Major phone makers and mobile operators have agreed to adopt a single interface for handset chargers, the GSM Association announced on Tuesday.
By 2012, more than half of new handsets shipped will use Micro-USB as the interface for charging, the mobile trade body said at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. People will be able to use a single charger to revive devices from the 17 manufacturers and operators participating in the initiative.
The adoption of Micro-USB as a common standard has several advantages for users and the industry, the GSM Association (GSMA) said. In particular, it allows manufacturers to stop shipping a new charger with every handset, and it lets buyers avoid the need to have multiple chargers for different devices.
"The mobile industry has a pivotal role to play in tackling environmental issues, and this programme is an important step that could lead to huge savings in resources, not to mention convenience for consumers," said Rob Conway, the GSMA's chief executive, in a statement. "There is enormous potential in mobile to help people live and work in an eco-friendly way, and with the backing of some of the biggest names in the industry, this initiative will lead the way."
Companies signed up to the initiative include Nokia, Motorola, Orange, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, T-Mobile, 3, Telefónica and Vodafone. HTC was not on the list of compliant companies in the announcement, but an HTC spokesperson told ZDNet UK on Tuesday that the manufacturer will participate in the scheme.
Separately, the Chinese government mandated the use of Micro-USB as the standard for phone chargers at the end of 2006.
In September 2007, the Open Mobile Terminal Platform industry forum announced that its members had decided on Micro-USB as a common charger-interface standard.
Asked why it took a year-and-a-half for the mobile industry to commit to a timescale for introduction, GSMA chief architect Ian Pannell said work was done during that time to toughen the interface specification up for regular mobile-phone use.
"A number of elements [of the revised specification] were only recently completed, such as building more safety and robustness into it for charging," Pannell told ZDNet UK. He explained that Micro-USB was originally designed more for connectivity purposes than for charging.
While two or three versions of Micro-USB exist, the participants of the GSMA initiative will hold to just one, "bog-standard" version, Pannell said.
According to Pannell, Micro-USB has more longevity than the larger, more widely found Mini-USB standard. Micro-USB slots are able to withstand 10,000 insertions, rather than just 1,000 for Mini-USB, he said.
Pannell also said that peripherals makers, which have benefited from the multitude of charger interfaces, will "not necessarily lose out" because of the new standard, but will "have to respond to what's happening and innovate".