Type-C Charging vs. Standard USB Charging

December 12, 2017

Type-C Charging vs. Standard USB Charging

If you've just now gotten used to using standard USB or micro-USB connections on just about everything, you may be a bit flummoxed to learn that they are all going away.

Actually, that's a good thing. USB has evolved. USB Type-C or USB-C just started to appear in 2015, so it's not very common yet, but it will be. You may have seen it on Apple's new MacBooks or Google's new Chromebooks.

Here are a few reasons why you could come to love it, even more than old-school USB.


Interoperable

More than 700 companies took part in designing and adopting this new standard, including Apple, Google, Dell, HP, Intel, Microsoft and Samsung. Unlike Apple's Lightning charging system, many other manufacturers are already on board.


Reversible

What's the worst part about USB charging? Easily, the answer is flipping the little metal connector back and forth trying to get the bits to line up. That ends here. Like the Lightning chargers, USB-C works no matter how you fit it in the slot. Along the same lines, connectors are the same on both ends and either one will fit into the adapter that plugs into your wall socket.


Compact

USB-C is smaller so that the devices can be slimmer and still fit all the hardware they need inside. In fact, one of the reasons that the new Apple MacBook Air is able to weigh in at a tiny 1.35kg is because the USB-C is the only port it has. You will need a splitter/adapter if you want to charge the device and transfer data (or do anything else) at the same time.


Multi-Use

This is one of the real marvels and among the key reasons driving development. Don't you hate having one cord for charging and then another cord for transferring video to or from another device? The USB-C is versatile enough to send simultaneous video feeds and power streams. How cool is that? On top of that, it will soon be able to transfer audio, so a separate headphone jack is likely to disappear on most devices, just as it has on the latest iPhones.


Is it time to throw away all of my USB chargers?

Not yet. Sometime in 2018 or 2019, you should expect to see many more devices adopt this new standard.


What about USB 3.1?

No need to worry. USB-C is the default connector for the USB 3.1 protocol, which will typically transfer data at about 10 Gbps. You may see USB 3.1 ports that use the old-fashioned USB Type-A connectors, but that will be much less common over time. Some devices will support the Thunderbolt 3 protocol, which is a massive improvement. This allows simultaneous data and power transfers, with enough room for 40 Gbps while consuming less power to do it. In the next few years, USB-C with Thunderbolt is expected to replace your clunky HDMI cables for gaming.


How long will USB-C last?

There's no telling how long it will be before a better standard than USB-C comes along. Never forget that with advances in wireless charging by charge pads, WiFi/RF backscatter and built-in piezoelectronics will keep devices running longer between charges. Wired chargers may primarily become the badge of travellers.

In the meantime, whenever you're on the go, make sure you have the right hardware to plug into a local grid at your next stopping point. There is still an enormous variety of power standards and plug formations around the world, and that's not likely to change any time soon.