USB-Type C: A Guide

by Dan Forster - , Last Updated on March 15, 2016, How To Guides

If you’re lucky enough to have a brand new, top end mobile, then you might find that you’ve got USB-Type C charging. But what is it? USB-Type C is maybe one of the best developments in mobile tech right now, and whilst it might not be that exciting, it is going to have a large effect on your life, whether you like it or not. So we’re here to take a look at USB-Type C and tell you all you need to know about it!

Clearing Up Some Confusion

There is one big area of confusion when we’re talking USB, and that’s the difference between standard and connection. A USB standard is written with a number, and you’ll see it in plenty of computer specs. USB 2.0, or USB 3.0, for example. This refers to the speed that a connection can obtain. A USB 3.0 port has a faster flow of data (or electricity if you’re charging) then a USB 2.0 port. A USB connection refers more to the hardware, because it talks about the type of connection you have, and that’s referred to with a letter, such as USB A, or in our case, USB C.

That might sound a little confusing, and it is, kind of. Your computer, for example, might have a USB 2.0 port and a USB 3.0 port (for faster transfer), and you might have a USB A flash drive that can be plugged into either of those ports. Thoroughly baffled? Don’t be. Essentially, you can plug a USB into any hole that it fits into. If that hole happens to have faster 3.0 tech, then you’ll get faster charging or data transfer. That’s really the essence of it. We’re not going to help matters by throwing in a little more confusion though…

Older USB Connectors

On top of all of this, there are a host more USB connection options. The problem is that a traditional USB port is big. On a laptop or PC that’s fine, but mobile and tablet manufacturers found it impossible to fit regular sized USB ports onto smaller phones and tablets, so they came up with a work around. Mini-USB was the first step, but nowadays many of us use a Micro-USB charger for our phones, which is even smaller. These chargers tend to have a traditional USB plug on one side, and a smaller Micro-USB on the other that plugs into your phone.

At this point, you’re probably wondering why we’re telling you all this and what on earth it has to do with USB C, and we’re getting there…

USB-Type C

Part of the reason that USB-Type C was developed was to get rid of all of this confusion. USB C is the newest development, and it has many advantages. But the biggest advantage of all is that it’s small and universal. Whilst a Micro-USB gets enough power to charge your phone, it probably doesn’t get enough to charge your laptop, but USB C will. And the USB C connector is about a third of the size of a traditional USB cable, so it’s small enough to go onto your phone. Plus, it’s identical at both ends, so the cable can be plugged in either way, it doesn’t matter.

Type C: The Good

There are plenty of good sides to USB C. It’s small and can be used with any electronic device. It gets fast speeds, so charging and data transfer shouldn’t be a problem for most people. And it’s reversible. A traditional USB cable can only be plugged in in one direction, but with USB C, it doesn’t matter which way you plug in the connection, it will still work. That means no more fumbling around in the dark trying to plug in your phone charger the right way, which has to be a big plus, right?

But it’s that universality that’s really appealing. Technically a USB C cable can be used for anything that requires a USB connection. That means to charge your phone, your laptop, to connect peripheral devices to your computer or phone, for absolutely everything. You won’t need a huge collection of cables, just one, simple connector will suffice.

Finally, and this is a little technical, but bare with us, USB C also supports multiple protocols. That means that it can accept many different kinds of signals. You won’t need a dedicated HDMI port, or VGA port, or power port, or USB port, one USB C port will handle anything that’s plugged into it. Bottom line? Your devices can have one, standardised port for absolutely everything. Sweet.

Type C: The Bad

So, what’s the bad news here? Well, there are two slightly negative sides. The first is that although this is all possible, most devices do not have a USB C port at the moment. This is still new tech, and it’s going to take a while to catch on, so you’re just going to have to wait for that universal charger idea to kick in.

The second negative point is somewhat related. If you buy a new USB-Type C charged phone, then you’re going to be buying all new chargers. USB C is NOT backward compatible, which means all your old phone chargers won’t work with your new device. If you’re thinking about getting that mobile with USB C charging, you might want to figure the cost of all new chargers into the price.

USB-Type C: Bottom Line

USB C is already rolling out, with a few top end phones equipped with Type C chargers already. It’s expected that most electronic devices manufactured this year will come with Type C connections as well, particularly laptops. And whilst we do agree that charging cables don’t make for the most exciting development in tech, this is going to end up impacting your life quite seriously. But for most of us, that’s a good thing. A single universal cable that does everything we need it to do, and one hole to plug it into. You’ve got to agree that that’s far simpler than the current state of affairs.