USB Type-C Will Change Everything | TechTuesday

There’s a new version of USB with an all new connector shape coming to a device near you, and it could change everything when it arrives.

Currently, we’ve got many different cables with many different capabilities for many different uses on many different devices. The standard USB that everyone knows is USB Type-A, but that wasn’t suitable for every device, so multiple USB connectors were made, including Micro-USB (Found in non-Apple phones/tablets, satnavs, cameras, etc). Besides USB, there’s HDMI, VGA, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, Lightning and a different power cable for almost every laptop manufacturer. How complex!

The new 3.1 version of USB with the new Type-C connector is here to change that. It provides many benefits for consumers and manufacturers alike being small, yet very powerful and versatile. I should note that USB 3.1 refers to the version of USB technology, whilst Type-C refers to the physical shape of the connector that plugs into a device. However, with USB 3.1 technology manufacturers will do away with the many varieties of connector shape, in favour of Type-C.

Together, they provides these benefits:

  • Tiny Type-C connector (a 1/3 of the size of a regular USB Type-A)
  • Type-C connector is reversible (no more fiddling to plug it in the right way round)
  • “Alternating Modes” allow you attach adapters for HDMI, VGA and older USB formats, among others
  • 100 Watts of power (can now charge a laptop, as well as smaller devices)
  • Bi-directional power (can now use the same cable to input and output power)
  • Display abilities (to output video – like HDMI can)
  • Transfer data at 10 Gigabytes per second
  • Multi-tasking (Input/output power and transfer data or display video from a single port, at the same time)

Manufacturer Adoption

With so many benefits from just a single connection we can expect manufacturers to put Type-C connectors in a range of devices: from phones and tablets, to sat navs and cameras, to games consoles and TVs, plus laptops and desktop PCs, of course. That’s great because it creates a standard that everyone (manufacturers and consumers) is familiar with and it reduces clutter, costs and environmental damage.

In very simple terms, we can imagine this as the WiFi of cables; one standard that every manufacturer uses.

Even Apple, a company known for not following the standard and sticking to it’s own proprietary cables, is joining in on the USB-C hype. They just launched a new range of MacBooks with only two ports; one USB-C and a headphone jack. It’s a bold move as it does away with Apple’s own MagSafe power ports and Thunderbolt ports, as well as HDMI, USB Type-A and the SD card slot. I will miss the safety of the MagSafe port, which falls out if you trip over the cable to avoid damage, but the benefits of USB Type-C are a lot stronger. Also, third-party manufacturers can make Type-C accessories for the Mac which are MUCH cheaper than Apple’s own.

Clearly Apple has realized that, whilst it’s own Thunderbolt 2 ports are more powerful, people would prefer to use a single type of cable. This makes me question the future of it’s Lightning cables for iPhone/iPad which are known for being expensive and breaking easily. Could Apple replace these with USB Type-C? Could we see a future where all devices, including Apple’s, charge via the same cable?

Either way, with a company as influential as Apple involved, we can expect other manufacturers to start including USB-C in their devices very soon. Google & Nokia have already started doing so.

Backward Compatibility

USB Type-C cables won’t plug into any of the previous USB sockets. However, adapters will be available and we can expect manufacturers to include both Type-A and Type-C in laptops until Type-A has be completely faded out. Smaller devices such as phones and tablets will probably start making the jump from Micro-USB to Type-C (and Qi Wireless Charging), but this will be worth the hassle in the long run. Here comes a future where we can rely on a single type of cable, making physical connections simple and seamless. As technology should be.

Now, speaking of simple, seamless connections, how about Google Fi? Read more here!

Image Credit: By Hibiskus100 (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons