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Cellphones Handhelds Power

Switzerland Moves Toward a Universal Phone Charger Standard (vice.com) 401

Press2ToContinue writes: Apple's Lightning cable cartel be damned: Switzerland is moving forward with a plan for a single, universal phone charger across the country, standardizing phone chargers across the board. While the exact standard hasn't been mentioned yet, it wouldn't be hard to guess the standard: Micro USB, used across phone platforms, most especially Android, which has a gigantic chunk of the cell phone market worldwide.

The likely loser? Apple, which has relied on proprietary chargers since introducing the iPhone in 2007. While many companies have tried releasing generic cables, Apple often relies on DRM software to ensure that it's an Apple certified cable, charging $19 a piece for the Lightning charger used by the iPhone 5 and 6 and similar models.

What do you think -- are government-mandated standards for chargers a good idea? Despite the success of the standard household 3-prong electrical plug, doesn't this hamper progress?
China seems to have done most of the work on the wall-circuit side of the equation,several years ago. But as to the "standard" 3-prong plug, any particular plug type is only as universal as the sockets and voltages they supply.
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Switzerland Moves Toward a Universal Phone Charger Standard

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  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 27, 2015 @05:41PM (#51191643)

    Switzerland movies nothing, our Government just tries to suck up to the EU wherever they can and copy their laws... and, it just mandates a USB-Plug *on the charger*, so even for the crap from Cuppertino it does not change anything...

    • by unixisc ( 2429386 ) on Sunday December 27, 2015 @09:54PM (#51192793)

      I fail to see why that's a problem. Having a type A slot on the charger means that any phone w/ the correct cord can be charged - not just Apple or Android but also past generations of phones that may have used other types, like mini USB (used on the old Moto Razrs) or the proprietary types from Nokia, Samsung or LG.

      Only issue as far as charging goes is iToys sometimes refusing to charge when not using the original white Apple made connectors. But even that happens only in certain environments, like a car's USB port.

      As far as standardizing goes, USB has a pretty sordid record itself. Type A & Type B was fine, then you had mini, then micro, now Type C is coming out that is symmetric... Why can't the USB committee just standardize on Apple's lightning connector, instead of reinventing the wheel?

      • by jmac_the_man ( 1612215 ) on Sunday December 27, 2015 @10:12PM (#51192861)
        Apple is using the lightning connectors (and the associated data transfer standards) to lock customers in to only purchasing from Apple. Letting the USB committee standardize on Lightning would defeat the purpose
      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <.slashdot. .at. .worf.net.> on Monday December 28, 2015 @05:22AM (#51194081)

        I fail to see why that's a problem. Having a type A slot on the charger means that any phone w/ the correct cord can be charged - not just Apple or Android but also past generations of phones that may have used other types, like mini USB (used on the old Moto Razrs) or the proprietary types from Nokia, Samsung or LG.

        Only issue as far as charging goes is iToys sometimes refusing to charge when not using the original white Apple made connectors. But even that happens only in certain environments, like a car's USB port.

        As far as standardizing goes, USB has a pretty sordid record itself. Type A & Type B was fine, then you had mini, then micro, now Type C is coming out that is symmetric... Why can't the USB committee just standardize on Apple's lightning connector, instead of reinventing the wheel?

        Well, several problems with the summary.

        1) Micro USB sucks. I mean, USB Type C is coming out and for good reason - plugging in cables without doing the twist-around dance is a good thing. Rumor has it Apple actually gave that design to the USB forum because well, uni-directional connectors stink especially on mobile. Heck, there are several designs for the old Type A connector that are... reversible! Unfortunately, the design of the Type A means they are fragile

        2) USB lightning cables aren't expensive, nor proprietary. The chip only comes into play if you want to do anything more than connect a sync/charge cable. You can pick up a ton of sync/charge USB to lightning cables on eBay/DealExtreme/monoprice/Alibaba for $5 shipped these days. There's a lot of clone cables out there. Hell, even licensed cables are only $10 on sale nowadays.

        3) The chip allows lightning to do fancy things like send audio or video data out of it. USB has no such functionality directly (except through USB Host ports faking OTG - no one implements real OTG), so it's considered a "value add".

