USB Type-C: Not living up to the potential it can B (for now)

by: Matthew BensonMarch 2, 2016

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New proprietary format standards are a hard sell: One need only look into the past few decades to notice a distinctive trend when it comes to an industry-wide adoption of new standards. Both CDs and DVDs took considerable time to transition from their respective cassette tape and VHS predecessors.

The problem is perhaps more pronounced with device connectivity however: Apple drove millions of its customers bonkers upon introducing the Lightning Port which rendered about a gazillion third-party peripherals useless without an adapter. And now we have USB Type-C, a shockingly smart standard that for all intents and purposes should have OEMs bending over backwards to adopt. And yet, they aren’t, or at least not yet.

The smart choice

Before beginning this piece in earnest, it is necessary to clarify that USB Type-C is not a data transfer speed standard or an increased power output standard, but is simply a new type of connection port standard. The key, however, is that this new standard is symmetrical which means it’s literally impossible to insert it upside down. This instantly alleviates frustration both with the actual manual act of plugging into the port, as well as OEMs who opted to place the former format port “upside” down, as HTC often did.

oneplus 2 unboxing initial setup aa (13 of 32)

Because USB Type-C is a new format however, it follows that most OEMs are using it for the latest in data cable-related technology, be it high speed data transfer rates or more rapid charging functionality. The problem, however, is quite simple: it’s not backwards compatible.

That’s it. Unfortunately this sole slight is actually a major point of contention: Whereas the ill-fated microUSB 3.0 port Samsung used on the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 3 did allow for a standard USB 2 connector to be inserted, USB Type-C is all new and thus won’t work with anything that is not specifically made for it.

The trouble

When Apple introduced its super slim Macbook last year with nary a port but a sole USB Type-C offering, there was quite a bit of backlash. By the time USB Type-C began to show up in smartphones and tables towards the end of last year – the Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X and Pixel C come to mind – the compatibility problems were even more visible: there were essentially no 3rd party devices that made use of the port.

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At least the Nexus 6P comes with an adapter for normal “old” hardware.

While the Nexus 6P did, thankfully, include a USB Type-C to USB-2 adapter cable – to allow it to work with an “ancient” PC – the Nexus 5X comes with nothing of the sort, making things as simplistic as transferring data from the PC into a very cumbersome proposition. The same held true of the Pixel C when it released in December: no adapter despite a sky-high price for a rather bare-bones offering.

The turmoil

As if the lack of widespread support was not bad enough, major turmoil began to occur when a Google engineer discovered that a third party USB Type-C cable he had purchased basically fried his computer. The story was a minor sensation – small if only for the fact that so few seemed to know what the new standard was – and said individual is now doing the tech world a selfless service by personally examining each one and indicating on Amazon reviews which cables are safe to use.

Suffice to say that the OEMs have always highly recommended customers use only the accessories supplied with their device, and now it literally seems to be a case of life-of-death (of the product).

The tragedy


A new phone with…last generation’s port standard.

Arguably the biggest blow imaginable to USB Type-C occurred at Mobile World Congress at the end of last month, when Samsung officially unveiled its new Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge handsets. Cutting edge in every way imaginable, the pair of products has even brought back fan favorite features such as water resistance and the “all important” microSD support. And yet. Despite a story published by SamMobile claiming exclusive confirmation of the new standard’s presence last fall, USB Type-C is nowhere to be found on either of these products.

If ever there was an opportunity for this new connectivity format to officially take off most-formal, it would have been inclusion in Samsung’s newest devices, as the Galaxy S-series is the top selling smartphone line in the world. Tens of millions of devices are sold each year, far more than several companies entire combined product line ups put together.

How Samsung managed to put out a new phone that has the absolute latest silicon to power it and improved the camera, battery life, and performance yet failed to include the obvious elephant in the room is truly mind-boggling. Even LG was smart enough to see the writing on the wall and included USB Type-C on its brand new LG G5, also announced on what was once (only) Samsung’s big day.


Will the successor to the Galaxy Note 5 have USB Type-C? Hopefully!

For the sake of argument, assuming SamMobile’s story was in fact, correct at the time of publishing last October, the question remains where USB Type-C is. Perhaps Samsung could not secure a good deal for the component port. Perhaps there were problems sealing it securely in light of the water resistance (after all, the Galaxy S5 had to use a stopper to cover its USB 3.0 port). Perhaps it was a last minute decision. Maybe it was just a false tip-off to begin with.

Figuring out the future

Several OEMs are already making use of USB Type-C. LG, as mentioned above, has two devices now. Huawei also has some. Even the newfangled Chinese OEM LeTV makes use of it. And then there are numerous laptop computers that are also getting on the bandwagon. The problem is that until it becomes a truly mainstream mainstay, it will forever be relegated to reconsideration.

