Demystifying USB Type-C
About the Author

Product Marketing Mgr. | Clinton Lee loves the mobile space. He’s a builder type who also loves startups and introducing new products to consumers. He’s worked at Palm, HP and now finds himself making sure you have the very best experience with your SanDisk wireless storage products.

And now for a cable news update. A single power and data cable to connect all your devices is now possible, thanks to the latest in USB (Universal Serial Bus) technology. With the advent of USB Type-C, the peripheral connection game is about to change, especially for mobile users.

Is it possible for data and power to co-exist on one single cable, eliminating that angel hair pasta clumping of multiple cables for an array of devices and peripherals? Will we see with Type C even greater speed and ease of use, along with the convenience?

Let’s start with USB Type-A and Type-B to tell our USB story. USB Type refers to physical function, the shape and wiring of plugs and ports. USB Type-A is the original design for the USB standard with a flat and rectangular shape. Small devices like a mouse, keyboard, or network adapter that have hard-wired USB cables use Type-A connectors. Type-A connectors are everywhere you look.

The Type-B connector is the end of a standard USB cable that plugs into peripheral device like a printer,  phone, or external hard drive. Since peripheral devices vary a great deal in shape and size, the Type-B connector and its port also come in many different designs.  That means a proliferation of five popular designs for the USB Type-B’s plugs and connectors, including the Micro-USB, or Micro-B USB: just smaller than Mini-USB, the Micro-USB Type-B port is currently the most popular USB port design for smartphones and tablets.

Now, let’s jump to a Type C, so we can work with the smallest of peripheral devices quickly and easily, and keep pace with our friends using the Thunderbolt standard. Evidently, C stands for competition also.

USB Type-C connectorPhysically, the Type-C port and connector is roughly the same size as that of the Micro-B USB. With Type-C, both ends of the USB cable are the same, allowing for reversible plugging. You also won’t need to worry about plugging it in upside down.

USB-C will enable storage vendors to make bus-powered (no separate power adapter required) external hard drives of much larger capacity, since it provides enough power to run one or even multiple desktop hard drives.

Laptop computers can be charged the way tablets and smartphones are now, via a USB port. In fact,  Apple’s Macbook is the first notebook that incorporates a Type-C USB as its power port. Type-C USB allows for bi-directional power. Apart from charging the peripheral device, a peripheral device could also charge a host device.

All this means you can do away with an array of proprietary power adapters and USB cables, and move to a single robust and tiny solution that works for all devices. Type-C USB will significantly cut down the a amount of wires currently needed to make devices work.

Related to these advances, USB Power Delivery (PD) is a specification standard that allows devices to send or receive up to 100 watts of electricity over a single connection while transmitting data at the same time. With USB PD, you could connect your laptop to a monitor and send a 4K video to the display, while receiving a full power load from it.

The best thing about USB PD is that it could spell the end of the proprietary laptop power brick. While every make and model of laptop today uses a different kind of power connector, in the future all laptops could have USB Type-C connectors with USB PD.

Here’s one drawback of the new technology. You won’t be able to plug existing USB Type-A or Type-B connectors into a USB Type-C port, nor will a USB Type-C connector plug into an older port. Since only new gadgets will fit it, your older connectors become outdated.

Will this new, tiny, super-fast connector change your mobile life?

Not only will Type-C will mean faster charging, quicker data transfer rates on your mobile devices, because of the smaller connectors, smaller phones and peripherals can be made too.

Mobile storage solutions also benefit from the innovation. In March, SanDisk announced its first USB Type-C flash drive, with 32GB capacity, which also features a USB Type-A connector for backward compatibility.

The standards group responsible for the development of USB also claims that Type-C USB is designed to be future-proof, meaning the same port design can be used for future and faster USB versions.

It may take a few years for Type-C to become as popular as the current Type-A, but when it does, it will simplify the way we work with all our devices. There will be just one tiny cable needed for any device, for both data and power connections.

Photo credit: Stock photo



About the Author

Product Marketing Mgr. | Clinton Lee loves the mobile space. He’s a builder type who also loves startups and introducing new products to consumers. He’s worked at Palm, HP and now finds himself making sure you have the very best experience with your SanDisk wireless storage products.



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