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EU: Mobile Phone Manufacturers Will Use Only One Charging Connector

Last Thursday, the European Parliament approved the final draft of the new Radio Equipment Directive, destined to replace the 1999 R&TTE Directive on Radio Equipment and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment. One of the most commented provisions of the new directive, which will not go into full effect until 2017, is the requirement that all mobile phones and tablets in the European Union use a common charger. While the new legislation still needs the approval of the European Council, it is essentially a shoe-in. (The European Parliament already passed it with overwhelming support, 550 votes to 12, with eight abstentions.)

Back in 2009, the European Commission reached an agreement with 10 leading manufacturers, including BlackBerry, Samsung, Sony, and Apple, to reduce the amount of waste generated by discarded phone chargers. But the agreement only held until the end of 2012, when Apple launched its iPhone 5 in Europe and introduced a lightning connector. Apple then claimed that customers had the choice of purchasing a special Lightning-to-Micro USB adaptor to use with standard chargers. The adaptor is only available in Europe and costs an additional €19 ($27). Since customers always receive lightning chargers with their iPhones, this process simply creates more waste.

The EU is moving away from older chargers.

The EU is moving away from older chargers.

When the new directive takes effect, all mobile phone manufacturers will need to provide chargers with the Micro USB interface (namely, the Micro USB configured with the CENELEC EN 62684 and ETSI EN 301489-34 standards).

There is speculation that Apple might choose to create specific versions of the iPhone for the European market with the Micro USB connector, leaving the rest of the world with the proprietary chargers. This will allow the company to comply with European regulations and control the distribution of specific accessories in Europe. It will also please European Apple distributors, stores, and carrier partners, because it will reduce the amount of grey imports of iPhones and iPads from the US, where prices are 30% lower. But that will kill the additional income Apple makes licensing the use of the Lightning connector.

German EU MP Barbara Weiler, a member of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, said (with translation from German provided by the European Parliament):

An apparently small detail has become a big hit in the media, namely the common charger for mobile phones and other small devices. And public support is justified. It's about reducing bureaucracy and — perhaps more importantly — to avoid waste. More than 50,000 tonnes of e-waste generated so far in a year [because of different chargers]. That will soon come to an end…. With this agreement we will find more safety under the Christmas tree. I am especially pleased that we agreed on the introduction of a common charger — although the Council and the Commission were hesitant at first. This will benefit the consumers.

It might be necessary to make some adjustments to the Micro USB standards before the directive is effective, since many devices are now equipped with significantly bigger batteries. The current specification of the power-carrying pins, No. 1 and No. 5, are rated to carry 1.8 A at 5 V DC, enough for 9 W of charging power, well above the USB 2.0 and 3.0 specs of 5 W. But devices such as the new iPad Air can take 10 W of fast charging using the lightning connector, and smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy 5 are equipped with a 2.8 A battery, which requires more than three hours to charge at 9 W. New smartphones and tablets could require faster charging options as battery capacity increases. I use a standard Samsung 0.7 A for all my devices (I don't have an iPhone), because it helps extend the battery life.

Is this the future of wireless charging in Europe?

Is this the future of wireless charging in Europe?

Nevertheless, the new regulation will help save Europeans a lot of charger clutter, money, and frustration. I hope the industry is willing to cooperate, and we can share one connector between all our mobile gear.

This article was originally published on EBN's sister publication EE Times .

19 comments on “EU: Mobile Phone Manufacturers Will Use Only One Charging Connector

  1. _hm
    March 29, 2014

    (1) As Apple will provide state of the art charging connector for world and old laggard technology for EU. Will other mobile manufacturer also do similar thing and make EU backward looking? My logic is people change mobile phone so often and are not much concerend about waste, what do they care about one small charger?

    (2) Secondly, what are options for EU customer? Order iPhone from outside to get good connector. Micro USB connector for charging is not very rugged connector. Apple lightening connector and new connectors are.

    How EU will enforce this with EU customers?

    (3) What about option of wireless charging? Has EU address that too?

     

  2. Wale Bakare
    March 30, 2014

    Telecom governance an important area that needs to evolve with new innovations. Especially, regulation and policy that would have a great impact on subscribers of telecom services. Having said that, recycling of electronic gadgets seems a very tedium and strenous, even despite governments intervention schemes in a few nations. However, with pervasiveness of mobile phones on the increase, governments need to come up with an alternative strategies. But one charging connector? Waiting to see how the major mobile phone manufacturers get along with it.

