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Why Don't PDAs and Cellphones Use USB?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the speculate-away dept.

Upgrades 145

evolutionaryLawyer asks: "I have a RazrV3 phone and the charging interface is USB. This means if my cell phone is dying I get to pull a USB cable out of my bag, plug it into my laptop and charge it wherever I am, and at the same time data transfer is possible. This got me to thinking, why do all these cellphones, PDAs, and other devices use funky data and power interfaces when USB 2.0 is capable of providing both data and power in a universal format? I cannot think it is to sell cables, because I am sure they lose a lot of that to 3rd parties, not to mention that it has to be more expensive to design and manufacture these proprietary formats. Look at the PSP, it has both a power port, and a USB 2.0 port. Why shouldn't they cut out one?" While such a question is better asked of the cell phone manufacturers, it is unlikely that the average consumer would be able to get a straight answer. Can you think of plausible reasons as to why companies might be bypassing usable standards for their own proprietary cables, especially given the fact that there are third-party cables out there for just about every make and model of PDA or cellphone?

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It makes sense to me (2, Insightful)

imadoofus (233751) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169770)

I would think it's because there are power outlets in just about every building, but not USB ports.

Re:It makes sense to me (1)

Nos. (179609) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169791)

Exactly. I shouldn't need a computer (or some sort of power outlet to USB converter) to charge my PDA, RIM device, Cell phone, portable gaming device, etc. It would be nice to have both, but lets face it, on something like a cellphone, its not like I want a bunch of different connectors which will just make the thing larger.

Re:It makes sense to me (4, Insightful)

SoCalChris (573049) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169962)

On the contrary, you could use 1 outlet -> USB converter for all of your devices, instead of having a bulky power adapter for each of them.

And who says that you need to have both adapters?

Re:It makes sense to me (1)

over_exposed (623791) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170153)

What about devices that use different voltages? Not all cell phones require the same power configuration and unless it's a switching adapter (usually larger in size than most), it won't do you much good.

Re:It makes sense to me (4, Informative)

spectral (158121) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171565)

usb provides the power specification, the cell phone would conform to the USB spec instead of the other way around.

That being said, the RazrV3 has the OPTION of charging off of USB. If the phone is dead it WILL NOT. This is because USB needs a signal negotiation before it will deliver the higher power available on USB 2.0. If the phone is dead, such negotiation is impossible. This is part of the reason that it's not done on more models.

Strangely, my Razr didn't come with a USB cable. It came with a regular wall plug. I don't need the USB (all my computers have bluetooth), but I was kind of surprised by this.

Re:It makes sense to me (3, Interesting)

Vaevictis666 (680137) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169797)

On the other hand, it can't be that hard (and possibly would be another income source) selling little boxes that plug into the wall and provide 1 or 2 USB ports just for power transfer...

Re:It makes sense to me (1)

snorklewacker (836663) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169926)

On the other hand, it can't be that hard (and possibly would be another income source) selling little boxes that plug into the wall and provide 1 or 2 USB ports just for power transfer...

Like these? [shopblackberry.com]

Re:It makes sense to me (1)

hawkbug (94280) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169938)

I have one, it came with my Blackberry 7100t. It was the first I had seen like this, and I think it's a slick idea. I can either plug into any computer for power or use this wall outlet box or car adapter.

Re:It makes sense to me (1)

Vokbain (657712) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170484)

That's exactly what Apple does for iPods, except FireWire instead of USB.

Re:It makes sense to me (1)

spectral (158121) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171587)

new ones are usb, I'm pretty sure. This way they have one wall plug for all models (since shuffle is usb)

Re:It makes sense to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12172215)

On the other hand, it can't be that hard (and possibly would be another income source) selling little boxes that plug into the wall and provide 1 or 2 USB ports just for power transfer...

Gee, that idea sounds so familiar [apple.com] ...

Requires a wall wart either way (1)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169862)

The separate power plug requires a wall wart. They could instead use a different wall wart which ended in a USB plug with power pins only, I bet. Then one wall wart would work with any device, you wouldn't have to worry about plugging the cell phone into the PDA's wall wart and fry the innards.

But USB power is limited. It might be too limited for recharging a cell phone.

Re:It makes sense to me (1)

jcuffe (873322) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170020)

For the record, the Rio Carbon Uses a USB cable that plugs into a small converter which plugs into an outlet, which means only one hole for charging/data transfer.

Re:It makes sense to me (1)

paRcat (50146) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170143)

then why not do it like Apple? My ipod charges/connects via usb or firewire, and it came with a nifty wall-wart adapter that the firewire plugs into if a port isn't available. It's the perfect design, IMHO.

Re:It makes sense to me (1)

oO Peeping Tom Oo (750505) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170855)

Err, there could always be a wall adapter.

engineers are the explination for this (2, Funny)

phloydphreak (691922) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169788)

they dont like their 'connectors' to be like anyone elses...

Re:engineers are the explination for this (2, Funny)

Aeiri (713218) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170327)

They don't have as big of connectors in one field, so they feel that they need to compensate by making their power connectors that much bigger.

To make money. (5, Insightful)

keeleysam (792221) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169794)

By not putting standard interfaces on, people are forced to pay for ringtones, where if they had USB, they could just drag a MIDI right to the phone.