        4) Reversible connectors are good. Imagine trying to design a phone accessory that uses the USB port - if you want to support a lot of phones, it's hard because half will have the USB plug one way, the other half will be the opposite, so you get stuck with releasing a product with a pigtail and some hokey attachment option.

        5) Apple chargers have special resistors to tell you how much current the charger allows. USB Charging spec shorts D+/D-, offering no clue as to how much you can draw. And it's changed - 500mA, 800mA, 1A and 2A are valid. And devices that draw 2A have been known to explode/set on fire cheap chargers. Why the USB folks couldn't have adopted the Apple system (which is cheap, requires no special hardware (the resistors pull the D+/D- lines to logical 0 and 1 states) to measure or use and lets you mix and match chargers at will, I have no idea. I mean, why can't the charger tell the device it only supports 500mA? (FYI - the circuits to detect a USB charger are the same as Apple resistors - the D+/D- short coupled with "special resistors" inside the device across ground and Vbus means you detect it because the USB lines go a certain way)

        6) Government mandating USB Micro is already limiting - consumers won't get Type C style connectors on their phone. I mean it's good it's standardized, but you really want to harm innovation like this? Of course, you can allow adapters for the Apple folks, and the Type C phone folks as well. (And face it - more phones are coming with Type C nowadays).

        SO no, I'm sure Apple's really worried. Because likely the adapter provision will have to say, or you're going to really deny people the ability to buy phones that have USB Type C?

  • by NotInHere ( 3654617 ) on Sunday December 27, 2015 @05:44PM (#51191657)

    Standards are the basis of a free market, and proprietary "standards" are the basis of proprietary lock-in.

    Governments are given the oversight to ensure that there still is a free market.

    Examples for proprietary "standards" being used for proprietary lock-in:

    -> microsoft office to make interopability with their formats hard

    -> whatsapp's messaging protocol. its basically xmpp, but they still only allow the official client to communicate

    -> printer cartriges, even used to lie to the customer by lowering the price for the printer.

    • Where does it say that the purpose of govt is to regulate the free market? Why would the govt know better than industry which things should be standardized or not? Innovation is a Good Thing, and mandated standards pee on this.

      • Re:why? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Insanity Defense ( 1232008 ) on Sunday December 27, 2015 @06:00PM (#51191769)
        The government must be involved to prevent the formation of monopolies or cartels that remove the "free" from free market.
      • Governments are supposed to look out for the needs of the common good. Industry looks out for the needs of the shareholder.

        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          Governments are supposed to look out for the needs of the common good.

          Supposed to. But they end up looking out for the needs of large contributors to their campaigns and friendly IEOPACs* more often.

          Industry looks out for the needs of the shareholder.

          Then get your behind onto E*Trade and become a shareholder :-p

          * An IEOPAC is an independent-expenditure-only political action committee, sometimes called a "super PAC". Under U.S. election law, an IEOPAC has no donation cap so long as it doesn't donate to or directly coordinate with a candidate's official campaign organization.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dejitaru ( 4258167 )
      Sigh... i'm still waiting for the U.S. to move to the metric system :|
    • by sunderland56 ( 621843 ) on Sunday December 27, 2015 @06:34PM (#51191939)

      Yes. However, there is no world government; so planetary adoption of standards is still hard.

      the success of the standard household 3-prong electrical plug

      Haha. Right. All the proposed regulation does is to make *one* end of the charger a standard. Good luck with the other end. There is no "standard household outlet"; countries can't even agree on what the voltage should be, or the AC frequency, never mind the number of, arrangement, size, and shape of prongs.

      • I agree, its a true mess.

      • Haha. Right. All the proposed regulation does is to make *one* end of the charger a standard. Good luck with the other end. There is no "standard household outlet"; countries can't even agree on what the voltage should be, or the AC frequency, never mind the number of, arrangement, size, and shape of prongs.

        Seems like you could use SSRs and/or actual relays to just support sticking wires into holes and praying, albeit at some expense...

    • by UpnAtom ( 551727 )

      It's a no-brainer if it's done independently and transparently.

      I vaguely trust the EU to do this. Not so much the US.

    • by JSG ( 82708 )

      In the UK the govt mandated electronic document formats are things like PDF, CSV and ODF. https://www.gov.uk/government/... [www.gov.uk]

      I still find it hard to believe, given our, *ahem* questionable approach to standards (we ratified and pushed OOXML forward as an open standard).

