The Surface Pro 7. The Kindle Fire HD 10. The PlayStation 5. All the major gadgets announced or detailed this week, with many enhancements. However, more important than any of these flagship products is the fact that they hugged something together that their predecessors did not: USB-C.
You know USB-C. If you have a premium Android smartphone, you probably already use it. But his ubiquity has otherwise been slow to wait. WIRED and others named USB-C 2015 the "Port of the Future" when Apple's entry-level 12-inch MacBook introduced it to the masses. It's been over four years, a long time in the tech world – so long that the MacBook has been discontinued.
Now USB-C has claimed its rightful place. "USB-C has become the industry standard for virtually every personal computing and connectivity device," said Patrick Moorhead, founder of Moor Insights & Strategy. This "About" has some notable exceptions ̵
The reason for the rise of USB-C is simple: it's just better. It can be charged in both directions. For example, you can power your smartphone with a laptop. It can also be charged quickly by pumping 18 W to your device to bring you from empty to 80 percent in just one hour. It can transfer data at speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second – and much faster, as Intel's Thunderbolt protocol converges to USB4. It can connect video to external screens. And it's reversible, which means it works, no matter how you connect it.
"The shift is taking place."
Dinesh Kithany, IHS Markit
Even so, the road was bumpy. Just because USB-C can do all these things does not mean that this is always the case. Download. While the USB Implementers Forum, which governs the USB protocol, sets a power delivery standard, manufacturers have also developed their own unique implementations. Qualcomm has Quick Charge, Samsung has Adaptive Fast Charging and so on. The result, as described in detail by Android Authority earlier this year is a landscape in which you're never quite sure what you'll get, especially if you're looking for a third-party cable. Your phone will continue charging, but not as fast as indicated unless all of the components involved are built for the same specification. In extreme cases, some dubious cables could roast appliances by consuming too much power for a given task.
The situation has improved over time, but it is still a tangle. To know exactly what you are getting, you should use the included USB-C cable. If you need a replacement, contact either the same manufacturer or a clear-label provider, such as Amazon or Monoprice.
This problem is detected immediately by the USB-IF. "During the first phase of the USB-C industry, OEM implementations experienced clearly growing pains and differences," the group said in a statement to WIRED An increase in the market will [manufacturers] lead to a joint implementation. "This feels like another way of saying that enough people complain loud enough that the problem can be solved by itself. USB-IF can not force every manufacturer to access the same page, but could have made the text more readable from the start.
In its explanation, USB-IF referred to the specification USB Audio Device Class 3.0 as an example of successful cleanup, although this example also shows how bad the problem was. In the past, USB-C headphones were not universal by default. Some manufacturers actually sold USB C earphones that were only compatible with certain smartphone brands. The current availability of a standardized approach is great, but it would have been even better if it had existed from the start.