One port that does it all

Amrit Ramakrishnan | Updated on: Jan 23, 2018


Here is the low-down on everything you need to know about the USB-C

Everybody is talking about the one port and cable that multi-tasks and connects them all. USB-C is the new industry standard connector and cable, which debuted in the recently launched Apple MacBook. It was more in the news for Apple's adoption, than for the underlying technology of this unified port, which enabled the new ultra-thin Macbook to eliminate all other types of ports - electrical and data.

This new connector was developed by the USB Implementers Forum, the group of companies that has developed, certified, and shepherded the USB standard. It counts over 700 companies in its membership, including Apple, Dell, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and Samsung. This is important, because it’s more likely to be accepted by the majority of PC manufacturers.

Universal connector

It might seem like an upgrade on the older versions of the USB connectors but the key to the USB-C is the U; it is universal which means it can be used anywhere on any device. It is not proprietary, which is why pretty much every Android smartphone you see on the market has a USB port of some kind. The USB-C is basically USB 3.1 and it is just one tiny port so you can have it in laptops, PC computers, smartphones, tablets; every smart device can make use of this tiny port.

How is this connector better than the previous version (USB 2.0, 3.0)? Firstly, it has a size advantage. The USB-C is smaller and thinner so it can fit in really thin and normal-sized devices alike. It is also extremely versatile - it can carry up to 100 Watts of power meaning you can charge full-sized electronic devices with ease. It can also carry data at speeds up to 10 GB per second. Over the years USBs have been getting competition from rival companies and it trails behind Intel’s Thunderbolt in both speed and ease of use. The USB-C intends to regain lost ground. Its most talked about characteristic, however, is that it is backwards compatible with USB 2.0 and 3.0, and reversible. This means that you can plug it in the cable the right way in your first attempt. This ensures longer life of the connector since you don’t have to worry about ‘chipping’ it every time you insert it.

Longer life

The new MacBook might be one of the first to use USB-C but it will not be the lone ranger. Google earlier announced that it is “very committed to the USB-C spec. Expect to see this in a lot of Chromebooks and Android phones in the near future.” However, since the technology is at its nascent stage, quite a few ‘loopholes’ have surfaced. Apple aficionados are moaning about the fact that the new MacBook houses only one port. Staying connected on the new MacBook realistically requires plugging and unplugging accessories fairly frequently. If you start with the power cable connected to the single USB-C port, in order to connect the USB dongle for a wireless mouse, you need to disconnect the power cable and plug in a short USB-C to USB-A cable, which needs to be purchased separately (sold by Apple for $19). Another ‘disadvantage’ of this technology is the costs involved. Since the tech is new, you’ll end up buying adapters and dongles to retro-fit the connector to older devices. And on the Apple store, they aren’t cheap.

This is the bane of new technology, and mobility - after all the USB-C has contributed indirectly to the thinning down of the Macbook. But once it becomes a standard accessory, prices should plummet. And expect a certain Chinese component manufacturer to make the USB-C connectors by the million.

Integrated future

It is safe to say that all devices of the future will be powered by USB-C ports. Also, you can pretty much be guaranteed that future devices, which might pack in more power, will have more than one USB-C port. The dream is to have one charger that will power all your electronics and it will become a reality soon enough.

Published on May 13, 2015
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