Apple agrees to produce standard phone charger in Europe

Apple’s stance on standards has always been a little conflicted. Sometimes, the company is happy enough to pimp standard technologies, like AAC for audio, H.264 for video, or Safari’s Acid3 results. Other times, it seems fiercely committed to its own brand of special sauce. Now Apple, along with nine other mobile phone manufacturers, has agreed to create a standard charging interface for phones in the European Union, as proposed by the European Commission.

Starting next year, phones from Apple and vendors such as Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, RIM, and more will begin sporting a standard phone charger based on the micro-USB connector. The goal is to help consumers, who often end up with a surfeit of outmoded and useless chargers, as well as aiding the environment by reducing the number of obsolete adapters that get thrown away. If all goes as planned, customers will eventually be able to continue using their existing power adapters when they buy new phones.

There are some catches, however. For one, the standard applies only to data-capable phones, such as the iPhone, BlackBerry, and Palm Pre. And while the chargers will be included with the phones at first, they will not be available on their own until later on. Pricing of the adapters has not yet been determined.

What makes this particularly interesting for Apple is how this affects the iPhone’s current hardware situation. The iPod and iPhone dock-connector port, through which the iPhone can not only get power but transmit and receive data, audio, and video, is one of the major bastions of Apple’s proprietary model. The company charges vendors to license the connector for compatible products. And, by all accounts, that’s a serious business for Apple.

Will Apple replace the dock-connector port entirely? Will it provide a second port for power alone? Presumably a dock-connector to mini-USB adapter would fit within the letter, if not the spirit, of the law. And, while this arrangement only covers Europe, given Apple’s history of creating one model of iPhone for the entire world, this decision could very well affect iPhones in the U.S. and elsewhere.

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