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by Ray DeCosta

Q. I have lost the power supply for my smart phone. Do I have to buy an expensive one from the original manufacturer or is there a cheaper alternative?

A. It's quite possible that you can find a less costly replacement for your missing power supply. While small device power supplies come in a bewildering variety of sizes, shapes, specifications and plugs, by law they and the devices to which they connect must have written specifications stating their voltage, amperage and plug polarity. You can use this information to see if another manufacturer's power supply will work for your device. Sometimes this information is printed in microscopically-sized font, so be prepared for some detective work.

Unless you're handy with a soldering iron and have some knowledge of electronics, you should not attempt to swap ends on the power supply wires. Otherwise, it's worth your time to see if a generic replacement would suit your needs.

A phone utilizing a USB connection is the easiest to deal with in this regard. Any big-box store will have USB power supplies for sale that are compatible with your phone. The USB format generally uses one of three connectors but they are so similar in appearance that it is very important to take your phone to the store and physically match it up to the end of the replacement power cord.

Many power supplies will have that power end sticking out of the packaging so you can physically check that it will fit into your phone. Otherwise, ask the clerk to open the package and check it that way. If you don't do either of these suggestions, you'll likely find yourself heading back to the store later that day.

Finding a replacement for a proprietary connection (basically defined as being non-USB) can be quite problematic. The more common phones will have replacement power supplies available but many others will not. In either event, you must know the make and model of your phone and again, make sure to take it to the store with you for confirmation that you have purchased the correct power supply.

Published: Courier 4/7/13 - Page 3C