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EUROPHON-1 Standard Announced

 EUROPHON-1 Standard Layout 1st April 2005

The first details of the new EU regulation 499/2005 "Safety of Portable Personal Transmission Devices" have been announced by the European Union's legislature office. The document seen by Mobile Gazette runs to some 104 pages, mostly in fairly inpenetrable EU bureaucrat-speak. However, we have picked out a few key details that mobile manufacturers will have to adhere to from the beginning of 2006 for the proposed standard "EUROPHON-1".

 EUROPHON-1 Keypad One major change is the keypad layout. According to EU Deputy Commissioner Avril Fischer: "it is important to normalise and harmonise functional button arrangement standards across diverse application platforms in the interests of health and safety and general educational standards". What this means in practice is that mobile phone keypads for new handsets sold in the EU must be rearranged, to conform to a layout closer to that of a PC's numeric keypad - i.e. starting with 789 at the top rather than 123. In addition, the "0" key is offset one place to the left. The arrangement of all other keys in the layout is up to the manufacturer. (See image on the left for a closeup).

In addition all keys must now be labelled in both Latin ("abc") and Greek ("αβγ") characters, a feature that will be familiar to many people from Euro Banknotes. EU 499/2005 also makes provision to add Cyrllic character in the event that they are needed (presumably if ever Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Serbia or Bulgaria ever join the EU). Importantly, EU 499/2005 says that these additional letters are mandatory, so manufacturers will just have to find the space to add them.

Although these new keypad arrangements are a pain, most people will probably get used to them. It should still be possible to import handsets with the old fashioned "123" arrangement from outside the EU for those who find that they cannot adapt.

 Deputy Commissioner Avril Fischer There are important changes with regards to in-car use too. Again, Deputy Commissioner Fischer (pictured right) is quoted: "Research across the European Union has shown that mobile cellular transmission equipment of this type is a major hazard when in use in a motor vehicle." As a result, it will be illegal to use a mobile phone "held in the hand, or connected through a conductive or optical cable, or a subtransmitter using any part of the radio spectrum, or via a remote microphone and loudspeaker combination". This means that it will no longer be possible to use a Bluetooth headset or car kit, any sort of "traditional" inbuilt car kit, or to hold the phone in your hand or use a standard wired earpiece/microphone.

These changes to in car use are all very well, and we especially agree with the Europe-wide ban on driving while holding a phone in your hand, but these other regulations seem excessive. We do notice that there might be a loophole for infra-red based equipment though given the current wording.

Our opinion: this is clearly a case of the European Union gone mad - we don't believe that there has been any proper consultation on these proposals, the EUROPHON-1 standard keypad just plain sucks, and people used to using their handsfree kit in their cars safely are likely to be really angry about this.

What you can do: we understand that this legislation is still awaiting final sign-off by the Commission President. What you should do NOW is spread awareness of this problem, and let everyone know what the EU is up to! Click here to find out more!

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Of course, it's April 1st.. so if you were convinced by this story then "April Fool!". We appreciate that not everybody understands the April Fool's Day concept - so if you don't understand, please read this article. We'll have some real news tomorrow!


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