Europe, unplugged

As if there weren’t anymore pressing topics to tackle, the representative in Brussels/Strasbourg have finally made a breakthrough in…. phone charge cable standards.

Yes, indeed! With a timeframe of 4 years, the EU thinks it proper to not only decide on a common standard for charger connectors, but it also thinks it best to enforce this, making it mandatory on… phones. Not tables, laptops or other portable electronic devices, just phones.

This means that the EU will make it illegal for companies to sell a phone that does not have a micro-USB charging port. Why you may ask? Well, the answer to that probably is a cocktail of the following :

– The inability some EU members have to actually work on real world problems, not first world problems.

– Symbolic nonsense that should signal that the EU parliament is actually doing something at all.

– Frustration by said MP’s who, being addicted to their swipe-tile, can get a temper tantrum when their battery dies without a compatible charger in sight.

That is really it. There is no other reason that makes sense why this anti-free market nonsense is to be forced upon companies. There is a notion that, somehow, this will be more environmentally friendly, which is a load of bullshit and the idea that this specific interface should be universal is even more deluded.

Why various connectors exist

ConnectorsAsking this question is like asking why your HDMI can’t plug into your USB or miniDVI port. It’s simply because various connectors have various applications and set goals with which they are designed. Elements like current requirements, data channels, production cost, operation environment and longevity all impact on an interface’s design. Allowing only mirco-USB as a connector will make it impossible to fully explore all possible attributes.

Enforcing the the micro-USB form-factor as a obligatory standard will create a backwards compatibility hell you can’t imagine. The connector should be able to A. work with a charger from the future and B. support data transmission protocols from the future and C. in the future it should be backwards compatible, at least, with chargers. This will probably up the costs of adapters and adapter accessories, resulting is people opting for knock-off chargers and cables, breaking more devices and adding to the body of electro-trash even more.

If it were logical to go with a single interface standard for power as well as data, why don’t you think the industry has provided us with it? A set of identical ports alongside your laptop that can take the power adapter, data connections, hybrids, video, analogue ins and outs, the lot!

The environment

This is the biggest pile of shit I have ever heard (while arguing about power adapters). There is no possible way in which a universal charger connector will help the evironment. The reason for this is simple. Most cheap chargers are inefficient and most bundled chargers are optimized for the accompanying device. It is bad enough that with the proper XYZ-cable to USB you can charge anything on any USB wall mounted charger, but encouraging this through litigating the form-factor of the phone connector is insane.

The net loss of energy by randomly using various chargers for phones will probably outweigh the environmental impact by a factor of many when compared to the e-waste the chargers produce when finally discarded.

What is the problem?

Is the right question to ask. Lets be fair, if you pack your proprietary-connector-to-usb-cable for any phone at this moment, you can simply charge your device from any USB socket, be it a wall-socket or a USB port on a computer. All you need is you cable and these can be found for twopence from third party manufacturers. It may not be the most efficient, but it simply works. The only reason you are stuck up on shit-creek without a full battery can be because you are to stupid to take with you a cable/charger. On top of that, why should legislations be in place for people to be able to leech of somebody else’s peripherals. You forgot yours, you lazy shit!

How can it be that the EU thinks that people should be protected from their own complacent laziness and empty-headedness to the degree that refusing to bring at least one fucking cable requires legislation to be less of a nuisance?

Apple

The most ironic thing is that the one company who has been rather spectacular in unified interfaces is mentioned most in this debacle. Forget Nokia who practically reinvent the power-plug with every new phone, Apple has been quite remarkable when it comes to common interfaces the last 15 years or so. The 30-pin connector, which began as Firewire and transmogrified into USB later has seen a decade of action on phones, iPod and iPads, making all USB devices charging capabilities uniform across the board. Now replaced by the Lightning connector, again the entire line of products is uniform and with small brick adapters easily connected to older 30-pin peripherals. The MagSafe connector has just reached it’s version 2.0, still being backwards compatible with an adapter for older power supplies. But in essence ALL macbook laptops with intel processors can swap out power-bricks to a large extent.Lighting-Connector-vs.-30-Pin-Dock-Connector-Size-comparison

There would not be a problem if other companies like Samsung and Nokia would simple develop their own universal connector and stick with it. But due to their schizophrenic approach regarding connectors this is somehow perceived as a problem for which companies who have more rigorous design and interoperability standards could be punished.

Micro-USB

mini-micro-usb-connectorThere are several reasons not to use this standards as a phone connector. The first is that It’s not guaranteed to remain the same. In fact several Micro-USB standards exist for different USB standards alone. When the current standard fails to keep up with future requirements, expect a change in form-factor, rendering everything that came before as incompatible or less efficient. What is worst? Simply to be honest and explain why sometimes stuff can’t interconnect anymore? Or create the illusion that it shall for ever be compatible, which  is a lie?

Various connectorsBloody hell, that thing is ugly! Micro-USB Isn’t the prettiest connector around and while this may not be of much concern for many manufacturers and even more tasteless costumers, It would be wrong to force designers to implement a trivial ugly connector just because some dumb suit in Brussels forgot his charger cable again. And that just Mmicro-USB 2, take a look at Micro-USB 3! What a whale, If electronic components would affect my appetite, this connector would make me throw up. For the life of me, I can’t see this wart-like thing being implemented on even medium range devices, let alone high-end ones.

Choice

In the end, it boils down to choice. If you buy cheap stuff, you probably need hard to find proprietary cables if you want a new one. Your old cables will probably be useless and you adapters will be useless or highly inefficient. If you bought a device that simply chargers via  XYZ to USB, then you have probably bought a slightly more expensive device that you can charge anywhere, provided you bring your cable or have another cable at that location. How you want your connector to operate, look, be compatible with other products and so on are all decisions that differ per product. To imagine that one solution will fit all is ridiculous.

Why stop here?

Really, why only legislate the form-factor of the connector? What to think of the dreadful awkwardness when you use somebody else’s phone or tablet? IOS users and Android users could get confused! I say legislate Apple, Google and Samsung in such a way that their products look, feel and work completely the same. Same icons, same motions, same interface, everything!

Conclusion

I don’t think it’s the job of the EU parliament to hamper future innovation by tech-companies due to a minor first world inconvenience they experience at this moment, mostly due to themselves. This form of arbitrary nonsense legislation is a farce and only serves as a placeholder while important items are ignored and swiped of the EU table. If a company felt that a cock-shaped power-plug was the way to go, then all the more power to them.

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