Mobile phone companies on the charge

The big mobile phone companies have signed up to a new universal charger. An eco-friendly move?

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

All of the UK’s big mobile phone companies and handset makers have agreed to produce phones that use the same energy-efficient charger, in a bid to boost the industry’s (fairly weak) environmental credentials. The news was announced at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, where the industry’s biggest cheeses are currently catching some rays while showcasing their companies’ flashiest new kit and generally trying to out-Apple Apple. This scheme, which has been orchestrated by the trade body GSMA, is a rare example of them coming together for the common good. But not everyone’s convinced of its value…

The new universal charger will use the micro-USB connection found in the latest smartphones. Suitable phones will start appearing this year, and the theory is that pretty much all the phones being produced around the world will conform to the same standard by 2012. The new charger will also be 50% more energy-efficient in standby mode – an attempt to mollify critics who’ve been moaning about the electricity that the current chargers consume if you leave them plugged in all day.

Now you might argue that the amount of electricity this will save is so negligible that this is nothing more than a PR stunt. But although there may be a grain of truth in that, it’s also true that every little helps. More importantly, it will also prevent all those manufacturers needing to expend energy making the vast array of chargers currently on the market. And if nothing else, it will at least put an end to the tedium of trying to find someone with the same charger as you whenever your phone runs out of juice.

That said, some of the attendees at the WMC are trialling a more radical approach to energy conservation: Samsung’s new Blue Earth phone is made out of recycled water bottles and has a solar panel on the back to charge the phone. Other manufacturers are working on similar solar-powered phones for developing countries (which sounds a lot more sensible – it’d take about six weeks to charge your phone if you were relying on the UK sunshine).

Elsewhere, the MPC seemed to mostly consist of companies trying to take on Apple: LG’s swanky new wristwatch-phones are intended to take on Apple, Microsoft and Nokia’s respective applications stores are intended to take on Apple, and Vodafone’s deal with HTC and Google is intended to… well, you get the picture. There can be no clearer sign that everyone in the industry is currently playing catch-up to the iPhone...

In today's bulletin:

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Mobile phone companies on the charge
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