Few of us pay much attention to the connectors and cables we use on a daily basis, but one type of plug has become increasingly ubiquitous in recent years.
The USB-C connection is increasingly the default method for connecting and powering devices, from laptops to smartphones.
It’s emerged from a pack of competing plugs and leads thanks to various advantages over the likes of Micro-USB A, FireWire and USB-B.
So what has propelled the USB-C connection to the forefront?
Cable and wireless
Unless you charge devices wirelessly and only use Bluetooth peripherals, you’re going to be plugging in charging leads and peripherals on a daily basis.
And until now, the various connection methods have all brought their own drawbacks.
Classic USB A sockets are too large. USB B sockets only connect one way up, but it’s hard to see which way at a glance. Lightning only worked on Apple devices. And so on.
Different smartphone manufacturers adopted their own solutions to charging and connecting, resulting in a soup of incompatible cables and ports.
Changing your handset also required a new charging adaptor, and even some peripherals, with old ones banished to the bottom drawer of obscurity.
As a result of this needless complexity, a body called the USB Implementers Forum was created, accelerating the development of a global connectivity standard.
This is commonplace in the technology sector, with bodies like W3C and 3GPP developing HTML5 and 5G respectively, to universally approved standards.
The improbably-named USB-IF has amassed a membership of over 700 companies, including Dell, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and HP.
It’s also created one cable to rule them all – the USB-C connection.
Beside the C side
Looking at the side of a USB-C plug, its ease of use is immediately obvious.
It has rounded edges which glide into place, rather than sharp corners that could foul or scrape a socket.
It’s small enough to fit on any device, without being too fiddly to get a purchase on.
Crucially, it’s capable of being inserted either way up. That’s hugely beneficial compared to its immediate predecessor, which could be extremely frustrating.
Once it’s connected, any USB-C is capable of data throughput speeds of 10Gbps. The latest USB 3.2 ports can achieve 20Gbps, though few smartphones have this technology as yet.
And while real-world performance rarely reaches double-digit gigabit throughputs, any USB-C connection will provide a quick and effective transfer mechanism.
Performance is slowed by using adaptors via older sockets (such as the blocky USB-A connectors found in cars), but these adaptors are cheap to buy and easy to use.
The greatest attribute of USB-C, however, is the sheer amount of processing it can undertake.
It’s capable of connecting a computer to a docking station and its cluster of peripherals. It can handle charging, data transfers, video and audio signals, all at once.
As such, it’s unsurprising that this USB-C is becoming the default connection for smartphones and computers around the world.