  • by Alien7 ( 310889 ) on Sunday December 27, 2015 @05:44PM (#51191659)

    http://www.douglasadams.com/dna/980707-03-a.html

    • by ffkom ( 3519199 )
      That article is pretty old and pretty outdated. As he already mentions in his post-script, the EU issued an "has to be chargeable via USB" regulation, and most airlines operating in the EU have USB power outlets in the front seat even in coach on long-haul flights.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Cut the man some slack, he's been dead almost 14 years, and as far as anyone can tell, not for tax purposes.

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      Thank you for that. I loved it.

  • by NostalgiaForInfinity ( 4001831 ) on Sunday December 27, 2015 @05:56PM (#51191755)

    The EU has mandated USB-style chargers by law for a couple of years now. These regulations do not prohibit proprietary charge connectors, just the ability to charge a phone from USB through an adapter.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    Given technologies like USB-C and various wireless chargers, it's not clear that these regulations really are very meaningful.

  • In this case ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SwashbucklingCowboy ( 727629 ) on Sunday December 27, 2015 @06:01PM (#51191771)

    ... government standardization would be a good thing since the vendors obviously aren't going to do it themselves. Proprietary connectors mostly help the vendors with lock-in due to patents which only helps to pad the balance sheets of those vendors.

  • Jeunism (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Max_W ( 812974 ) on Sunday December 27, 2015 @06:01PM (#51191775)
    The problem with chargers cables is that it seems they are designed by young designers, who have a perfect vision.

    But after fifty years almost everyone experiences a deterioration of vision. It is so simple to make an explicit clear design of a plug, still I am to put on my glasses just to connect a smartphone to a charger.

    It is not only with cables, it's with everything, an iron, a headphones, etc. About everything is designed by young cool people with perfect youthful vision.
    • I, still being young, are able to connect my phone to the charger in the dark, by feeling which side of the usb cable has the little "teeth". I then find out on which side on my smartphone the home button is (also very easy to find out), and then I apply my knowledge that the teeth have to be on the side facing away from the home button.

  • 3: a business secretly owned by and run as a cover for an intelligence organization
  • At this point, the charger standard should really allow for USB Type C or microUSB.

    Regardless, I hope, for their sake, that they actually make manufacturers bundle any required adapters with the phones. Despite all the fancy talk, Apple still only sells lightning to microUSB adapters instead of bundling them with the phones, effectively rendering the standard mostly useless, since everyone was standardizing on microUSB anyway.
    This solution would also be helpful for the microUSB to USB type C transition.

    • by phayes ( 202222 )

      Are you really bitching that there MUST be a law to force Apple to deliver a 25€ adapter? This is the level of minutia that you think that governments need to insert themselves into our lives?

      • Fuck off. Seriously, how on earth can you possibly consider this a bad decision?

        Let's examine your "magic" (everyone knows Apple only does magic) "25€" adapter:
        - It does not cost 25€ to produce
        - The BoM is minimal: Plastic shell, PCB-mount lightning plug, PCB-mount microUSB receptacle, itty-bitty PCB and authentication chip. We're talking sub-1€ BoM.
        - The BoM is entirely Apple's doing: If they didn't force all cables to have the stupid chip, they could reduce the BoM even further.
        - It could b

      • Are you really bitching that there MUST be a law to force Apple to deliver a 25â adapter?

        Deliver, no. Make their phones compatible with micro-USB chargers, yes. Governments impose regulations and pass laws requiring standards compliance on products all the time. Especially in the EU, where there are laws which do such things as force standard sizes for foods (for example, in the UK, manufacturers were forced to sell products in sizes that were round numbers in grams and not just conversions from t

  • As long as the law does not also forbid to bundle chargers with phones, also demanding that the phone+charger price has to be higher than the phone-only price, not much is gained.

    Sure, people might save some money on secondary chargers, but I don't know many people who ever bought such.

    Ah, and BTW, the fixed, proprietary, non-user replaceable batteries are even more of a problem than the chargers, as they allow manufacturers to limit the lifetime of their phones easily, if only by asking unreasonable pr

  • We're going to standardize on a standard which is itself obsolete and was replaced by a new standard, which we will surely standardize on as soon as another standard replaces it.

