In what may be its most popular move with consumers to date, the GSM Association has won backing from 17 cellcos and manufacturers to create a universal phone charger by the start of 2012.
The so-called universal charging solution (UCS) initiative, finalized last Friday and announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Tuesday, is billed chiefly as a green project, as the charger will be designed to be energy-efficient. The GSMA says the UCS would result in an estimated 50% reduction in standby energy consumption, and would potentially eliminate up to 51,000 tonnes of duplicate chargers.
However, the biggest attraction is bound to be the end of a long and inconvenient era of incompatible chargers that pile up as consumers buy new handsets.
"I have a closet full of chargers, and none of them work with anyone else's handsets," said GSMA CEO Rob Conway, who revealed the UCS initiative during his opening speech at the Mobile World Congress. "And have you ever needed to charge your handset and tried to borrow somebody else's?"
The UCS group - which includes major handset makers LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson, chip firm Qualcomm and operators 3, AT&T, KTF, mobilkom austria, Orange, Telecom Italia, TelefÃ³nica, Telenor, Telstra, T-Mobile and Vodafone - will develop handsets that support a standard charger with a Micro-USB interface using efficiency specs laid out by the OMTP (Open Mobile Terminal Platform), the industry body that developed the technical requirements behind UCS.
Under the initiative, the majority of new handset models launched by the start of 2012 will support the UCS.
In a sign of how well received the UCS is likely to be by consumers, the audience attending Conway's keynote speech broke into spontaneous applause at the news.