Re:To make money. (1)

snorklewacker (836663) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169970)

My phone doesn't force me to pay for ringtones. They just don't document how to create the ringtone file format, and so far no one's made a very easy tool to import third party ringtones (except really crummy ones). Mine has a standard irda interface though, and last I looked bluetooth was pretty damn standard.

Just because it has USB doesn't mean it has to be be treated as a removable drive, or if it is, that it has to accept everything you drag onto it.

Re:To make money. (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171633)

They just don't document how to create the ringtone file format

My phone supports MIDI and MP3, as do most other newer GSM phones.

Mine has a standard irda interface though, and last I looked bluetooth was pretty damn standard.

They're standard, but uncommon. Both features are found mainly on higher-end products, and even then, the implementations are often crippled, nonstandard, or limited. The Bluetooth implementation on the Verizon Motorola V710 does not allow you to transfer media. The software is very capable of doing so, and works fine on Bluetooth-equipped Motorola GSM phones. (But, Sony Ericsson and Nokia's implementations of Bluetooth are much more complete and featureful.) I believe Samsung's IR implementation does not support standard file transfer protocols that Pocket PCs/Windows and Sony Ericsson phones all support.

Re:To make money. (1)

kd5ujz (640580) | more than 9 years ago | (#12172788)

My phone ( Motorola V551) supports mp3, and has bluetooth. I just edit any mp3 ( due to storage limits on the phone), ad drag it into the Music folder of my phone. Pretty simple. Same with pictures and videos.

Re:To make money. (1)

Lord Omlette (124579) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170023)

As long as the phone isn't DRM protected, then there may be a market here for USB adaptor cables for your cell phone...

Re:To make money. (1)

SirSlud (67381) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170837)

My LG4600 has a cable available (~50$) that allows you to use mp3s/images to your hearts content. BitPim rules. It is a bit techy tho, certainly nothing easy.

I had an older phone whos manual told you how to create ringtons on the phone (mono of course) but it was disabled on the phone!

Phone Companies are very big fans of locking the consumer out of what should be the coolest features on the phones.

Re:To make money. (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171553)

Almost all GSM phones allow you to download whatever you want over the Internet, for bandwidth/internet access charges only (which are often free with the right setup at the right time, if not cheap.) My Motorola phone supports Bluetooth along with its USB interface; the cable cost less than $10 on eBay, and a Bluetooh adpater cost less than $30 on Newegg. I can transfer MIDI, MP3, GIF, JPG, and 3GP (video) files to my phone either way (it's easier with Bluetooth), along with games (once again, easier with Bluetooth.)

It is a major pain to transfer your own content onto most BREW-based CDMA phones (Verizon, Alltel, US Cellular, etc.'s phones.)

Re:To make money. (1)

gordon_schumway (154192) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170028)

By not putting standard interfaces on, people are forced to pay for ringtones, where if they had USB, they could just drag a MIDI right to the phone.

Word. Similarly, customers have to pay to transfer pictures off of their camera phones, which, combined with forcing of camera phones down customers throats makes for a nice profit source!

It seems like a nice solution would be the one Apple used for iPods---Firewire cable and a power brick that the Firewire cable can plug into in the absence of a PC---but with USB. (I assume it's the same story with the current iPods that ship with just USB cables.)

Re:To make money. (3, Informative)

Mike1024 (184871) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171113)

By not putting standard interfaces on, people are forced to pay for ringtones, where if they had USB, they could just drag a MIDI right to the phone.

I've seen about four posts saying this in this thread - and I'm browsing at +5.

Don't you guys have IrDA?

I'm in the UK, and pretty much every GSM phone I've come across in recent years has an IrDA port to connect to your laptop.

You can then go to the manufacturer's website and get a 'handset manager' program (aimed, I gather, at companies who want to give thier employees identical phonebooks and suchlike). You can then use the IR link to download and upload images, ringtones, operator logos (back when they existed), text messages, and phone books.

Does the US not have this?

Michael

Re:To make money. (2, Informative)

nxtw (866177) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171780)

Don't you guys have IrDA?

A few phones, but they're mostly (if not all) GSM phones, which constitute (my guess) a little less than half of the US market. They tend to be higher-end models and smartphones (although my cheap T300 had IR.) Bluetooth is more common.

You can then use the IR link to download and upload images, ringtones, operator logos (back when they existed), text messages, and phone books.

At least on my Sony Ericsson, you didn't need any special software to transfer files or individual phone book entries. With the right software, you could back up the phone book and SMS boxes completely.

It's more than just power and USB (2, Informative)

fluffy99 (870997) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169800)

Most phones also also have an rs-232 serial connection and some of the other pins are used for the initial programming (data lines to the eeprom?). If the phone just needed power and usb, I would agree that the proprietary connector should be avoided.

Re:It's more than just power and USB (1)

stefanlasiewski (63134) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170165)

This brings up another question.

Why do so many new devices still use RS-232 (or a varient) instead of using USB? Does USB require too much processing power verses a RS-232 connection?

In particular, we see many 'legacy free' desktop computers coming out now which only have USB connections. However, many embedded computing devices still have a serial port and no USB. It seems that a single tiny USB port would be more space efficient and versatile then a serial port.

Re:It's more than just power and USB (2, Informative)

hey! (33014) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170412)

Why do so many new devices still use RS-232 (or a varient) instead of using USB?

