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Micro USB will be phone charger standard by end of 2011

The living nightmare that is being surrounded by Nokia users when your BlackBerry is running out of battery is finally to be resolved thanks to new standards published by the European Commision.

We've all been there: you're at your friend's place and your BlackBerry runs out of juice. For some unfathomable reason, your friend hasn't read our extensive coverage of mobile phones and still exclusively uses his geriatric Nokia 3210. How on Earth are you going to get your handset charged?

The European Commission has now agreed with 14 major mobile firms -- including Apple, RIM, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson -- that a new standard charger, based on the micro-USB model, will be rolled out by the end of 2011. Three European cheers!

The European Commission decided enough was enough back in 2009 and this very real threat to our comfortable lives was to be abolished once and for all. The 14 manufacturers signed up to a 'memorandum of understanding' (because they like to pretend they're the Mafia) and agreed that a charger based on micro-USB was the way to go.

Some of these firms thoughtfully already use micro-USB for charging their smart phones and so can sit back and feel smug. A clause in the agreement states that phones that don't have a micro-USB port can simply use an adaptor -- we're looking at you, Apple.

The benefits aren't just to consumer convenience. We'll love the security of knowing we can charge our phone using whatever charger we grab first, but the idea has good green creds too. The European Commission hopes that by implementing a standard for phone chargers, surplus -- but still functioning -- chargers will not be simply thrown away if a customer switches to a different manufacturer's handset.

It's a neat idea and frankly one that should have come into effect years ago. Not all major firms have signed up to the agreement, but it's likely that once it becomes the expected standard, the stragglers will join in too.