At the end of January 2011, the International Electrotechnical Comission (IEC) standard IEC 62684 has been accepted by National Committees participating in IEC Technical Committee (TC) 100 as the international standard for universal smartphone chargers. Continuing the work of European standardization bodies CENELEC1 and ETSI2, the new IEC standard not only opens the universal smartphone charger to the entire world, but could also trigger similar initiatives for other types of devices.
EU Leads the Way to Smartphone Charger Un-consumption Starting from a European Commission initiative, fourteen major mobile phone manufacturers signed a Memorandum of Understanding aimed at harmonizing chargers for data-enabled mobile phones in 2008. With the publication of the relevant European standard at the end of 2010, manufacturers were able to perform the necessary charger design changes and tests to ensure charger safety and inter-operability with other smartphones sold in the EU. The standard defines the connector (micro-USB), plug, safety, inter-operability and sustainability parameters, but it also allows for compromises, as manufacturers can use proprietary plugs if they include a universal adaptor.
The environmental benefits are obvious. Lower GHG emissions will result from reductions in charger production as manufacturers gradually start to offer chargers as an optional accessory. According to the GSM Association3, this will result in eliminating approx. 51,000 tons of redundant chargers from being manufactured every year. This in turn leads to a decrease in resources used for packaging smartphone chargers, the amount of waste created and the amount of resources spent on recycling obsolete chargers.
Similarly, cost benefits will be gradually felt both by consumers and manufacturers. European consumers will avoid paying for a charger when upgrading their smartphones while manufacturers will spend fewer resources both on designing charger solutions, and on producing and shipping charging units.
The rate at which the benefits brought by the universal smartphone charger will be felt throughout the European Union will depend both on manufacturer’s distribution strategies, as well as on the market’s behavior - the frequency with which consumers replace their old mobile phones.
A Sign of Things to Come?
The publication of IEC 62684 is meant to introduce the universal smartphone charger solution globally. Moreover, the successful implementation of the standard is expected to lead, in a first stage, to the development of a universal charger standard for a wider range of mobile handsets.
At a later stage a harmonized charging solution may emerge to cover a wider range of portable multimedia devices that have a similar battery capacity which includes: GPS devices, music players, digital cameras, gaming consoles, etc.
Harmonized charging solutions will also allow more manufacturers to address and solve the issue of electrical consumption of chargers in no-load modes for a wider range of devices.
A universal charging could also become necessary for the newest class of mobile devices - tablet computers. With an impressive annual growth rate and an increasing number of manufacturers entering the competition, the tablets market might soon be faced with the same questions regarding chargers.
Through its global network of accredited wireless testing labs, SGS can support your designing and testing of mobile handsets and accessories, to comply with the standards and regulations of the markets you target.
1 CENELEC - European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization 2 ETSI - European Telecommunications Standards Institute 3 GSMA - UCS benefits
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