Because they have to talk to legacy equipment (e.g. GPS devices)?

Because USB is a master/slave arrangement, and you'd either have to provide both capabilities in the device, or settle for not being able to talk to USB peripherals?

Re:It's more than just power and USB (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 9 years ago | (#12172015)

Because USB is a can of worms. The difference between a serial connection and a USB connection is akin to the difference between a hardware modem and a software emulated one. Software is more flexible and it is easier to fix problems latter, but you'll always have more problems with software (and the other componenets it relies on to operate) than with a simple all hardware solution.

USB depends on a software controller in order to operate where serial does not and people have near constant problems with USB. Hell you can break USB support on a windows pc simply by plugging in most usb printers/scanners before installing the software.

USB has numerous benefits (just as software voice modems do) but far too many people want to pretend it is anywhere near as stable as legacy ports like serial and parallel.

But they *do* (-1, Flamebait)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169813)

My Palm m130 uses USB for power and data. Perhaps you're looking at the wrong PDAs.

Next question, please.

Re:But they *do* (2, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169857)

Never mind. I mistakenly interpreted the subject as relevant to the question, and answered it instead of what you were really asking.

A: Because they can? Regardless, Sony would have a weird proprietary version within a month of the rest of the industry picking a standard. They'd call it Secure Sync (R), and charge you $85 for the privilege of not being to upload MP3s.

Re:But they *do* (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 9 years ago | (#12172046)

Yup, I used to work for Sony. When it comes to consumer electronics they offer high quality devices with drastically overinflated prices. When it comes to anything they classify as a "PC" device they offer shit support/warranty, less features, rebranded technology, the cheapest crap hardware they can find with the right specs, and a REALLY overinflated price.

Pick any desktop pc in sony's product line. Replace each piece of hardware with the best hardware out there that meets the same list of specs, add 400 for putting the pieces together. The price in every case would half or less than half of what Sony charges for their version with parts of lower quality than those found in a POS dell or gateway.

$$$ of course (2, Insightful)

TsEA (109514) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169821)

Ever seen what they charge for their sync cable? Surely they'll miss their 30$ and 40$ if you can get a plain old usb cable for 1$....

Re:$$$ of course (1)

Trepalium (109107) | more than 9 years ago | (#12172233)

Here in Canada, the profits on phone sales are razor thin, or may even be a small loss. So, if you buy a cell phone, there's always a very large push to buy accessories for it that are marked up 400%. There's fierce competition on the prices of the phones, but a gentlemen's agreement on not undercutting each other on accessory prices.

Camera Phones. (3, Insightful)

keeleysam (792221) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169825)

People just LOVE camera phones these days, and by not putting standard connectors on, consumers are forced to pay outrageous prices for data servece, where if they had a USB cable, they could just mount it as a drive and drag the JPEGs right off the phone.


Companies goals are to make money, not please the customer.

Re:Camera Phones. (3, Insightful)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169871)

Pleaseing customers is part of making money. Of course most mega corps try to balance it to the point of least amount of customer pleasing possible without losing money. While good compines try to please customers more while they may or may not make maximum amounts of money.

Re:Camera Phones. (1)

yuri benjamin (222127) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171441)

Pleaseing customers is part of making money.

You would think so, wouldn't you?
The most succesful companies train their customers to accept whatever business model is most profitable to that company. Success for these guys is making the customer want what they have, rather than making what the customer wants.

Re:Camera Phones. (1)

Uber Banker (655221) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170578)

Sure?

I ask because almost all camera phones have bluetooth and a USB dongle costs $5...

I don't have thorough sales data for mobile accessories, so all of this is conjecture of course.

Companies goals are to make money, not please the customer.

Thank you for your insight, but the argument is a bit circular, no? Perhaps to say "Companies goal is to satisfy the consumer just enough to profit maximise", or "companies goal is to make people money: employees, capital providers (shareholders) and give consumers somethig they want".

Re:Camera Phones. (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171678)

I ask because almost all camera phones have bluetooth and a USB dongle costs $5...

Not at all. Sprint, Verizon, Nextel, and Alltel have only had a select few Bluetooth phones. Cingular and T-Mobile have had many more, but still, many of their camera phones are not Bluetooth capable.

Re:Camera Phones. (1)

Yaztromo (655250) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171850)

People just LOVE camera phones these days, and by not putting standard connectors on, consumers are forced to pay outrageous prices for data servece, where if they had a USB cable, they could just mount it as a drive and drag the JPEGs right off the phone. Companies goals are to make money, not please the customer.

The problem with your analysis is that the people who make the phones are not the people who are charging the data fees.

There are a lot of phones out there which can interface with a computer. I Have a Sony Ericsson T610, with built-in Bluetooth. I have an Apple PowerBook, also with built-in Bluetooth. I not only put MIDI files and themes I've created onto the phone anytime I like, I also transfer photos and make GPRS Internet connections from my PowerBook through the phone via Bluetooth, and it costs me nothing (well, the GPRS service costs me -- but the connection between the computer and the phone doesn't cost a cent). According to the documentation, this phone also supports USB, but I don't see the point considering how convienent Bluetooth is.

There are lots of phone out there which support USB and Bluetooth, so I think your analysis is poor. It may be that some service providers only offer phones that benefit their bottom line, but if you go with a provider which uses standards like GSM and GPRS, and uses SIM cards, and buy whatever phone you like.

