ideas to block the charge myself but it's not really the problem. Any device that's plugged in is taking in electricity whether it's used or not. There are hundred of articles out there about so called "energy vampires" doing this and adding to household electricity bills. The solution isn't to stop the charge or wake me up, but rather the consumer actually has to physically unplug that god awful brick from the wall.
Posted by menty666 (53 comments )
Reply Link Flag
include a switch on the charger
Simply include an on off switch in the charger housing to enable saving power without having to unplug it
Posted by eeee (672 comments )
Reply Link Flag
store doors stay open with AC wasted
Bigger waste is found:
-stores that leave their front doors open in the summer to invite customers while the air conditiong cranks and flies out the door
-parking lot lamps that burn all day long: (ie CompUSA-White Plains,NY;
-highway lamps on all day: (ie Cross County Pkway; Major Deegan Expy, Bronx River Pkwy in NY)
-office buildings that run lights 24 /7 but are open only 9 hours for business (250 North St-White Plains)
-large corporations that leave meeting room lights on with no meetings
-office buildings so over cooled in the summer that people plug in electric heaters
You all have many more examples of waste that is zillions of times more than our 10 watt cell phone chargers.
Posted by eeemang (217 comments )
Reply Link Flag
There is a far better solution for everyone. Go to www.magic charger.com. You can buy a solar cellphone charger for under 30 dollars that doubles as a full 100% spare battery for your phone. It can be charged by solar power or USB from your laptop. Our solar chargers work just like solar calculators, you've never taken them outside but they have always worked. You can also call and speak to a customer service rep at 877-765-7769.
Posted by magiccharger (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I was skeptical of this, so I attached a current meter to the power supply on my phone, and several of the tablets I also own. Except for the phone, the tablets did not show any power being consumed. The phone showed very little current draw, and only intermittently.

Years ago, step-down power supplies were not solid state, they were wire-wound transformers, and inherent in their design was a loss of efficiency due to various factors. That's why they always felt warm, whether they were doing their job or not.

Nowadays, they are almost all solid-state, and generally do not consume power when they are not producing power. besides this, there's no actual net savings when you have to plug your phone in again, and it has to catch up for all the time when it was unplugged.
Posted by GregP507 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I was skeptical of this claim, so I attached a current meter to the power mains side of my cellphone charger. Once it hit 100% charge, the current draw was zero. This effect was the same for several phones and tablets I own.

This may not always have been true. A few years ago, the chargers were the transformer-type, and not the solid-state type, and continued to consume a little power after full charge. The newer ones all stop consuming any power whatsoever once the device is fully charged.

In light of this, it makes no sense to me to unplug my charger for any reason. Especially when doing so increases wear on the wires and connectors, increasing the risk of fire. It also increases the chance of having a dead battery when I need it.
Posted by GregP507 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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