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One smartphone charger to rule them all -- in Europe, anyway

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Thanks to manufacturers such as Apple and Nokia who insist on using proprietary charging pins, we've had to carry around multiple charging cables and adapters for our hodgepodge of devices. The European Parliament has had enough, announcing a new ruling that may make all device makers conform to the same charging standard.

Aiming to reduce electronic waste, the new rule would give the European Commission the "possibility to require that mobile phones and other portable devices are compatible with a common charger." It will also require that radio receivers reach a minimum level of performance to make more efficient use of radio spectrum.

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According to a press release from the European Commission, the new rules include "clear obligations for manufacturers, importers and distributors." It isn't clear how the commission intends to enforce the ruling and what penalties might befall offending manufacturers.

Apple devices have traditionally used a proprietary charging port and cable, while other devices have moved toward a common microUSB port. The iPhone maker's own cable not only supports bi-directional charging (as opposed to just one-way charging on a microUSB cable), it can also support two-way file transfer when paired with stereo docks or card readers.

Whether this means companies such as Apple will develop Europe-only versions of popular devices, create European adapters or use the new charger standard across all its devices altogether is not clear yet. We expect manufacturers will not shun the new standards since Europe is a significant market, and look forward to the day we can have a universal charger for all our devices.