Yaz.

Re:Camera Phones. (1)

kd5ujz (640580) | more than 9 years ago | (#12172826)

I have bluetooth on my v551, I can do just this. I drag pictures off, and mp3 on.

Well (0, Flamebait)

Neil Blender (555885) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169839)

Maybe they were just waiting for linux to fully support it (as opposed to partially support it.)

A to your Q (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12169840)

Can you think of plausible reasons as to why companies might be bypassing usable standards for their own proprietary cables, especially given the fact that there are third-party cables out there for just about every make and model of PDA or cellphone?

Yes. Thanks for posting, Cliffy - now back to banjo practice for you.

USB adds complexity (4, Informative)

Drakino (10965) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169847)

Basic and simple answer, USB adds complexity. If the phone had only a USB plug, it would have to be a USB host to be able to allow things like corded headsets and such to attach. Then the headsets would have to be more complex, going from somethign that just passes analog data over the right pins on the connector to a full digital headset.

Power wise, USB really can't do more then 500mA of power at 5V. This is fine for cell phones like my T610 that get 450mA from the official charger at 4.7V. But for devices like the PSP, it would mean 4 times as long to charge, as the PSP power adaptor pushes out 2A or power at 5V.

Re:USB adds complexity (5, Informative)

klossner (733867) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170486)

If the phone had only a USB plug, it would have to be a USB host to be able to allow things like corded headsets and such to attach.

If the phone were a USB host, it would have to supply 500 mA of power through that connector.

Re:USB adds complexity (2, Insightful)

nxtw (866177) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171697)

If the phone were a USB host, it would have to supply 500 mA of power through that connector.

It wouldn't *have* to. Not all USB ports provide 500 mA at all times.

Re:USB adds complexity (2, Informative)

Trepalium (109107) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171348)

Except USB is 500mA per port before any hubs. Unpowered USB hubs, for instance, can leave you with a lot less power to go around. Then there's the fact that if I'm running my laptop off batteries, I may not want to deplete the laptop's batteries charging the USB device just because I plugged it in. I may have it hooked up for other reasons, and charging a battery with another battery rarely makes much sense.

Re:USB adds complexity (2, Informative)

nxtw (866177) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171720)

If the phone had only a USB plug, it would have to be a USB host to be able to allow things like corded headsets and such to attach.

The standard 2.5 mm plug has been working fine for many manufacturers for years, while some still opt for propietary connectors. A USB host for headsets would be nice if the devices used the common USB headset profiles, but there's always the (much cooler) Bluetooth headsets.

2GET (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12169861)

2GET

Money, money, money (1)

joelparker (586428) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169867)

Cellphone companies make a huge profit on the accessories. Even when there are thrid-party cables, most consumers will simply buy the original manufacturer's cables when the phone is purchased.

Re:Money, money, money (1)

AndyElf (23331) | more than 9 years ago | (#12172798)

And, btw, in quite a few cases it is THE right thing to do as well -- I've had some experience with various third party "compatible" phones for my Nokia 6230 -- while these might work ok on a PC, my PowerBook won't even see a device attached (while with a stock Nokia DKU-2 it is not a problem).

Cables have become somewhat cheaper these days -- I remember 3-4 years ago Nokia DataSuite + a cable to connect your phone to a PC would set you back almost half of what the phone costs. Not so anymore -- DS is a free download and a native cable can be bought for under $50.

USB doesn't provide much power (4, Informative)

RalphBNumbers (655475) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169899)

It's 500mW max iirc, which is enough to keep most portable devices running, but would make charging really slow.

If they were to go to a standard connection Firewire might be nice at 12-60Wats.

But in the mean time, they'll generally use custom connectors for charging.

Re:USB doesn't provide much power (2, Informative)

Artega VH (739847) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170519)

500mA and 2.5W as can be seen here. [66.102.7.104] Your point is still relevant though.

Re:USB doesn't provide much power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12170983)

If they were to go to a standard connection Firewire might be nice at 12-60Wats.

Unless it is one of those four wire firewire connections like my laptop has.

Re:USB doesn't provide much power (1)

TheVoice900 (467327) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171257)

Funny, because my Blackberry charged through the USB dock connector without any problem, only took a couple of hours for a full charge. Not noticably longer than my Motorola phone does..

Re:USB doesn't provide much power (1)

Kris_J (10111) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171377)

I can confirm that trying to power an Asus 716 PocketPC from USB and use it at the same time only works if you switch it into low power consumption mode. Otherwise the backlight keeps going up and down.

As to why companies don't make sure that 500mW is enough, I can't answer that.

Re:USB doesn't provide much power (1)

nathanh (1214) | more than 9 years ago | (#12172521)

It's 500mW max iirc, which is enough to keep most portable devices running, but would make charging really slow.

500mA at 5V, so 2.5W. But you're right; that's woefully insufficient for charging.

MOD PARENT DOWN (1)

sheapshearer (746106) | more than 9 years ago | (#12173106)

MOD PARENT DOWN. 500mA != 500mw. (Go get an EE degree). 60 Watts through firewire? 60W == 12A at 5V!!!! What the hell are you smoking? You are either stupid and/or a troll. Either way, you don't deserve positive mod points.

