China today issued a directive requiring all phones sold in China carry a mini USB port. This makes China the first country to mandate a national standard for phone chargers. Presumably phones that are too low-profile (thin) for such a device can use an external adapter included with the unit.
The standard of mini USB to provide power and data connectivity has been controversial in the industry. Motorola and HTC have both standardized it across their product lines, however the standard has been resisted by Nokia, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Sanyo. Selling chargers is a major point of profit for phone makers, a profit margin that is significantly reduced if consumers already own accessories that are as basic as a USB data cable and power charger. Even with special circuitry intended to block the use of third-party chargers, Motorola has seen third-parties quickly add this to their accessories.
The Chinese government cites the waste in multiple chargers for multiple manufacturers, as well as the benefit from charging via a home PC or laptop to save power. This will also benefit the carriers, as China Mobile expects to save $306 million yearly by standardizing chargers. However, Chinese officials nor China Mobile itself set a deadline for implementing this standard. Officials site the uncertain amount of time needed for phone manufacturers to implement the change.
With one of the largest developing mobile markets now adopting the USB standard, it may force phone manufacturers to switch global distribution of phones to the USB standard, especially for smaller phone manufacturers that often standardize such designs worldwide.