Universal cell phone charger by 2012

Throwback Thursday: I had to laugh when I pulled this one out of the archives. Back in 2009, we expected all smartphones to charge with only one type of charger by 2012. That did not happen. And to increase confusion, in 2012 Apple ditched the 30-pin iPhone cable introduced the lightning cable to charge its newest iPhone 5 making some households even more cluttered.

Here in the future of 2019, more and more devices are being charged using wireless charging stations. It isn’t the cable-free technology as we had hoped for in our post below, but it is a step to uncluttering cables. Enjoy this peek into the past and let your imagination dream of a clutter-free cordless future.


News hit Tuesday that 17 phone manufacturers have agreed to use Micro-USB chargers on all phones by 2012. According to ZDNet, “Companies signed up to the initiative include Nokia, Motorola, Orange, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, T-Mobile, 3, TelefĂłnica 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.”

I love the idea of a single charger being able to power multiple devices, but I worry that this announcement is a little too late. In three years’ time, devices like mobile phones might best be charged with cable-free technology, like “WITricity” or Powermats.

Another unsettling point is that many of the smart phone makers didn’t sign onto this agreement. Palm, Blackberry, and Apple aren’t among those on the participation list. I don’t see Apple changing their docking systems to Micro-USB in three years.

I definitely believe that this is a move in the right direction. A single power cord is a brilliant idea. However, I worry that Micro-USB may be an irrelevant standard in three-years’ times.

(Note: An astute reader pointed out that the image is a Mini-USB port instead of a Micro-USB port. Sorry for the confusion! There are so many standards, even I got confused. Ugh!!)

30 Comments for “Universal cell phone charger by 2012”

  1. posted by Anna N. on

    I like that idea, but I wish they would add other devices to the list – I wish my mp3 player and my phone used the same charger, for instance.

    On the other hand, it’s obviously hard enough to get phone companies to agree, so, it’s a start, I guess.

  2. posted by Markus R on

    It’s a great standard, but the connector in the picture and on the power-slider is Mini-USB, not Micro-USB.

  3. posted by Mark on

    No standard will please all of the people all of the time so whatever the chosen connection there will be people who are not happy.

    Apple only account for a very small percentage (less than 2%) of the mobile market and i am sure that very soon (if not already) you will find a microUSB to apple adapter on eBay.

    Besides, microUSB is quite common today anyway so was always going to be a strong contender.

    Of course this could go further because if there is a standard, you could see car makers adding a charging port into their cars and so on.

    We might even start to see some nice charging stations as well. This could be a real boost for the accessory makers.

    So we have a standard. Some people might compain but the fact remains, we have a standard.


  4. posted by Chris G. on

    The iPhone/iPod will not join the mini-usb charger group for a couple major reasons:

    It’s dock connector allows it to sync with a computer, charge the device, and control the device from the hundreds (if not thousands) of car adapters, stereos, voice recorders, etc. that use it. Not only can those devices control the iPhone/iPod, it can also charge it at the same time, eliminating one more cable to worry about.

    I do not believe that the mini-usb standard can handle all of that.

    Not to mention, it beautifully simple. 1 cable does it all. No way to mistake which port to plug it in. No issue if forgetting one cable while bringing the other. It is all or nothing.

  5. posted by lesliet on

    I’d rather that my iPhone share the same charging port as my iPod, as it does now, than to have it change to be compatible with some mobile phone standard.

  6. posted by Sherri (Serene Journey) on

    Yeah!!! This is a great start. I always found it a bit annoying that when you get a new phone from the same company the charger is just slightly different. Hopefully with this standard they won’t be changing them as often. Oh and there will be a few less wires to contend with, that’s always a bonus! 🙂

  7. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Markus — Ack! You might be right … that might be Mini-USB … ugh … so. many. stupid. chargers!!!

  8. posted by Isaac Downing on

    Blackberry phones already use Micro-USB.

  9. posted by Peter (a different one) on

    People, people, people! Think of the economy! Think of all the poor saps whose sole purpose in life is to contrive the most assinine combinations of phones and chargers! If the phone companies go to a universal charger, what other area of our lives will be suddenly complicated by the unleashing of these designers upon us?

