Some mobile chargers to become widely compatible

Get a new mobile phone — and toss yet another old, incompatible phone charger.

The GSMA mobile phone industry association promises to make that wasteful practice a thing of the past.

The group on Tuesday announced an agreement among 17 mobile phone operators and major handset makers to standardize chargers by 2012 for most cellphones shipped.

That means no matter what brand of phone you buy, the chargers should be interchangeable, making it possible to charge a phone from any available charger even if you leave yours at home.

And you could use the same charger for future handsets.

The GSMA calculates a reduction in greenhouse gases from manufacturing and transporting replacement chargers of 13.6 to 21.8 million tons a year. Cast-off chargers currently generate more than 51,000 tons of waste a year, it says.

"The mobile industry has a pivotal role to play in tackling environmental issues and this program is an important step that could lead to huge savings in resources, not to mention convenience for consumers," said Rob Conway, CEO and member of the board of the GSMA.

The initial group of companies that have joined the initiative include 3 Group, AT&T, KTF, LG, mobilkom austria, Motorola, Nokia, Orange, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telenor, Telstra, T-Mobile and Vodafone.

The new standardized chargers would have a shared USB interface and also meet higher energy efficiency targets, with up to 50% energy savings.

Marco Caputo, an Italian member of the European parliament, welcomes such an agreement — but he says to make it effective it must become obligatory and not voluntary — and it must happen right away.

He cited a French study that says that every 20 months, between 48 million and 51 million cellphone chargers become obsolete.

Caputo himself has three or four unused chargers at home.

"But I am not damaging the environment, because I just hold on to them and haven't thrown them away," he said.

But the issue is not just the waste. Chargers can be "power vampires," and should not be left in the wall when they aren't juicing up your mobile. Nokia has recently come out with phones that beep when they are charged, as a reminder to unplug the charger.

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