“One for all” chargers are the new way to go

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USB-C ports to become a common charging standard for electronic devices

For the longest time, different brands have been coming up with accessories that make their devices stand out. This covers everything-the speakers, the earphones, the screen type, or even a charger. Chargers, especially, are something that dictates consumer choice the most. Companies provide different types of chargers for different devices, which often leaves us with a bunch of tangled wires and the worry of having to store them all safely. Furthermore, e-waste is a budding threat to the environment. Replacing such charger cords every now and then only contributes more to it.

As a part of a wider effort to make the consumer electronics sector more sustainable and cut down on e-waste, the European Union recently directed manufacturers to come up with a single charger type that could be used for all smartphones and other portable electronic devices. Following the suit, the Indian government is also expected to adopt USB-C as the standard charging port for gadgets like smartphones, tablets, and cameras.

What are USB-C cables?

USB-C (or C-type cords) are the most recent and fastest types of connectors used for transferring both data and power using a single cable. These USB-C cables have been seen to be gaining popularity among consumer electronics manufacturers lately, and are expected to be the international standard for single cable mandate by the end of 2024.

The primary objective of such a move is to provide a standard or universal charger, in this case, the USB-C, that will enable users to use the same charger to charge the majority of their devices, regardless of the brand.

How is USB-C better?

Just like other USB wires, USB-C is designed to perform two main functions: transferring data and delivering power to electronic devices. A standard USB-C cable can transfer data at a speed of 20 GB/s. It also supports high power transfer, which makes it compatible with providing energy to high-powered devices like laptops, monitors, TV screens, etc. These cables also support relatively larger charging currents, ranging from 3A to 5A depending on the device, and support reverse charging as well.

The charging port of a USB-C cable has a flat round shape, unlike the usual micro-USB, which has a ladder-shaped design. This makes it support reverse insertion, which also lessens the possibility of charger ports getting damaged easily.

While this mandate could eliminate a significant problem we face on a regular basis—the need for and carrying of many chargers—if executed well, it will contribute to reducing e-waste problems on a broader scale.

E-waste is a growing matter of concern around the world now. According to a report, in just five years, the amount of e-waste generated globally will increase by 21% from what it is now. This will bring it to an approximate average of 7.3 kg of e-waste per capita. Moreover, when broken or unwanted electronics are dumped in a landfill, toxic substances like lead and mercury can leach into soil and water. It also wastes certain non-renewable resources like gold and silver that are sometimes used in electronic devices.

In order to decrease the quantity of unused and undesired chargers, these mandates can also suggest chargers be “unbundled” from the devices when being sold since most of them can be used to charge multiple devices.

How will the mandate affect the market?

If there are advantages to universal chargers, there are disadvantages in the form of transitional expenses and initial waste collection as well. Electronics giants, especially Apple, would be impacted by this decision despite the fact that many mobile phone manufacturers have turned to USB-C charging connections. Apple uses a different and pricier charging cord called the “Lightning” cable for its devices. Compared to Lightning connectors, USB-C chargers are bigger, but they charge and transfer data more efficiently. To detect and address potential problems that could occur from the unification of charging alternatives, an impact study would help to enable a successful and efficient transformation without slowing technological advancement.

Conclusion

With a correct implementation strategy, the gains of “one for all” chargers are clear. Logistically, the mandate might take a while to be fully implemented for all the devices as it must take into account grouping electronic gadgets according to their power requirements. But starting with a small step of making this possible, at least in smartphones, can lead us to a path where it is a factor of convenience for consumer electronics users and the e-waste caused by it isn’t a growing danger on our planet.

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