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February 19, 2009

Universal Charging Solution – answering the big phone charger question

BARCELONA, Spain – Here on Conversations we’ve been hooked on the big phone charger question, so this week’s announcement of the Universal Charging Solution (UCS) marks a hugely welcomed development – this milestone collaboration will see 17 mobile operators and manufacturers, including Nokia, work with the GSMA towards an industry standard universal charger for new mobile phones. News of the Universal Charging Solution has already triggered a global wave of mostly widespread, and naturally a few doubters, plus it has resulted in some interesting wider questions stretching beyond the mobile space.

Read on to get the full lowdown on the Universal Charging Solution, what it means and how it will work. Plus, we’ve gathered together a few reactionary highlights to this innovative eco-led phone charger initiative.

The plan is that by the 1st of January 2012 the majority of all new handsets will support the a universal charger, using Micro-USB as the common interface – the 4-star charger would be up to three times more efficient than an unrated charger. Driven by collective environmental ambition this solution could result in potentially 50 per cent fewer chargers being manufactured each year, and a shared reduction in greenhouse gases of up 13.6 to 21.8 million tonnes a year, according to the GSMA announcement.

Here’s what Mitti Storckovius, Director of Environment, Devices at Nokia said about the new UCS plans:

“Over the last few years, Nokia has pioneered many energy saving features, from chargers using 90% less energy to alerts reminding people to unplug chargers. By supporting this industry initiative on common charging solutions, and enabling consumers to choose if they need a charger with every new device or can re-use existing ones, we can contribute further in improving the industry’s environmental footprint.”

As for the reactions elsewhere, here’s a quick snapshot of what other online publications had to say about the news.

The Register was keen to pick up on the hardware aspect, alongside the eco advantages, highlighting the benefits of using Micro-USB for the universal charger:

The Register: “In addition to the obvious benefits of standardization, such as the ability to charge multiple phones using the same charger, the use of Micro USB offers two significant advantages over the current welter of proprietary charging systems. The first is Micro USB itself. Not only are Micro USB ports and plugs smaller than some current charging interfaces, they’re also sturdier. The standard calls for a stainless steel plug that’s rated for 10,000 insertion cycles and includes a locking mechanism to prevent accidental disconnection. More important from a global perspective will be the standard’s environmental benefits.”

Interestingly, Sky News touched on how this development could affect other areas of consumer electronics:

Sky News: “The agreement could be just the first step in ending the need for a bag full of chargers whenever you leave your house. Perhaps in the future then you could need just one charger for your MP3 and digital camera too. As for your laptop – that might take a bit longer.”

The website for US magazine PC World presented a more doubtful reaction, which triggered quite a reaction and a torrent of reader comments on its site (mostly conflicting with the opinion voiced in the article).

PC World: “Sure, the micro-USB port is prominent right now, but what about when a better tech is invented? What about solar-powered cell phones? These universal chargers that seemed so useful yesterday add to the compost heap tomorrow. The universal charger is an ambitious idea, but perhaps five or six years too late.”

What do you think to the news of the Universal Charging Solution? Scribble down your opinions below.