Few ideas emerge that are winners all around. It's certainly nice when one comes along, and one has: The universal phone charger. It's good for the environment, good for mobile productivity and good for device owners' sanity.
Cellular-News reports that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) this week announced its support for the idea. The first thought to many is that a universal phone charger will drastically reduce the inconvenience of having to scrounge around for the right charger when they forget or lose it. There is a secondary and perhaps even bigger benefit: The story says that universal chargers could lead to a 50 percent reduction in standby energy consumption and cut as many as 51,000 tons of redundant chargers. Not manufacturing those chargers would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 13.6 million tons, the story says.
The ITU is not alone is supporting the concept. InformationWeek reported earlier this month that the CTIA Wireless trade group said it will support initiations for universal chargers as well as headphone jacks. The story says it is backing an approach that would employ the micro-USB standard and the 3.5-millimeter plug for headphone jacks after January 2012.
Estimates in the story are that charger production could be cut in half and that enterprises will save because they won't have to replace as many lost chargers. The story notes that standards adopted by the CTIA would be voluntary. The story doesn't mention the ITU move, but links to a story about a European Union mini-USB plan-which has the support of Apple, LG, Nokia, Qualcomm and Research in Motion-that was agreed to in June.
There are private efforts ongoing as well. While the wheels of agencies and trade associations grind slowly, private businesses often jump right into the fray. Yesterday, vendor iGo said that its universal chargers will be available at Best Buy Express kiosks at major U.S. airports.The company is offering the iGo Slip Laptop Wall Charger, the iGo Wall Charger and the iGo powerXtender. The products come with unique "power tips" to link to a wide variety of devices. Last week, iGo announced the availability of a wider selection of its products at more than 900 OfficeMax stores in the United States.
In the longer-term, the universal charger approach backed by the ITU and the CTIA will be based on a single uniform interface. The current universal chargers -- from iGo and others -- represent a midway point in the evolution away from today's wasteful approach.
Cell phone chargers, along with old keyboards and other miscellany, are the detritus of the modern age. It's important to remember that attention to these boring topics can help the environment and, at the same time, benefit their owners' nervous systems.