  10. posted by Chris Tomkins on

    This is definitely a step in the right direction, although if we still get a charger in the box with every device, we have not really solved the environmental issue, all we will have succeeded in doing is making sure everyone ends up with multiple chargers they can use to power their devices. If this is adopted, I’d like to see an option when you buy such devices to just get the device without a charger (ideally for a reduced fee).

  11. posted by luke kurtis on

    Chris, good point. Hopefully this will be a pretty easy hurdle to jump. When I procure new handsets for the users at my company, the salesperson always asks, “Would you like a SIM card or any accessories with that?” Retailers could continue that approach and say something like , “Do you already have a universal standard charger or do you need a new one?” The whole experience should become more Ă  la carte so us consumers will get only what we actually need.

  12. posted by Katie Alender on

    As others have pointed out, the Apple cord is already pretty universal and uncluttered. It can charge from a computer, an auto charger, an AC adapter… it can charge your iPhone or your iPod… at my office, they get passed around and borrowed like notes in a classroom.

  13. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Chris and @luke — I wholeheartedly agree that a la carte would be fantastic, especially if the price of the stand-alone unit comes down. It would be great if there were “starter” boxes for teenagers, like “My first phone!” that came as a package deals. Then, all higher end models were a la carte. Do you hear us, phone companies??? 🙂

  14. posted by Vi | Maximizing Utility on

    I think that companies will eventually stop including chargers with their phones for pure profit maximizing reasons. It’s a cost savings to them to not include it, regardless of the environment. For instance, most printers nowadays don’t come with the necessary wire to connect to your computer anymore. It’s standardized and firms can make more money selling them individually.

  15. posted by Tabitha (From Single to Married) on

    what would it be like to have just one charger? I’m constantly forgetting that my car charger for my iPod doesn’t work for my iPhone even though it fits. So frustrating!

  16. posted by Jessica on

    This would be absolutely wonderful in my opinion. When choosing my next phone for me and my hubby, most of the time we get the same phone so we can share the 2 home chargers, and only have to buy one car charger to share. Car chargers can be expensive (around $20 for the reliable name brand) or $10 for an off brand from Wally-world that you don’t know if it will properly charge or not.

    This becomes a very tiring and fustrating process, trying to find one phone that will fit two different people’s styles.

    If my next phone upgrade uses the same chargers we have right now, I would be elated. But alas, it most likely won’t.

    I love this idea!

  17. posted by Felicia on

    My husband and I usually have the same cel phone, so we end up with two chargers. We keep one in the house and the other one goes in the truck. We keep a power inverter in there, so we can always charge the phone if necessary. We never have to buy a car charger.

  18. posted by Cole Brodine on

    Why couldn’t a micro-usb do all the things an ipod connection can do? USB is just a fancy serial cable. If you want other devices to control your phone, mp3, pda, etc they could easily do that through a USB (regular, mini, or micro connection). The cable isn’t the thing you need to change, but the communication standard, so that accessory manufactures know what signals to send over the cable.

    A cable standard is a great place to start, because now all phones will have a common way to charge, with the potential for data transfer.

    As far as the wireless power goes, I would think that a lot of power would be wasted by sending it over the air. Also, it’s so much less expensive to put a wired connection to a device then a wireless connection. I’m guessing that lots of devices will hang on to the wired connection for much more then 3 years, just to help keep prices down. Things like Bluetooth headsets will probably stay wired for quite a while, until they can get the wireless power supplies small enough. Also, the wireless power really hasn’t standardized yet, so most manufactures will be reluctant to include something that might become obsolete. Nobody wants to be caught selling their fancy new device with a feature that could go the way of HD-DVD or Betamax.

    Most of the above is just some observations of mine.

  19. posted by Sahadev Komaragiri on

    Read this web site every day.. great work u guys!

    I like the idea of a single charger. This has been long over due. I think this idea must immediately be extended to the laptops. If all cell phones can have a standard charger, why can’t all the laptops have a standard AC adapter? I know there are some universal adapters out there, but why can’t the laptop manufacturers come together with a standard? All desktops have a standard AC power cable!