USB power limits (1, Redundant)

twoflower (24166) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169910)

USB is limited to 2.5W of power. If a device needs more power than that, you can't run it from USB power.

Re:USB power limits (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170517)

I really don't understand the context of the question. My Palm Zire 21 both runs and charges off of USB. Of course, it charges faster if the AC adapter is plugged in...

No money to be made (1)

Bootle (816136) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169921)

I'm sure I'll be modded redundant, but it's obvious:

If I can make my own ringtones and zip 'em over to my cellphone using USB, why would I ever buy the phone company's $1.99 tones?

No USB due to revenue loss. "We wouldn't want ease of use or flexibility for the consumer, would we? No no, we need to stick it to our customers... Stick it until they die."

Mayhap this is why cellphone tech is lightyears ahead in Europe and Asia, because the greedy bastards in charge know the limit?

Re:No money to be made (2, Insightful)

over_exposed (623791) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170235)

It doesn't work like that - just because it has a USB plug doesn't mean that you automatically have access to every piece of memory on the phone. Same goes for Bluetooth. My phone has bluetooth but I can't download th pictures with it, I can't upload ringtones or wallpapers. It doesn't matter what the plug is, they can lock off the device however they want.

more than just power.... (1)

flawedgeek (833708) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169937)

Most of the connectors on PDAs and cell phones handle a lot more than just power and an interface for a computer. More often than not, on cell phones the connector supports a variety of handsfree devices (case in point: my motorola v60i). Most PDAs also have some sort of proprietary expansion port to connect peripherals, because standard interfaces between types of devices simply do not exist, as it would pose a nightmare for developers. Imagine trying to create firmware for a device that's supposed to work with an extremely wide range of hardware and software configurations. It's just not realistic.
Perhaps we need a set of standards governing PDA and cell phone peripherals...

500mA per device (4, Informative)

smeg (73312) | more than 9 years ago | (#12169996)

From http://www.usb.org/developers/usbfaq/#pow1
----
1. How much power does a system in S3 need to supply to USB?

A: 500mA per USB port. See section 7.2.3 for the details of device behavior during suspend and resume.
----
Presumably this has something to do with it. HTH. HAND.

Re:500mA per device (1)

MerlynEmrys67 (583469) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170289)

Don't forget that the 500mA is shared between ALL of the devices connected to the port. So if you plug into an unpowered USB hub sharing with a few other peripherals, the 500mA goes down from there

I'm gonna invent the universal USB power adapter! (-1, Flamebait)

objekt (232270) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170046)

I'll be rich! RICH, I tell you!

The answer, while sad, is surprisingly simple. (4, Insightful)

bluephone (200451) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170061)

It's because the cell phone service providers don't want you to have the ability to easily transfer data on and off your cell phone. Some phones have USB cable adapters, and then you either have limited ability of data transfer, or need to somehow hack the handset. This is because the cell phone service companies want to charge you for everything possible.

Camera phone? Take all the photos you like, but it's X cents per photo to get them of your phone. Address book backup? Sure, it's only X dollars a month for automatic backups! Want games on your Java enabled phone? Sure, we have a selection here for $4.99 per game per month (sorry, you can only select from this menu). Want some GREW games? We have those too (sorry, you can't code your own, BREW is proprietary).

Handset manufacturers would love to put these features in for users, but they don't because then the cell phone companies won't sell the phones and wont support them if purchesed through other channels.

Re:The answer, while sad, is surprisingly simple. (3, Informative)

RotJ (771744) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170742)

One specific example would be Verizon's [slashdot.org] crippling [slashdot.org] of the Motorola [slashdot.org] V710 [slashdot.org] .

Re:The answer, while sad, is surprisingly simple. (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171848)

How did this get modded insightful?

Some phones have USB cable adapters, and then you either have limited ability of data transfer, or need to somehow hack the handset.

While this may be the case for some phones, it is not for most GSM phone. I can access media on my phone using real Motorola-endorsed software, Mobile PhoneTools. With third-party or even Motorola's on service software, I can access the phone's filesystem and EEPROM and perform even more tasks. Basically: the commercially available software does what most users want it to, while the third-party or Motorola service software does what technicians and nerds want to do. At any rate, no hacking is required either way. I can even transfer data over Bluetooth to my phone -- games, ringtones, pictures -- right out of the box; I only need to pair my phone with my computer and hit Accept on the phone at the right time. I can also transfer the phone book, although this is a bit more difficult to do (requires third-party software.)

Camera phone? Take all the photos you like, but it's X cents per photo to get them of your phone.

I can access all the photos on my phone over Bluetooth, once again, with minimal effort other than pairing the phone. I can also use a USB cable, along with either the easy-to-use data transfer software or the advanced programs that grant me access to the phone's filesystem directly.

Address book backup? Sure, it's only X dollars a month for automatic backups!

Is this service offered at all? It doesn't matter, seeing as how the majority of phones (even if they don't support transferring media) support phone book synchronization. Some do it over Bluetooth or IR, too. Some support doing it via SyncML, also.

Want games on your Java enabled phone? Sure, we have a selection here for $4.99 per game per month (sorry, you can only select from this menu).

