Back in February, the GSM Association announced an agreed universal phone charger standard. Now the European Union has signed a bunch of manufacturers up to the same standard, with one surprising adherent: Apple.
When the GSMA announced its choice of microUSB as a universal charger standard, we questioned how sensible it was. While undoubtedly being convenient for phone users, we wondered exactly how it would impact smartphone design—these phones typically send much more than simple data over a serial connection, and will probably have to have more than one connector port after the switch to microUSB charging. Chief among these devices is the iPhone, with its 30-pin connector being effectively an industry standard thanks to the wild success of the iPod and then the iPhone.
The latest iPhone firmware allows for greater two-way information sharing with dongles and docked hardware—Apple demonstrated a number of uses during the 3G S's launch event—which means the dock connector is becoming even more important. Does Apple's acceptance of the new standard mean it'll switch to USB-only connectors? While it would simplify the phone's design somewhat, it'll enrage a whole bunch of people with dock-connector hardware. That's why I suspect Apple will stick two ports on the next iPhone (and presumably iPods too) when it comes time to include microUSB.
And that'll mean two cables in the box, which waters down the effect of having a universal charger standard to reduce the device's environmental impact. RIM's joined the agreement too, but has used miniUSB as a charging/data connection for a while—and, irritatingly, as a connector for headphones—so it's not much of a change for that company. The agreement is due to take effect next year. We predict sales of microUSB adapter plugs to skyrocket immediately afterwards.