  20. posted by freecia on

    I remember a microUSB cable which was about 8 inches long and hooked into itself so it could attach to keychains and such. Can’t find the reference now and it is driving me batty. Anyone know where to find it? It was also available for mini USB I believe.

  21. posted by Leo on

    Freecia, I use one like this:


    My cell phone has a mini-usb connection and it works like a charm!

  22. posted by M. Pierce on

    People will just buy extra chargers for work or when they lose them, this will be a “huge” industry for the mobile companies…

  23. posted by Rue on

    I think it’s a great step in the right direction. Obviously the ideal situation would be for everything that uses a charger to use the same one. But even if this were to occur, as technology changes, whatever charger is the norm will simply become obsolete. In 5 years, there will probably be something even better than micro-USB. Then, some companies may opt to stay with micro-USB while others go to the next “new” thing – and then we’re back in the same hole. =\

    I think it’s a great idea, just not necessarily practical for long-term.

  24. posted by Jon on

    Stupid question, but why do I care if multiple cell phones have the same charger? Yes, there are some small advantages I guess:

    – couples can share the same charger
    – easier to borrow one when I’m in a pinch
    – when I get my next cell phone, I’ll have a spare that works

    But like some others said, what we really need is a common standard for all kinds of devices. If I could charge my mp3 player, camera, phone, and laptop using the same charger, THEN I would be happy.

    A smart company (e.g. one that doesn’t rip its customers off on the chargers/adapters, like Apple) would then offer its products with the charger, or without it for a lower price.

  25. posted by Marc Rohde on

    I don’t think that Witricity and Powermats are a relevant comparison. They are great products if you intend to power a device in a fixed location but I certainly don’t want to carry one around to charge in my car or on the road.

    This is a great step in the right direction and look forward to having one power cord of all my phones.

  26. posted by Moo! The Musings of a Plaid Cow » Universal Cell Phone Charger on

    […] good news, according to this article, is that the major cell phone companies have gotten together and will be standardizing on a single […]

  27. posted by Open Loops 3/10/2009: Articles I Think Worth Passing Along | SimpleProductivityBlog.com on

    […] first brought this to my attention: “Universal cell phone charger by 2012“. Struggling to find a USB charger for my new phone, I just wish it was […]

  28. posted by Brii on

    um, htc has a different shaped charger port, but i have used my husbands micro usb blackberry charger for it and it works just fine….you dont need the special shape. its just for like thier headsets and all that jazz. i have also had HTC phones for the past 2 years, love them.
    and i can guarentee apple will not join this, simply because how are they going to make money when everything uses 1 cord. how is any company going to make money when you forget to pack your phone charger, but everyones uses the same. just find a buddhy. this wont happen because the different charger ports are the way for the manufacturer to make money off of us…charging us 20 to sometimes 30 dollars for a replacement charger for that specific phone.

    i know its annoying but it is a marketing ploy.

    simple as that.

  29. posted by Ange on

    I’m not sure how the Apple cord is better than any cord… my (admittedly rather ancient) HTC Touch uses a mini-USB to both charge and sync to the smartphone. My iPod seems to sync faster, but I wonder if that’s more of a software issue (Windows Sync is notoriously flaky).

    That said – please, one charger for everything, even if it’s everything non-Apple. I bought a set that includes a single USB car charger and FIVE small baggies of adapters for various chargers. That’s right – five baggies, with 3-4 adapters each. So far, I’ve used at least four of the adapters (mini-USB, micro-USB, iPod, game adapter, among others). And my cords box contains a large freezer bag labeled “adapters,” since we get a new one with each phone/camera/gadget acquired, and not all of them are of the best quality. :/ One of these days, I’ll get around to sorting through the big baggie.

  30. posted by Darrell on

    Nice throwback! I would agree that Qi wireless chargers are probably the closest we have right now to universal charging. I think many would point at USB-C as the most universal but there’s still a lot of confusion over what usb-c cables carry data, some only charge, usb-c headphones aren’t exactly as universal as folks think, some usb-c docks don’t have pass-through for video/audio, and usb-c/thunderbolt 3 interface may add another layer of confusion for most folks.

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