All the Java phones I've used (Sony Ericsson, Nokia, Motorola) have supported downloading my own games over the Internet (although the provider does charge for Internet access -- in my case, I have unlimited access. If you're using dialup at offpeak hours, or can afford to pay per-kilobyte charges, this isn't an issue.) My Motorola phone supports transferring Java games over the cable and Bluetooth, once again, with minimal effort via Bluetooth.

Want some GREW games? We have those too (sorry, you can't code your own, BREW is proprietary).

BREW phones are much more locked down. Handset manufacturers would love to put these features in for users, but they don't because then the cell phone companies won't sell the phones and wont support them if purchesed through other channels.

They do put those features in GSM phones, which are the only phones sold by two major US carriers. While they don't officially "support" as in provide assistance to users of other phones, US GSM networks will work with any other unlocked GSM phone that supports the right frequency bands.

Re:The answer, while sad, is surprisingly simple. (1)

bluephone (200451) | more than 9 years ago | (#12172583)

I'm not talking abotu GSM, which is predominantly non-US. The majority of Slashdotters are American, and the parent article was obviously bitching about our wonderful system in the. The fact you talkabotu how GSM phones aren't as proprietary as the article should have told you that we weren't talking about them.

Re:The answer, while sad, is surprisingly simple. (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 9 years ago | (#12172676)

GSM is popular in the US. While not predominant, it's the second most used system and has sizeable market share. Are you aware that the largest carrier in the US is a GSM carrier?

I live in the US, and I've been using GSM sine 2002.

Ditto for power (1)

awtbfb (586638) | more than 9 years ago | (#12172621)

Some providers want the same/same type of power cable across their product lines. For example, I can buy two different chargers for my phone - one from the handset company and one from the service provider. The bricks are identical but the plugs are different.

Part of this is the branding or design philosophy of the service provider. In my case, they got it right. Their connector is much easier to use than the one the handset company sells.

Ill tell you why you cant, even with a V3 (4, Informative)

jkerman (74317) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170077)

I also have a V3, and its USB power can only be used to "top off" an already existing charge. if you ever get the phone to a dead state, a USB port is useless. The usb charging doesnt begin until the software in the phone requests power from the port.

another problem, is that to charge a dead phone you need a motorola(TM) razr(TM) usb charger, which arent very redily available yet.

another problem is that a USB port cant provide enough juice to both charge the phone, and make a call. if you talk on USB power, your phone will eventually go into a totally dead state (see above for how fun that is).

yet another problem, is that file transfer over USB isnt possible (it might be with additional software). I can exchange ringtones and pictures only via bluetooth, and can sync a phone book only with USB. totally wierd.

Re:Ill tell you why you cant, even with a V3 (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171754)

yet another problem, is that file transfer over USB isnt possible (it might be with additional software

It is completely possible. However, Motorola phones do not present themselves as mass storage devices, so it's not as easy as dragging and dropping files. In order to do this (realistically and usefully), the phone would either have to emulate a FAT partition or actually store data in a FAT partition. A propietary interface is much cheaper and easier to implement. With the right software, you can transfer your own media to most phones over USB.

For their customers (2, Informative)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170152)

Cell phone companies sell the phones to cellular carriers, who resell them at a loss (at best breakeven on a cheap phone). Perhaps at the beginning of life on an exclusive hot phone the carrier might make some money, but most phones are sold at less than the company paid for it. Accessories (and contract replacement phones are sold at a huge markup (>50% or more) to offset some of the initial loss on the phone. If the end user can buy cheap accessories for their new phone from a third party, the cellular company is out even more, hense the non standard connectors.
If you don't believe me, go find one of Nextel's SEC filings such as this one [sec.gov] , go to page 54 and do the math yourself. Nextel paid $2.0 billion for handsets and accessories in 2004, and sold them for $1.4 billion. (The second line relates to an accounting gimmick Nextel previously used to minimize this cost). The three following explanatory paragraphs explain that the handsets are subsidized, but accessories are sold with gross margin (not subsidized).
Nextel's subsidies might be larger than other phone companies (due to only a single supplier), but all of them sell phones at a loss.

Assured Power Supply (2, Interesting)

rueger (210566) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170173)

Probably the biggest reason why cel phone makers etc use their own cables, at least the wall wart for charging, is to ensure that the power coming into the phone is exactly right.

By supplying a proprietary charger they can know that you won't accidentally damage the phone.

I've never checked, but I'd wager that the power on a USB port can have a lot of variation, especially if you're using a cheapo $6.99 USB hub from Big Lots [biglots.com] .

Money (1)

snower1313 (801399) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170189)

Why sell one power cable for the lifetime of the user, when you could sell one power cable for every cell phone they buy! They also make profit on accessories such as car adapters. If you never had to buy another car adapter again then they would be out a few bucks times millions of users = big money loss.

iPod (1)

comwiz56 (447651) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170314)

Apple did a good job of this with the iPod. There is no power cord for it, just a firewire AC adapter and a firewire cable.

Not enough power (1, Redundant)

John Meacham (1112) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170419)

A whole usb port can only source about 500mA across all connected devices at 5V. This is not a whole lot of power, it would take forever to completely charge a li-ion battery off of that and require some interesting circuitry. It is enough to top-off a battery, or charge smaller ones. but cell-phones use a lot of power. as power consumption on phones goes down, we might see full charging from USB more often. But it will take some engineering to do right.

