updated 01:30 am EDT, Wed October 5, 2011
So far UK only, meets EU regulations
Apple has introduced a microUSB-to-dock connector in its UK store in order to comply with European Union regulations that mandate a standard charger for all cell phones sold in EU and related countries. The connector works with both third party micro-USB cables that connect to computers, or to chargers that can utilize microUSB connections.
The company, along with other cell phone makers, agreed to the standardization of cell phone charging equipment last June, that needed to be in place by the start of 2012. Apple opted to stick with the standard 30-pin dock connector rather than change the design of the iPhone, but the adapter will charge all iPhone models other than the original model using a standard micro-USB cable (not included) and is in compliance with the EU regulations. It's unclear if the company will offer the adapter outside Europe.
The change in the standard gives iPhone and other cell phone users a way to borrow or trade chargers when their own proprietary connector is unavailable, and prevents users from having to throw away old chargers when they change phones. The adapter is currently only available from the UK Apple website, and sells for £8 (or about $12.35). Apple's own replacement dock cables retail for $20.