December 21, 2015

Detangling USB-C, Part 1: How USB-C will affect mobile charging

By [email protected] Topic: Chargers Tech Specs

Self-tying shoes. Wireless chargers. USB Type C cables. What do they have in common? These once futuristic products have come to life and are detangling tech as we know it.

Type C connectors could eventually render all other cords obsolete, cutting cable clutter and creating a new way to charge and connect our devices and peripherals. They’re more compact. More powerful. And make possible the cable you never knew you wanted but soon will — desperately.

Combing through the features and impact of Type C and its complementary USB 3.1 and Power Delivery specs will take some time. But we’ll work through that later as we continue our series of Type C blog posts. To start, let’s run through the topic that affects just about everyone: What the Type C connector means for mobile devices.

Connect the Type C cable to make mobile devices better multi-taskers

Forget flipping a USB cable around and around to find which way it plugs in. You don’t even have to look with Type C cables, which have reversible connectors that fit without fumbling to find the right edge. Besides just being easier to connect, this new design tucks the pins inside a metal shell, eliminating exposure and minimizing risk of damage.

The Type C connector allows faster charging too – more speed than even Quick Charge 2.0 – and increased data transfer speeds. And it supplies enough power for device manufacturers to do some really cool stuff.

Take Microsoft, which gave us a glimpse of the future during October’s Lumia announcement. Its new 950 and 950XL phones combine USB Type C with a Windows 10 operating system – meaning you can connect your phone through a hub to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to run it like a regular computer. You can write in Word, stream Hulu, or answer email, all while simultaneously answering text messages and using apps. The hub doesn’t just act as a screen mirroring device like Google Chromecast; it’s actually adding a second monitor to your phone or tablet. Really cool stuff.

If that’s the future, what’s to become of past products? You can’t plug a Type C connector into an older USB port, but the cable is backwards compatible, meaning you can use an A to C adapter to connect an old cable with a new Type C device. Good news if you want to back up your new phone to an older laptop or external hard drive.

For now, though, there are only a few devices that’ll give you the chance to try out the new standard.

To 2016 and beyond

So far, we’ve seen the following products announce the inclusion of a USB Type C connector:

  • Apple Macbook
  • Google Chromebook Pixel
  • Google Nexus 5X and 6P
  • Google Pixel C
  • Microsoft 950 and 950 XL
  • Nokia N1 Tablet

As we head into 2016, we’ll see more and more devices adopt Type C. But there are bigger plans in the works for this technology.

The USB Implementers Forum is pushing for a single connector platform in which EVERYTHING is Type C: laptop, monitor, phone, hard drive, power hub, keyboard, mouse, and even headphones. C-to-C cable connections would link a substantial range of devices. And while it will certainly take some time, One Cable to Rule Them All is likely coming soon and could declutter and supercharge how we work and travel.

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