USB-C: One cable will rule them all


Samsung’s much-hyped Galaxy Note 7 is finally here. It sits on top of the Android hill with its cutting-edge specs and features. It is also the first phone from Samsung to ditch the ubiquitous microUSB port in favour of USB Type-C, which has started popping up in flagship devices as well as budget phones from the likes of LG, HTC, Motorola, OnePlus, Huawei and the Nexus line-up from Google. But Samsung’s entry into the USB-C arena is especially important, since the company leads smartphone sales worldwide — according to Gartner, Samsung comprised 23.2 per cent of global sales, well ahead of Apple’s 14.8 per cent.

Even Intel has weighed in, stating that USB-C will be music to our ears.  That’s because it eliminates the digital-to-analog circuitry needed for the headphone jack to work, instead delivering higher quality audio directly to compatible headphones. Another benefit is that removal of this circuitry allows phones can get slimmer (as if they weren’t already skinny enough).

So by the time 2017 rolls in, you will be hard-pressed to find a microUSB holdout among any of the newly-launched phones. And those zillion chargers, accessories and cables may have become largely redundant, or will need adapters to work with your USB-C  phones, tablets and laptops.

Is USB-C worth the trouble?

USB-C will vastly simplify connectivity by becoming the one cable type that rules them all. It also supports blazingly-fast transfer speeds of 10Gbps using the newest USB 3.1 Gen 2 specs — you will be able to transfer, for example, contents of a fully-loaded 50 gigabyte Blu-ray disc in just 38 seconds. It can also carry up to 100 watts — more than enough to power everything from phones to laptops. USB-C is also smaller than microUSB, and can work with VGA, DisplayPort and Ethernet technologies via adapters. Additionally, it fixes a major point of frustration with microUSB – the port is reversible and you can plug it in any way up. So no more poking, prodding and cursing until the cable finally goes in.

But there is a caveat…

Hardcore audiophiles will tell you they can hear the difference when using a Dh1,000 cable versus a lowly Dh10 one. More reasonable folk will point out that, at least in the digital domain, the cable does not matter — those ones and zeroes will not go smoother or faster just because the cable cost more than the TV. As an aside, check out these hilarious customer ‘reviews’ on a $500 (Dh1,836) Denon cable.

However, as Google engineer Benson Leung found out, not all USB-C cables are made equal. In fact, the wrong ones can even damage your expensive phone. So he has set out on a mission to test USB-C cables sold on to name and shame the B-grade ones. As Leung says, “I have gotten fed up with the early cables from third-party vendors that so blatantly flaunt the specification.”

So next time you are in the market for a USB-C cable, you could read through his findings. Or check this site for a list of cables confirmed to be standards complaint. There is even a Google Docs list of these cables. Amazon too has taken note and started banning suspect cables.