Monday, July 13, 2009

Europeans Can Teach Us A Few Things

OK, look in that junk drawer in the kitchen. Mixed in among the dead AA batteries, a 1998 calendar and several pens …all of which will not write more than two words without skipping … I bet you will find more than one cell phone charger that is no longer compatible with your current phone. You are not alone.

Not only do models from the same manufacturer use different chargers, essentially no common charger and interconnecting plug design is available for any two phones from different manufacturers. In light of the fact that most phones, no matter the style or maker use the same basic innards and operate on the same voltages, this is crazy. In fact, most any cell phone charger in your drawer would work if only the plug was compatible.

Well, the people across the pond are doing something about it. Beginning in 2010 several major mobile manufacturers in Europe, including Nokia, Apple and Research in Motion, have signed up for the universal charger initiative. The goal of this decision is to adopt the use of the Micro USB plug as the charging standard for all cell phones by 2012. Some of the major brands are getting a head start and have agreed to implement Micro USB in their phones next year.
What a great idea! As a rule, even chargers in your drawer can last ten or more years. They are simple devices. The only problem is they don’t fit your new phone. Planned obsolescence.

According to an industry press release, it is estimated that in Europe alone the universal charger initiative will cut down on the energy and materials required to produce chargers by 51,000 tons annually, reducing the overall amount of chargers produced by 50 percent. This would also decrease the amount of waste created by discarded, useless cell phone chargers.

When will this great idea come to our shores? Who knows? The last time I bought a new phone the sales person mentioned that they were thinking about it. That was almost two years ago.

Of course it is not just cell phones that have non-compatible chargers. In any home today there are most likely five or more little chargers plugged in and energizing that iPod, GPS, portable radio, flashlight, camera, etc, etc, etc. Since most of these devices require different battery voltage and amperage, a universal charger is a bit more of a problem to design. Not so with the cell phone. So, let’s get on with it. I don’t know about you, but my drawer is getting too full already.

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