BlackBery 7100 series does (2, Interesting)

invisik (227250) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170470)

Hey,

Not even a cradle on the 7100 series. Uses a regular USB cable (rectangular plug to the micro plug). Same cable I use to connect to my Sony digital camera. It syncs and charges over it. Even the wall charger is a USB cable with a transformer on the end. It is quite nice to charge off the computer this way.

I do wish it had a cradle, as the plugging and unplugging is a little annoying (the plug is on the left side of the unit). Great for portability though.

-m

Its the size that counts (0)

OAB_X (818333) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170518)

USB is a fairly large plug for a PDA or a cell phone, its not exactly small, but its not big either. There is the smaller USB cables (its USB-B I think), but those are not as common.

Besides, selling propraitary cables makes them money.

Re:Its the size that counts (2, Informative)

nxtw (866177) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171651)

There is the smaller USB cables (its USB-B I think), but those are not as common.

Not as common on larger devices, but it is found increasingly in small devices like digital cameras.

Re:Its the size that counts (2)

spectral (158121) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171684)

most portable devices that have detachable cables at the slave device end (cameras, cellphones) will use a miniature usb connection to make sure you don't screw up the cable alignment, and to make the plug smaller on the device that's portable and can't afford space. on the mater/host side, it has to support the standard large USB plugs.

The USB/regular power plug on the motorola is quite tiny, just as it needs to be, for a phone like this. Most cell phones have a plug that is much larger than this because they useproprietary data lines and connection methods to the phone. My other two phones have plugs that are at least 4x as wide a the single plug available on the razr.

More complicated (2, Insightful)

Tiersten (58773) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170542)

It's more complicated to use USB power as you're supposed to tell the hub how much power you're going to draw before suddenly trying to suck down anything.

The current USB charger cables out there are just a bit of wire with a USB plug on one end and whatever plug you need at the other end. It assumes that the laptop/computer will always supply power and be capable of supplying everything it needs. If you plug in your T68i on a bus powered hub then you'll get some interesting problems.

Well... (2, Insightful)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170669)

Could it be because a female USB port is to plug devices into, and that any device plugged into such can demand up to 500ma of power from the device with the port?

Sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, you'd have Cletus trying to plug his USB 2.0 camcorder into the cell phone, and ruining either or both of the devices.

Plugging a cell phone into a USB port is ok, plugging *almost anything else* into a cell phone's USB port is a recipe for disaster.

Oh how soon we forget (1, Insightful)

mugnyte (203225) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170726)

There was a time when USB didn't exist. There will be a time when 2.x is supplanted by 3.x, etc.
Line strength, ee considerations, connector size/design are sloving evolving, but they do evolve. By having a multitude of designs, each device can solve the problem as they best see fit. Adherance to a connectivity standard is but one design issue. I like USB 2.0, but when 3.0 comes out, I sure don't want my device to wait for a "market shift" before I can get one. I want them to compete ruthlessly for ever-better designs.

it's a wireless device
The real question isn't the physical characteristics of communication, but the digital. Your phone is meant to be wireless, remember? Shouldn't you be able to sync via it's internet capabilities? The medium has better hurdles to span in making it's digital connectivity faster, richer and more universal.

Power connectors really arent THAT propreitary (3, Interesting)

NevarMore (248971) | more than 9 years ago | (#12170746)

Excepting cellphones, most devices I see use a readily available round power connector. The transformer is clearly marked with the polarity and electricial info. One can just measure the size and hit up any electronics supplier and find a matching connector.

I can also see it as protection, if you can physically connect up a USB-power only cable to something that isnt expecting power on its USB port then someone will do so and destroy it.

Sell the phone at a loss, profit on consumables? (1)

technopinion (469686) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171253)

Who would have thought that cables would be the printer ink of the cell phone industry?

Because USB jacks suck. Duh. (3, Funny)

ArmorFiend (151674) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171395)

Why not use USB? Because fucktards designed the USB jack to be rectangular, and you have to look up its ass everytime to figure out which side that little plastic spacer is on. That's crappy and prone to breakage.

(sweetly:) Next question please?

Re:Because USB jacks suck. Duh. (1)

enosys (705759) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171642)

I don't find USB any more annoying than other connectors in that respect. With DB connectors one side is a bit shorter than the other and that isn't very obvious. PS2 mouse and keyboard connectors are circular. North American standard AC power connectors are polarized with one prong just a bit larger than the other.

Re:Because USB jacks suck. Duh. (2, Insightful)

ArmorFiend (151674) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171818)

I hold up the other end of a typical USB cable as an example of a good design. I haven't found any way to screw that up yet.

100% agreed (1)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 9 years ago | (#12172106)

I wish they'd use that at both ends and provide some way to lock it in. The USB cable from my laptop is the only one that tends to fall out when I pull it off the nightstand.

Of course if it locked, I'd just drag the hub off too :(

(Oh FYI those tiny $10 usb hubs from walmart do work well, amazingly enough, although their max cable length seems to be about 9 feet for high speed data transfer)

SB

Many Cell Phones & PDA's can be charged by USB (2, Interesting)

mschaffer (97223) | more than 9 years ago | (#12171605)

I have a cable for my Treo 650 that will allow it to charge via USB. This is both a cell phone and a PDA. This is also, by no means, the only cell phone or PDA that can be changed via USB. You just need to get the right cable.

