Around the turn of the century (and for a few years following), the mobile phone industry exploded. It seemed like every month there was a new company designing and manufacturing a new cell phone. Nokia, Sony, Siemens, Ericsson, Motorola, Kyocera, LG, Sharp, and on and on. Every company was striving to put something new and cool on the market and every month there were so many new phones coming out that supporting them all with software was basically impossible. “Back in the day” it was hectic and you had new phones arriving weekly (or boxes full of new phones each month). Organising the phones became a real challenge. The phone, the battery, the power cord… sometimes a cord to connect to the computer, it was a mess.
Making things worse, virtually every manufacturer had different specifications for the cords. Whether it was the power requirements or the connectors to the phone, sometimes even phones from the same manufacturer had different power cords! You can imagine the craziness that ensued as people tried to match up cords (from the big-box-o’-cords) to phones (from the big-draw-o’-phones). Heaven forbid you lose a cord as finding somewhere to buy a replacement was often as challenging as finding the cord itself.
Today, the market has consolidated a lot and within a manufacturer’s stable of devices, they generally try to be consistent with cord selection. All iOS devices share a connection type, BlackBerries have charged via USB for a long time (though they’ve moved through a few different mini/micro USB plug styles), Nokia phones generally have the same power adapters, etc. If you’ve ever run out of power with an iPhone or BlackBerry, you’ve probably found that finding someone with a cable to use or finding a cable in a local store was pretty easy — and no worrying about US plugs vs. UK plugs vs. whatever-that-other-funky-plug-type-is, as one end of the cord plugs into a standard USB port found on computers around the world. In fact, even the power-to-USB adapters that come with iOS and BlackBerry devices are interchangeable.
It’s just logical to not waste time and effort making custom power adapters that only work with your specific device — that just frustrates consumers when they can’t charge their device if they don’t carry their cord with them.
Why can’t the same principle apply to devices communicating with each other? Let’s take Internet Tethering as an example. 74% of tablet buyers also have a smartphone. Since most people carry their phone with them, they’ll have their phone on them when they are using their tablet somewhere where WiFi is not available (or else the additional burden for having to carry it is not high). If internet tethering support was ubiquitous (excepting the fact that carriers charge extra for it) across devices and tablets, the need for 3G and 4G support in tablets would drop significantly — Bluetooth and WiFi would be all that would be needed to ensure a data connection.
Let’s take that a step further, since Bluetooth is a well supported standard and Bluetooth chips are in basically every mobile device sold now, why can’t the industry support a common tethering standard that would allow ANY two devices to connect and share whichever internet connection was available. The technology exists, it’s just software supported not even a hardware change.
Manufacturers need to either stop being so possessive about interacting with only their ecosystem and support a common tethering protocol and a common basic cord for charging. USB plugs (and the small adapters for the wall) are a huge improvement over the big power bricks common on some devices but they need to be the standard way for charging to happen. I will never recommend a device to anyone now that does not support USB charging and I hope that the time is near when I will have the same response about devices that do not support a common tethering protocol.
- Universal “Wireless” Charging (lockergnome.com)
- Is a Universal Phone Charger Standard Around the Corner? (triplepundit.com)
- How Can I Tether BlackBerry to Xbox 360? (jakeludington.com)
- Nokia Phone Charger Works While You Ride Your Bicycle (slashgear.com)
- TetherMe: Enable Personal Hotspot For Only $0.99 (cultofmac.com)
- Bluetooth Internet Tethering (stusshed.wordpress.com)