The process of recharging portable devices has never been straightforward.
As technology has evolved, manufacturers have adopted a bewildering variety of power sockets and charging cables.
This was particularly true for smartphones, where manufacturers almost bloody-mindedly stuck with connections which weren’t compatible with other devices.
Apple launched its original iPhone with a completely unique 30-pin charging cable, resembling a row of teeth.
By the launch of the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini, this had been reduced to a more compact design with eight exposed pins on one side.
Meanwhile, Android phones tended to employ one of the growing number of USB-based connectors in existence.
To some extent, this divergence was inevitable. Power leads evolved as charging techniques and data transfer rates accelerated.
USB 3.0 is far faster at transferring digital data than USB 2.0, though the latter remains crucial for basic peripherals like keyboards.
Its familiar rectangular shape is regularly seen in hotel rooms and car interiors, handling charging and data transfers.
Slimmer handsets steered manufacturers towards smaller ports, while demand for IP68 certification has driven the adoption of sockets which are easier to protect against the elements.
This has often meant every new smartphone comes with different phone chargers from the last handset you owned.
And if the solitary cable provided in the box isn’t enough, there’s been a requirement to buy third-party charging leads online.
Millions of homes have drawers and shoeboxes full of wires whose use has long since been forgotten, intended to power technology which has long since been replaced or binned.
The mini-USB’s squat appearance will be familiar to owners of Sony PlayStation 3 consoles, among many other devices.
Despite having been used by almost every smartphone manufacturer at some point, the micro-USB’s trapezoidal shape causes endless confusion about whether it’s the right way up.
Apple persists with its eight-pin Lightning connector, though it’s worth noting iPad Pro and MacBook devices have already switched to USB Type-C instead.
The shape of things to come?
Of all the different phone chargers in circulation, USB-C seems to be the best option, supporting rapid data transfers and quick charging.
Crucially, it’s also reversible. You can plug it in either way up, which is less likely to result in port or cable damage than Lightning or micro-USB.
Although the UK has now left the European Union, we’re likely to pay close attention to new laws and regulations on the Continent.
It’s been proposed that all smartphones on sale in the EU should offer a single connection, which would almost certainly be USB-C.
Despite Apple’s inevitable objections, blanket regulation would be great for consumers, finally condemning those jumbles of different phone chargers to the bin.
Until then, you might wish to consider purchasing a multi-USB adaptor.
Costing a few pounds online, these combine several different connectors such as USB Type-A/B/C into a single cable, with various portability and practicality benefits.