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O2 Pioneers Move Away From Mobile Phone Chargers

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Smartphones may be more power-efficient than ever, but we all need a way to recharge the batteries in our devices. Until recently, the only charging method available was the wall wart: that chunky plastic plug that ships with all new smartphones and tablets. As tech is upgraded, binned, recycled or re-sold, many devices inevitably become divorced from their chargers; these bulky, useless plugs then sit in kitchen drawers, clutter up attics and inevitably end up in landfill.

However, there is one exception to the rule. Amazon’s latest Kindle e-reader doesn’t have a charger – it comes with a USB charging cable and no mains power plug. Despite some complaints from surprised Amazon customers, most people seem comfortable charging devices via USB – so comfortable that Amazon can confidently sell the wall charger as an optional accessory costing 25 per cent of the cost of the device itself.
Perhaps Amazon’s move inspired O2’s latest commitment to eco-friendly, responsible tech. The company has announced that it will do away with mains chargers completely by 2015. Its decision ties in nicely with a willingness in the industry to move towards a standardised charging socket, although the companies initially committed to that standard charger – including AppleNokia and Samsung - have never managed to settle on a shared adapter that suited them all, even after three years of discussion.
It was time for networks to go back to basics and re-examine the humble USB socket as a potential starting for standardized charging. In 2012, O2 experimented with selling one of its premium Android handsets, the HTC One X, without a mains plug. Customers could still buy one if they wished, but the phone itself was shipped with a micro USB cable as its only power connection. The mobile network expected 70 per cent of buyers to accept the change and do without a separate mains adapter; in fact, the figure was closer to 82 per cent.


This is a clever solution, because the standardized part of the cable is the USB plug on the end – not the plug that connects to the phone or tablet. As such, all manufacturers can work with it, and there’s no need for them to wait to come to a consensus on a standard charging port.


In 2015, O2 hopes to do away with chargers altogether. Instead, phones will be powered via USB, which serves as a universal charger connection. Companies will sell standalone mains plugs with USB sockets on the back. In the process, they will cut down on storage and transport costs, reduce waste and re-train us to be more resourceful in the way we power our devices. To make a real impact, other networks and manufacturers need to learn from O2 and HTC’s example and take more risks with the way their devices are packaged and sold.


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