Universal Cell Phone Charger Coming Soon...At Some Point...In the Maybe-Not-Distant Future...

outdated cell phone charging station with large wires and plugs

Migrated Image / Karl Baron / Flickr

A common complaint about cell phones is that there is no universal charger option. If you don't have the one that works specifically for your phone, well, you're just out of luck when your battery dies. It's not only a hassle for cell phone owners, but it's a huge problem for e-waste as the chargers become useless when the corresponding cell phones are tossed aside for newer models.

But progress toward a more environmentally responsible (and plain common sense) solution for a universal charger that works will all phones continues. We are very close to seeing it finally arrive. Well, depending on your definition of "close" and depending on where you live.

Back in 2009, we reported that the European Union was pushing hard for requiring cell phone manufacturers to design their phones around a common charger. In fact, in October of 2009, a universal charger design was approved for manufacturers to start adopting. But it's still up to manufacturers to take advantage of the opportunity to make both consumers and the planet happier.

Now, Live Science exuberantly reports that the "end of cell phone chargers is near." Well, sort of. Last year the European Commission approved a universal micro-USB charger, and signed on 10 major mobile operators and manufacturers, including Apple, Motorola, and Samsung among others. Starting next year, most cell phones in Europe will use micro-USB connectors, helping to reduce the estimated 56,000 tons of duplicate chargers sold each year.

This same progress with micro-USB connectors is moving forward in the US as well, but we'll be waiting quite a bit longer than Europeans. There are no regulators pushing the issue, and so it is up to manufacturers to make the switch. Unfortunately, they also make money selling all those different chargers.

Wired writes, "Ultimately, economics will force handset makers in the U.S. to change, say industry experts. As companies move to a universal charger in Europe, they will bring the same connectors to U.S. models."

"For the FCC, this is probably number 5,000 on their list and it is legislative priority number 10,000 at this point," says Joe Banos, the chief operating officer for Wilson Electronics, which makes cellphone boosters and antennas. "We believe the U.S. will ultimately follow Europe here, but the question is when."