Common USB chargers to roll out in 2011
According to the BBC this morning, the EU's mandatory USB-charging system for smartphones is due to be implemented in 2011. Major manufacturers, including Apple, RIM, Nokia and Samsung have already signed up. The system is based on the micro-USB standard but it remains unclear if the output from the charger will be a USB-A as is standard on Apple power units or in the form of a fixed cable. The Apple-style USB socket has been adopted by many after-market accessory manufacturers and to insist now on hard-wired cables would be a retrograde step.
It's also unclear where Apple stand on their standard 30-pin port. For the time being, I assume matters will stay as they are, although other manufacturers are likely to ditch their proprietary ports in favour of micro-USB, already seen on many products such as the Kindle and the MiFi mini-router.
The main reason behind the EU's move to a new standard was to avoid the proliferation of power units with attached cables; most households have a drawer full of them from mobile phones bought over the years. So it could well be that all chargers will have a USB-A output port and Apple will be able to continue with their USB-A to Apple connector system. It's possible, too, that some other manufacturers will adopt this system where we need only separate cables - currently I carry Apple, USB-micro and USB-mini to cover most needs.
As this standard comes in we are likely to see most smartphones sold without a charger so that buyers will have to purchase a separate unit or, as the EU hopes, recycle an old adaptor that's already in the junk drawer. I'm all in favour of this standardisation and, once it is adopted in the EU it will surely percolate through to the rest of the world in the interests of conformity.