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What does your cell phone charger say about you?

The EU has required that cell phone makers all use the same USB charger. This is a good thing. It will save a ton of waste, expense, and hassle for consumers (more detail).

But it’s also a lesson to all manufacturers who intentionally changed the plugs and connectors with every model so they could sell you more accessories.

Guess what: Consumers know when you’re screwing them.

You think you can get away with it. But instead you’re just building resentment every time they buy another accessory. Sooner or later, they hate your brand.

You think you’re making more money. But you’re selling less, because nobody wants to tie up cash in accessories they can never use again. They delay upgrades because the accessories they own will be wasted.

Anyone can look at both ends of the iPhone cable and figure out that it’s USB on one end — so why isn’t it USB on the other end? Apple convinced enough people to buy their proprietary plugs that they made a fortune and set a standard.

But you’re not Apple. The same strategy has all but killed Sony. And we still resent Apple for it.

Lesson: Consumers remember every single time you screw with them. They also remember every time you treat them right. One path leads to short-term profit and long-term failure. Make your choice.

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  1. Amanda Bucklow January 2, 2010 at 8:14 am #

    This has really struck a cord! I have been cleaning out boxes and cupboards and found a pile of “accessories” that are no longer needed. It really makes me cross to have to throw them out. Don’t like Nokia, don’t like Sony thank them both for making me choose BlackBerry. The international charger is fab and light.

  2. Merrill Richmond January 4, 2010 at 8:58 am #

    Before NATO made it a priority, there were dozens of different and incompatible standards of ammunition within NATO member countries….and even different national standards for fuel and the nozzles that dispensed it. It wasn’t until there was a coordinated effort to get, for example, British tanks to work along side Italian fuel trucks that all that changed.

    Sometimes, though, the engineering drives things to be different. There must be some engineering point of view that explains why Honda uses a 4 lug nut to affix a tire and Mazda uses a 5 lug nut…or Mazda’s 5 lugs are spaced differently than BMWs. Both of these examples make switching snow tires from vehicle to vehicle a impossible and a costly, hassle.

    Maybe Apple’s unique plug is there because the engineers at Apple think it does a better/faster/more efficient job of synching or something that would benefit the consumer?

    Sure, consumers can tell them “we’d rather have one less plug than the incremental improvement in efficiency” but I wouldn’t trade the magnetic plug on my Mac for the “standard” one any day.

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