Charge together

Handset makers agree to common charger standards. Sometimes we want companies talking

Written by The Indian Express | Published:February 19, 2009 12:54 am

Collusion is usually a bad thing. Companies aren’t supposed to get together,and pick one idea or price to share,rather than letting the market decide. There are,however,exceptions,and exceptions of the sort that can make massive differences to people’s lives. For example,the decision,announced on Tuesday,by the GSM Association of mobile phone operators and manufacturers to adopt a common standard for chargers.

Pause to consider the magnitude of this for a moment. It cuts down on waste (51,000 tonnes a year): no longer need a charger be thrown out when the phone it came with dies. It cuts down on cost: now generic chargers will be available and cheap,thus forcing down the price of branded ones. Indeed,perhaps in the future phones will be sold separate from chargers. Above all,think of the convenience that touches all of us: a dying battery can be revived anywhere,chargers will be sharable. Oh,and they’re supposed to be more energy-efficient,too.

Now the bad news: this isn’t happening overnight. The aim is that “a majority” of new chargers should use the universal connector by 2012. This is partly because the handset companies — Nokia,Motorola,et al. — are being pushed into it by the European Union,which,in a fussy Brussels-y manner,hates untidiness and asymmetry. Still,encouraging market leaders to agree on interoperability and compatibility is generally considered part of a regulators’ job description. Of course,there’s one big holdout: Apple,even more finicky than the EU,isn’t part of the deal. Steve Jobs won’t put up with grubby,multipurpose,chargers-with-corners. So iPhone users will be able to maintain their exclusivity. Though one imagines they’ll be petitioning for better battery life all the harder now.

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