  3. Eldredge
    March 30, 2014

    On the face of it, this seems like a good idea. In addition to reducing waste, it would provide a convenience to consumers.

  4. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    March 30, 2014

    @Wale, the telecom market will never move fast enough for the end user. At the same time, charging has got to be the biggest headache in the cellular phone market today. That means that charging and battery life are going to be the battlefields that this war will be fought upon.

  5. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    March 30, 2014

    @_HM, to your first question, i think we need to get people thinking about sustainability and using and having products longer. The gotta upgrade to each new iteration of the cell phone isn't good for the world.

  6. Houngbo_Hospice
    March 30, 2014

    @@_hm: I don't think there will be any issue for the EU countries to adopt the technology. There are always possibility for universal chargers and adapters.

  7. ahdand
    March 31, 2014

    @Hospice: But don't they have to approve it mate ? If not wont it be an issue ? 

  8. ahdand
    March 31, 2014

    @Hailey: Good suggestion but don't you think it's a bit hard to do. How can you force someone to use a product which they bought for a longer period of time? Alternative would be not to release a new version until a certain period of time. 

  9. Wale Bakare
    March 31, 2014

    Yes, @HH. How would you think that would impact on supply chain?

     

  10. Eldredge
    April 3, 2014

    @_hm – I don't know what the options are for wireless charging, particularly in the EU, bu if the efficiency is acceptable, and if the charging system could be commonized across a miriad of devices, that would be a very convenient approach for the consumer. Will be interesting to see what happens.

  11. Eldredge
    April 3, 2014

    @Hailey – I think I fall closer to your ideal than most. I usually have to replace a cell phone for practical reasons…. I wore it out or dropped it too many times! (Maybe that's the same thing?) I also like to keep at least one older phone around as an emergency replacement if needed (came in handy a time or two).

  12. _hm
    April 6, 2014

    @Eldredge: Leave them (charger) alone. This is free market. Pepople can use what they like.

    If not, why not standardized mobile phone – all form fit and function compatible so no upgrade and no waste at all. Albeit, like old communist products.

     

  13. Eldredge
    April 6, 2014

    @hm – I support the free market approach & freedom to choose. Just thought it was a neat idea – but we should always encourage competition of products and innovations.

  14. Wale Bakare
    April 14, 2014

    >>If not, why not standardized mobile phone – all form fit and function compatible<<

    How best do you think that would be implemented? Government as a stakeholder can only play its roles on policy and regulation aspects. While others, like technical community defines protocols as its currently being done.

  15. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    April 29, 2014

    @nimantha.d, personally, i just keep stuff a long time then i pass it on to my kids if there's still life in it. My car is ten years old, and I have an adapter to plug in my iphone to the aftermarket stereo i installed when the car was ten years old. As an industry, I think its important ot shift the conversation away from the newest thing to look at the life of a product, and ruggedness, etc.

  16. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    April 29, 2014

    @eldredge, great! If enough of us start doing it, we may start a movement!

  17. Ashu001
    May 31, 2014

    Hailey,

    That is the smart and prudent way to do things.

    Unfortunately in this constant race towards the Religion of Consumerism ;such basic lessons are getting lost rapidly.

    The More enlightened and aware consumers like you out there will ensure that the mess in our Landfills empties out rapidly in due course of time.

    Good Job!

     

  18. Ashu001
    May 31, 2014

    hm,

    Wow!

    You seem to have hit a major nerve here.

    Let me please try and explain why I believe the EU went for this rule.

    If you will observe when most of us either lose/re-sell or just trash our Smartphones we don't really throw the Chargers away(atleast most of us Don't).

    Consequently this leads to a situation where most of us have many-many different-different chargers around.And Consequently,a large number of them(especially during Spring cleaning,etc) landup in the Landfill.

    Plus chargers have very little of High-Value Metal(mostly plastic) which tends to get recycled.

    Hence it all ends up in the Landfill.This is something which the EU is trying to avoid/Reduce.

    Its not a bad idea and really benefits everybody in the Long-run(as long as chargers don't become some sort of competitive plus-point).

     

  19. Ashu001
    May 31, 2014

    Wale,

    That is the status-quo currently.

    What hm was suggesting in the Post below was an aggressive play on that where the State controls practically every single aspect of the Supply-Chain.

    It happens previously under Communism in China,Soviet Union and even today in Cuba.

    Not a good situation eitherways(bending too much towards one direction).

     

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