Smartphone companies to side-step EU universal charger ruling (updated)

14 Mar 2014

Phone charger image via Wikimedia Commons

Members of the European Parliament (MEP) have backed a regulation that will require smartphone companies to develop a universal phone power adapter by 2017, but smartphone companies have found a loophole.

In an overwhelming majority, the MEPs voted on the decision after a call for a reduction in the amount of wasted technology seen with various cables across a variety of devices.

Speaking about the decision, MEP Barbara Weiler was quoted in an EU statement as saying: “I am especially pleased that we agreed on the introduction of a common charger. This serves the interests both of consumers and the environment. It will put an end to charger clutter and 51,000 tonnes of electronic waste annually.”

MEPs also backed provisions in the directive that would give the authorities additional surveillance tools to detect radio equipment products that fail to comply with new safety rules.

Controversially however, smartphone companies are only required to standardise the plug adapter that connects to the electricity supply, not the actual cable connecting to the smartphone, as the EU had intended.

Currently, all devices, such as tablets and smartphones, have a two-step charging kit containing a plug that connects to an electricity outlet, and a USB cable with that company’s choice of connector. Now, companies such as Apple and Samsung have said they are in agreement of the decision and will, in essence, carry on business as usual.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Paul Meller, communications director for Digital Europe, which represents the largest smartphone companies on the continent, said a ruling whereby every connector was the same would be hindering innovation.

“This is also about innovation. If you look at the newest connector for the iPhone 5, it allows you to do things that the old one couldn’t.”

Updated 14/03/14, 2.01pm: This article has been amended to report that smartphone companies are only required to change the plug that connects to the electricity source, as opposed to the actual connection to the smartphone.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic