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Why don't cell phones have USB?


In line with earlier thoughts about univeral DC power, let me ask why cell phones haven't standardized on USB (or a mini-USB plug) as an interface?

USB provides power. Not as much as some chargers, but enough to get a decent rate to many phones. And it has data, which can be used for phone control and configuration, speakerphone and headset interfaces, address book sync, ringtone download, memory card download, data-modem connections to PCs and anything else, all with one standard plug.

Every cell store has a rack of scores of adapters, chargers and cables. Each time you get a new phone they want to sell you new accessories, I guess. We have a standard. Why don't we use it, or extend it enough to be used.

(I'll admit it's not a good headset interface due to USB's silly master-slave protocol, since to connect to the PC the phone would be a slave, and to connect to the headset it would be the master. But this can be worked around, and I'll tolerate an extra headset jack.)

See below for some interesting safety ideas...
A standard port for phones would mean standardized docks for the home and for the car. In fact, cars would start building them in as a feature, feeding audio through the stereo for speakerphone and putting a mic on the sun-visor built in or talking to a wireless mic.

Homes would have standard docks which would connect to the 2nd line of the house phones, making the cell phone usable from the ordinary landlines, if you even have a main landline. (Some cell companies are offering a dock like this now.)

The car dock could also be connected to car functions, like turning or the brakes, so if the call goes silent during a traffic event, a tone could tell the other user to hold on. And presence settings could be triggered, so the phone could be made available for calls while stopped or while on the highway but not in city traffic, stop and go and other problem areas. This is all stuff that only really happens when the car's own computer is integrated with the dock. (Though in theory the phone could also tell these things by the way signals change, since phones are getting location awareness via GPS or the network.)

The phone could also make an emergency call upon trigger of the airbags, as some built-in systems do now. Again, all only easy to do with a standardized dock, though one could imagine a cell phone vendor putting an accelerometer in the phone and selling it as a live-saving device.


1. Special ports and protocols mean lock-in. There's no way the "connection kit" for a cell phone isn't 90% pure profit, and unfortunately that's a powerful incentive for keepin' things proprietary. :(

2. There are USB phone chargers, even ones with Swiss-Army-Knife(tm) type adapters for most major phone brands. However coupled with the battery life issues of laptops most folks are just as happy to bring along a wall-wart.

3. Happly there may be a new contender. The automotive industry is looking to change their electrical standards, and along the way has started reconsidering their ubiquitous "cigar lighter" (sometimes PC'd to be "Power Points") outlets. If the replacement plug is smaller, safer, and a bit smarter, we might have a new standard everyone could adopt (offices, airlines, automobiles, cafe's, airport lounges, etc.)

Btw - Interesting factoid: The power-over-Ethernet folks are bragging they've got the only worldwide power standard now out there, something the two customers taking advantage of it can feel very good about.

You can connect flash drive to nokia n8 or its successor Nokia 808 pureview. It has Micro USB PORT

Automotive docks are being eliminated by the use of Bluetooth technology, which will also support the use of wireless headsets. This is being built into future cell phones and high end cars now. USB is also coming.

Why the delays? Good question... mostly marketing issues frankly. The technology has been available for some time, but markteers have determined that the average user was not ready, and/or the marketeers wanted to be able to introduce new features later. (helps keep the average cost up if "new and improved")

With the increased data speeds available on some phones, USB has now become "important."

Regarding standardization... Japan has done just this... all external connectors must conform to their standards.

Europe has also had Bluetooth for sometime (of course it helps that Ericson is home for Bluetooth).

So bottom line, these "standards" are coming your way.

Another limitation of USB is the charging issue... USB is limited to 100 mA upon connection, and 500 mA when negotiated. This is fine for a cell phone in quiet mode... (not transmitting).

But a typical cell phone requires a lot more power (about an amp or more) when transmitting... so the cell phone design would have to limit charging on USB to non use modes, and the charge circuits will have to be smart enough to limit the current draw at all times one is connected to USB to that 500 mA max. (just complicates the design, that's all)

Here is another thought for you... should the USB of the phone be simply a slave? Why not allow the phone to also "host" devices? Typical would be say a camera... where the user might want to transfer files from cam to phone for transmission. Or what about an MP3 player or USB "memory key" where a user might want to upload or download data from their phone.