    (Technically, micro-USB is two generations out of date, but only if you count the abomination that is USB 3.0 micro-B)

  • by Bearhouse ( 1034238 ) on Sunday December 27, 2015 @06:18PM (#51191867)

    On the one hand, I have drawers full of old phones and chargers...so I reckon standards are good.
    On the other, my kids (and to a lesser extent I) enjoyed the extended functionality that iPhone sockets brought to (cheap, non-Apple) peripherals like bedside alarms, autonomous amp/speakers in the bathroom or by the pool, replacement car stereos...access to contacts, charging, music and all without Apple or Android "car OS" bullshit. And no, bluetooth alternatives for non-Apple devices do not count...only recently have they become remotely equivalent in reliability of connection, integration and ease of use.
    The cheapo Chinese iThings mostly "Just Worked"...(OK, albeit with hilariously poor and inconsistent interfaces)
    Well, up to iPhone 4s anyway.

    All that came to a grinding halt with later iPhones / iOS.
    Since my kids and cats routinely lose, loan, or just simply destroy chargers and cables, I have a bunch of hard-wired armoured micro-USB cables all around the house, the garden, the cars etc.
    Fine for me and the wife with Android 'phones; for kids and visitors a small "tip" that converted the mini-USB to Lightening was attached with a steel flying wire near the end, (fishing line header, if you're interested...)
    Neat little thing, bought for cheap. Worked fine.
    Until an "update" rendered them useless...

    Fuck you Apple.

    Oh, and don't get me started on how later iOS updates rendered the user interface LESS usable.

    Fuck you again, boys, and BTW fuck iTunes while we're at it.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to mow the lawn.
     

  • The article claims that apple is going to lose. This is wrong: it will be the apple fan boys who will have to shell out for an overly expensive bit of wire. Still: probably a small fraction of what they have already paid in over priced kit.

  • by CharlieG ( 34950 ) on Sunday December 27, 2015 @06:32PM (#51191925) Homepage

    USB-C is a way better connector - No schrodinger's cat problem where the ports direction isn't determined until you try it the first time, so it always takes 3 tries. Aupports higher power etc - just a way better standard than Micro B

    • I think USB-C is a more likely standard to be adopted. Many manufacturers, including Apple, already seem to be moving to this anyway. Besides, it will handle more current making it usable for laptops as well.
      • USB-C is the best current option as in 3.1's power delivery 2.0. Mind you it needs a data condom to be safe since you have digital interface to negotiate power delivery. In any event anything required by law should not require any licensing etc.

  • by kybred ( 795293 ) on Sunday December 27, 2015 @06:43PM (#51191983)

    Does it work in Europe?
    IBM UBA [youtube.com]

  • Switzerland is a tiny country that isn't part of the EU. So it can do what it likes, and the rest of us can totally ignore it.

    I doubt if Apple or anyone else is likely to care about this. Even if it became a worldwide standard, a USBLightning charging cable is no problem, and I don't think the cable itself has any DRM - I can buy a generic branded one in my local tech store for a few bucks.
  • Oh come on! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wbean ( 222522 ) on Sunday December 27, 2015 @08:01PM (#51192299)
    Don't you remember all the different chargers? I love being able to use any micro USB charger with any phone or camera. No more digging around to find the proprietary charger that I may have labelled to identify the device that it works with. It may pay the individual companies to design their own proprietary chargers and still be better for the consumer for the government to insist on a single design standard. The "free market" isn't some wonder drug.
  • It's a de-facto standard, to be sure. On my desk at the moment, I have Bluetooth speaker; bluetooth keyboard, a small "dye-sub" printer, a bluetooth mouse, my phone, a PS Vita, an NVIDIA shield tablet, the game controller for the tablet, and a charger for my camera's batteries. All of these devices are powered/charged by micro-usb. For the past several years, I have been trying to avoid devices that do not allow charging via micro-usb. I made an exception recently for a Pebble smartwatch - the "other" end o

  • They could have legislated that all phones must use an 80pin SCSI connector!

    As much as I hate Apple's proprietariness I also hate the idea that we'd be stuck at micro USB. Not that I want smaller but I want faster connections or wireless or other solution so be available.
       

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