I would not want to wait to charge my Treo via USB, though. It takes forever! I forget what wattage the USB port is limited to, but it's far less than the real charger for my Treo.

USB needs more flexible power system. (4, Insightful)

rice_burners_suck (243660) | more than 9 years ago | (#12172092)

I'm seeing this stuff about USB supplying power all too often, and it's gotten me to thinking...

There are problems with USB 2 when it comes to power. What do you get, 5v, 500ma? Not enough to do much with. True, there are devices as large as flatbed scanners that can run entirely off this power, but it's not much.

If you try to come up with USB 3, however, and specify that it should supply more power, the problem will be that maybe the computer can't supply that much due to its power supply and requirements, etc. Which brings me to the next point: USB 3 should have some sort of specification that says a computer can decide how much power to supply through USB, based on factors like its own power usage. Then, when you plug in a device, it would automatically figure out if it has enough power or not, and perhaps a message could pop up on the computer, telling you that you're trying to overload the USB power supply.

Of course, then you'd have to take into consideration the gauge and insulation of the USB wire itself, and you'll end up with the need to put a tiny chip into compatible wires which would tell the computer what the max current carrying capacity of that cable is rated at. This all sounds quite complicated, but there's no reason why a computer can't push more power out of a USB port if all these things are taken into consideration, and all the proper power handshaking takes place from the USB port down the chain (if there are hubs, etc. in the way) all the way to individual devices. Also, you're probably not using all devices in max-power-usage mode at the same time, so the devices might talk to each other and enter power-save mode when necessary to allow other devices to be used.

This seems, again, like a very complicated solution looking for a problem, but it shouldn't be too difficult to do for next-generation USB devices, and the advantages are pretty big: Right here on my desk, I have a 6-outlet strip that isn't enough. Currently plugged in are my laptop, Mac Mini, 17" display, ethernet hub, and printer; These are just the computer peripherals. I also have, in the same area, a phone charger, small television, desk lamp, and DVD player. I need a USB hub for the Mac Mini because there simply aren't enough ports on it for all the crap I'd like to have plugged in at one time; therefore, I have so far refrained from buying a USB hub. There are not enough outlets on this wall to handle all of this. If I add another strip, I'll probably blow a fuse if all of this is on at the same time. A new USB protocol which takes into consideration a whole range of power options, negotiated in real-time by the devices themselves as they are plugged in, used, and removed, and taking into consideration the power-supplying capability of the computer, the capacity of the wires themselves, and the usage of the devices, really offers an opportunity to remove many plugs from many devices that would otherwise need them, and to greatly reduce the number of wires running across and under many desks; This would require more careful engineering by already-overworked electronics engineers who are concerned about power consumption, but I believe that with added innovation, increased customer demand for this kind of service, and the advances made each day in semiconductors, this will provide so much value for the consumer that it's worth it.

Um, they do? (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 9 years ago | (#12172172)

Almost every recently made cell phone has a USB charging cable available.

An even higher portion of modern PDAs do.

Both the palmOne Treo 600 and 650 smartphones have USB charging cables available for reasonable prices. I'm not quite sure why they don't come with one by default, the "standard" sync cable is kind of crappy.

As to not using standard USB connectors on the phone - They're the wrong form factor. USB connectors are WAY too large, especially considering that numerous other connections (audio I/O, serial I/O) also need to be available, hence requiring a higher-density connector.

I love my BoxWave miniSync. Charges, syncs, and retracts to a tiny little package, and I got it WITH a car USB power adapter for 2/3 the price of any of palmOne's cables. :)

Don't be logical (1)

cuteseal (794590) | more than 9 years ago | (#12172244)

C'mon... stop being so logical. You're scaring me! :D

At Least if They were all common... (1)

gmletzkojr (768460) | more than 9 years ago | (#12172405)

I had a similar question in my journal http://ask.slashdot.org/~gmletzkojr/journal/ [slashdot.org] . I repeat it here for you reading ease...
Today is Thursday, and I am into my usual week of travel to NJ from Tuesday morning to Friday afternoon. Today I am wondering the topic of cell phone chargers. Why are there so many different interfaces to phones via the charger? I am thinking of this because my charger is sitting home, 4 hours away. And my battery is nearly dead. Now I know that I can just go to Wal*Mart and pick up a new one (even though I hate Wal*Mart with everything that I am), but that isn't the point. When my car battery goes dead, I don't have to go back to VW in order to get the battery charged - I can just to to any charger and amazingly, it recharges the battery. When my flashlight goes dead, I don't need to call Maglight and wait 6-8 weeks for Maglight batteries - any local store with D cells works. So why is it that we can stand to have cell phones everywhere, but not have even a universal charger interface in the phone?

Buy a smart phone (2, Informative)

user555 (145309) | more than 9 years ago | (#12172658)

I wanted to be able to transfer data off of my cell phone. I also wanted to be able to add my own ring tones.

I found a phone that let me do this. I got the MPX220 smart phone. This phone connects through USB both for charging and data tranfer. I just plug in and drag an mp3 or midi to the phone and I have a new ring tone. My phone also plays music. I have minor complaints about some of the software but overall I'm very happy with this phone.

Stop whinning about your phone. Get a better one. Phone you want is out there. If you look around you can even get phones like this free with a two year contract.

The RazrV3 is for people who want style more than functionality.
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