This further complicates to power situation, as now the phone could source power.

Not saying it could not be done... just a bit more complex than plugging in the old "memory key" to a USB port.

There are some great power adapters for cellphones which plug into a USB port for power and then have a phone-specific "normal" low voltage plug.

I have recently also seen a power adapter that plugs into the wall (110v) and has a USB socket for plugging in your power requiring devices. It has no built in wired "tail".

Most cell phones I have had DO NOT charge while in use. I've had some where I was using it while plugged in and the phone continues to draw down the battery. The only time it would recharge is whule it was not in use. So I don't think the issue of a phone recharging over USB during operation is that big an issue.

I think it's simply vendor lock-in; by using proprietary components they can sock you for more or make you pay big time for access to special features such as data use or upload/download of telephone books. Although using standard components would mean volumes of scale and probably lower costs to manufacturers, short-sightedness has never been in short supply. :)

Excellent! I had exactly the same idea and google found you. There needs to be an ancillary physical standard for mounting phones, to fit cradles/docks/car dashboards.

A simple standard based on a geometric shape which only allows it to be connected one way. Spring loaded clips to hold it in place.

Using USB connection for mobile is an idea that saves alot of money for consumer. Mobile companies NEVER want to make it easy for consumer. They also never set a way to collect user comments about how to enhance thier phones. That is why sometimes you find some good brands like MOTOROLA or Siemens with some really stupid mistakes that really makes the user pissed off after buying the phone. Perhaps NOKIA is the nearest brand to reality and convenience. Trust me, the rest are all trash eiher bcoz they are using Asian, online, cheap developers, or becoz they just want to suck you blood.

One solution in transferring information between 2 USB devices, using a new technology called SOTG.

SOTG technology is embedded into Xmultiple's ShareDrive line of USB flash memory pen drives and can easily download and upload data files between a ShareDrive pen drive and any other USB Memory pen drive or any other USB memory peripheral such as computers, cell phones, MP3 players, etc.

ShareDrives are small, lightweight devices and are powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and are available in 128k, 256k, 512k, 1GB and 2GB sizes.

Check it out

What gives? Both Susteen and Mobile Action have newly announced USB support for the Samsung A840 cell set handset. While Susteen can support only Phone Book Management, Image download (read ony), and Calendar features, the Mobile Action kit can only support Sounds, Album, and File Management. Why so different? Why can't either group get all of the features supported. Is their expertise indvidually limited? Looks like I will have to purchase two separate software packages.

That is exact the question I have. Thank you for raising it. We should let them hear these. Hope it is coming soon.

Is there any mobile phone that can also be used as a USB flash drive?

Cause if it was USB then it would be easy. Has cell phone accessorizing and customizing ever been easy? Not hardly. I don't know about any of you but I sure have a hard enough time just sending a text message using the number pad on a standard cell phone. It's slow and annoying. This forces me to want to upgrade to a PDA or some other godly priced, miniture, obsolete computer that has a cell phone built right in. Which is barely upgradeable btw.

The answer is always $$$!

so finally i could'nt got you all .my question was can we control a usb pendrive with our nokia phone having a connection to the usb port of our pc.using that connection can we use the pendrive with it

There are a few phones with usb connections on them and when I need a new phone I will only buy one with a usb connection. My cell phone, MP4 player and gps/pda all have usb connectivity without the proprietary adaptor. All of my vehicles have a usb charger in them so I can charge any of devices with same charger. If more people would only buy devices that can connect via usb without an adaptor the companies would stop making all the dumb proprietary connections. It is all about profit for the phone manufacturer and enconvience for the consumer. My first question about every great new cell phone is, can it connect via usb without an adaptor? If the answer is "no" then it is not a great phone and I don't need the discuss any other details about that phone.

a lot in the 3.5 years since I wrote this.

Hi, I just got a new cell phone, and it seems to have an odd little USB connection. Of course it is special, proprietary so I cannot simply hook it up using a micro USB data cable, but still the technology is there. I have a ZTE Fastap, and I wish I knew what type of USB it uses so I could find a connectivity kit. The port is used for charging, and a headset adapter to utilize the phone like an mp3 player.

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