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Monday, June 29, 2009, 07:00 am PT (10:00 am ET)

Apple, other phone makers agree on standard charger for Europe

Apple is among a list of top handset makers who have agreed to support a European Union-backed initiative on standardizing phone chargers across the continent, which should benefit both consumers and the environment.

More specifically, the deal will see companies including Apple, Nokia and Research in Motion, develop handsets that can be charged by a standard micro-USB socket, ensuring that each phone is compatible with a standard type of phone charger.

The move aims to cut back on the thousands of tons of waste that results from discarded phone accessories in Europe each year, according to EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen. "People will not have to throw away their charger whenever they buy a new phone," he said.

In addition to the environmental benefits, the initiative should also lead to cost savings for companies and end-users down the line. That's because phone makers have also agreed to stop including chargers with their new handsets in Europe once the new micro-USB chargers become commonplace. Anyone who needs a new charger after this time will be able to purchase it separately.

The agreement, which applies only to data-enabled smartphones at this time, appears to support a broader initiative by the GSM Association to develop a universal micro-USB charging solution that would appear by January 1, 2012.

The GSMA says these chargers would boast a 4-star or higher efficiency rating in order to be three times more energy-efficient than an unrated charger and consume 50% less stand-by energy. It estimates that greenhouse gas will be reduced by 13.6 - 21.8 million metric tons as the replacement rate for existing chargers decreases.

In total, this week's agreement was signed by 10 companies, who combine to represent 90% of the European phone market. Other adopters include Motorola, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Texas Instruments.

Given that the Dock Connector has long been Apple's standard on iPods and iPhones, and is now also vital to the iPhone 3.0 third-party accessories strategy, the company is likely to comply with the initiative by including a micro-USB adapter with iPhones sold in Europe.