The GSM Association announced the creation of a universal cell phone charger that will function with most mobile phones by 2012. The technology is based on the popular micro-USB interface. Not-so-curiously absent from the announcement was Apple and its hugely popular iPhone, which sports a unique charging mechanism. So what gives? Will Apple kill the universal charger?
It's not likely, but Apple's reluctance to alter the design of the iPhone to conform to industry standards may impact the charger's practicality and popularity.
As of January, the iPhone absorbed about 1.1 percent of the smart phone market share. Seems like small numbers now, but it's apparent that Apple isn't slowing down. With reports of iPhone Nanos in the works (despite some vehement claims against them) and the company's tendency to update products and expand product lines every six months, it's safe to assume that in the future, Apple may have more than just one phone, and the iPhone may become available on carriers other than AT&T.
Expanding the horizons of the iPhone puts the device in more people's hands, and limits the usefulness of a universal charger. Those who aren't looking to drop top dollar on a fancy smart phone may see this as not impacting them, and they may be right: but what about when Apple releases a small, inexpensive flip-phone?
Cupertino aside, the ever-changing nature of technology itself is another sure-fire reason the universal charger won't fly. Sure, the micro-USB port is prominent right now, but what about when a better tech is invented? What about solar-powered cell phones? These universal chargers that seemed so useful yesterday add to the compost heap tomorrow.
The universal charger is an ambitious idea, but perhaps five or six years too late.