Europe Solves Cell Phone Charger Problem

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The European Union has reached an agreement with all major mobile phone manufacturers to produce a common phone charger. Apart from reducing the frustration of customers juggling incompatible chargers, proponents say the agreement will encourage recycling and reduce electronic waste.


And here is a situation you surely know: your cell phone is running out of juice, you've left your charger at home, you're expecting a crucial call, and no one in the office has a charger that fits your phone. In Europe, that soon won't be a problem. As NPR's Rob Gifford reports.

ROB GIFFORD: The European Union has managed to persuade the world's top 10 major mobile phone manufacturers to agree to produce one cell phone charger for users right across Europe in the shape of a standard micro USB socket. At the moment there are more than 30 different types of chargers for phones across the continent. So standardizing them will cut down on a huge amount of waste. European commissioner for enterprise and industry Günter Vanheugen said that the EU is for now focusing on cell phones, but wants eventually to standardize plug-ins for everything.

Mr. GÜNTER VANHEUGEN (European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry): What I want to achieve in the foreseeable future that you would need for all your equipment that you have in your personal use, that you can use the same charging device.

GIFFORD: Creating one charging device for laptops and cameras as well may not be that simple because they require more power to charge. Still, observers say it's a good start. While the universal chargers will for now only be compatible with European phones. Bridget Cosgrave, head of the trade association Digital Europe, which represents the European Telecom Industry, hopes other countries will follow Europe's lead just as they did by using GSM's standard cell phone technology.

Ms. BRIDGET COSGRAVE (Digital Europe): We have seen with the GSM standard the tremendous success of Europe leading the world in mobile phone technology. And we are optimistic that this standard could be adopted in other geographies.

GIFFORD: Whether other geographies - the United States, for instance - want to follow suit remains to be seen. Meanwhile perhaps someone's working on how to standardize the other end of the charger to make wall plug-ins around the world more compatible. Or how about that whole car steering wheel on the left or the right thing?

Rob Gifford, NPR News, London.

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