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ITU to Europe: One charger for all mobes good. One to rule them ALL? Better

Wants to extend micro USB spec to all 'leccy gizmos

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The EU is about to make micro USB charging mandatory on mobile phones, but the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is pushing to extend that regulation to everything handheld, making all electronic gadgets chargeable from the same cable.

The EU regulation in question is the amended Radio Equipment Directive, which will require all radio devices to feature a microUSB socket.

The ITU's equivalent, which delights in the catchy moniker of ITU-T L.1000, requires that all manner of devices conform to the micro USB form factor for charging, as well as mandating that chargers switch into “low gear” when unloaded and have a detachable cable so they can be used to charge other devices; requirements well beyond what the EU is currently planning.

Standardised charging is already making life easier for those of us with multiple gadgets, or even just one gadget which needs to be kept charged. With USB sockets proliferating in trains, aeroplanes and cars it's already got a lot easier to keep one's phone topped up. The ITU's proposal extends that to include MP3 players, tablet computers, cameras, wireless headphones and GPS devices, not to mention cordless phones as well as those using cellular connectivity.

The ITU also reckons an unloaded power adapter (one with nothing plugged in) should consume no more than 0.15w, so we can ignore the flashing reminders to unplug our chargers after disconnecting them.

But the risk is making standards which won't be enforced, or, worse, will be mired in complaints from manufacturers who are more than capable of filibustering any amendments to existing laws out of, er, existence.

The adoption of micro USB has been widely supported, with even Apple conceding that standards can be helpful – even if Cupertino reneged on its commitment to embed a socket and went for a converter instead.

But amending the EU's already-amended directive at this stage could be a step too far for a policy which is genuinely benefiting manufacturers, consumers and the environment. There aren't many laws which can make that claim. ®

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