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New standards were released in Europe this week for a universal USB phone charger that will let Europeans use one charger for different phones starting early next year.
The standards are based on MicroUSB and were embraced on Wednesday by the European Commission, which says they will be helpful to both consumers and the environment. Fourteen manufacturers have already signed on to use the new standards when producing data-enabled mobile phones, including Apple, Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Motorola Mobility, Qualcomm, and Research In Motion.
"I am very happy that the European Standardisation Bodies have met our request to develop within a short space of time the technical standards necessary for a common mobile phone charger based on the work done by industry,'' said Antonio Tajani, European Commission VP for industry and entrepreneurship, in a statement. "Now it is time for industry to show its commitment to sell mobile phones for the new charger. The common charger will make life easier for consumers, reduce waste, and benefit businesses. It is a true win-win situation."
Incompatible cell phone chargers are not only a nuisance for users but an environmental issue, because old ones are disposed when new ones are purchased, even if they are in good condition, the EC said.
The commission issued a mandate at the end of 2009 to the European standardization organizations CEN-CENELEC and ETSI, requesting development of European standards for the common charger. The standards allow for interoperability between different brands and also take account of safety risks and electro-magnetic emissions and ensure that common chargers have sufficient immunity to external interference, the commission said.
The other companies supporting the initiative are Emblaze Mobile, Huwei Technologies, LGE, NEC, TCT Mobile (Alcatel), Texas Instruments, and Atmel. Together the companies make more than 90% of the smartphones sold in the European Union.
The manufacturers are in discussions with other non-EU standards organizations to adopt the common charger specifications in other markets, the commission said. Compatibility of data-enabled mobile phones is expected to be "predominant in the market within two years," based on the MicroUSB connector, the EC said.