Apple was able to make the Lightning Port work not because it was a great change – though in truth it was a major upgrade over its then-existing cable standard – but because if someone wants to buy Apple, they have to buy Apple. With Android however, there are hundreds if not thousands of different phones and countless OEMs making them: if you don’t like what one pitches, you can set your spending on another seller. This is exactly why USB Type-C standard needs a major OEM like Samsung – the largest in the world at that – to get on board, and to do so immediately.

Google may have tried to offer its “suggestion” with the Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X, but until some substantial product takes it and runs arms open and at full speed, consumers simply aren’t going to buy into it, until they are actively convinced there are products to buy that then can plug it in to. The fact that USB 3.0 (the “blue” ports that are normally on laptops) already allows for major advancements in the aging USB-standard yet works with all existing ports is already making it hard enough to imagine buying into “C” for some.

Now that the question has been framed, let the discussion carry on with you, the reader: Is USB Type-C the way of the future or has the gadget world been blinded with science? Feel free to take the quick survey below and then be sure to leave your comments!

  • Dt Bell

    D will be better

    • Bart Koppelmans

      The D is always better

  • I have nothing bad to say about Type C, I do like it on my 6P. However, I also have no problem with MicroUSB. I already have tons of MicroUSB cables, chargers, and accessories, and other than reversibility Type C doesn’t bring anything earth shattering to me.

    • Rex Xu

      It runs at full duplex, compared to the half duplex on micro USB, meaning you can read and write to it at the same time, very convenient when you store a lot of files on your phone and need to transfer it to your computer.

      • That has nothing to do with the connector (MicroUSB vs Type C), it has to do with the USB spec that the device is using, such as USB 2.0, 3.0, 3.1, etc. Any of those connectors can be used for USB 2.0 or 3.0.

        • Lindle

          The ting is that the microB could not be used for USB3 unless it uses the ugly port.
          This has potential though, I could see Asus releasing the padfone as an accessory for its flagship. That one still used a different connector but with USBC, that wont be necessary

          • True, but my main point was that the connector itself isn’t what determines the transfer rate or features, rather it’s the underlying USB spec.

          • Knowbody

            That’s not exactly true, the port determines what transfer rates could be supported, but not necessarily what is supported.

        • Rex Xu

          Technically incorrect. All android phones (save for a few such as the GS5) use what we call a “standard” micro usb. This standard can only support 2.0 speeds. If you google “USB 3.0 Micro USB”, you will see the connector is much longer than a standard micro usb. The Type-C variants of 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 look exactly the same (for better or worse).

  • Shellyman 8K

    Just wait at the end of year and you’ll see more USB C devices.

  • honestly with all the issues USB type C has been having since inception, I’m Glad Samsung decided to wait another year….

    • Konrad Fraczek

      I agree with you. I keep seeing people complain that Samsung didn’t pick Type-C but in my opinion there is many issues with it, like the article said, many cables are not good and can damage your phone. I rather have an older cable and a good phone than new tech and broken phone after 6 months.

      • dimitris aspetakis

        I think that if you have the money to buy the S7, then you will most probably have the money for a solid and reliable USB Type-C cable too…

        • Konrad Fraczek

          That’s true but then at the same time you don’t know 100% what cables are good. One Plus had a type-C in their phone and the Google employee said that its bad. It just gives an extra thing for some people to worry about and I bet most people don’t know their is faulty Type-C cables. Buying a good cable for you or me would be easy since we know what to do but average user might have problems down the line.

          • JohnWhoCare

            You do though, you buy OEM cables only. They honestly aren’t as expensive as everyone seems to suggest they are. Specially after you’ve just drop that amount of money on the phone itself.
            I have a Nexus 5X, I brought the extra long 6′ C-toC cable, and also the USB-A to USB-C cable just in case I ever need it. And I’ve brought an extra OEM wall charger and cable from LG on eBay
            If you don’t have the money to afford things like that, you shouldn’t be buying a smartphone in the first place..

      • Jeff “BIG RED”

        Thats why you research your USB cable before purchase. Wouldn’t be any different then an aftermarket car part.

    • Jeff “BIG RED”

      Sounds like you never used a device with USB C.

  • Ifnkovhgroghprm

    Gear VR… that is all.

  • Ernest

    I hate USB type C. I have an iphone 6s now and only a single cable for it eventhough I have like dozens of the normal ones. It’s very frustrating.

    • Craig

      At one point you and everyone else had only one microUSB cable… I remember getting my first android with miniUSB and then my first with microUSB and not being able to plug it in because I didn’t know the difference between micro and minuUSB. Like most things in life we have to be pushed or else we just will stay comfy in the nest.

    • Brandon Price

      Your iPhone doesn’t have USB type C. That’s lightning, Apple’s proprietary port. Type C is similar in that it can connect in either orientation, but they really have nothing to do with each other.

  • Degus Jacoby Pradana

    “Before beginning this piece in earnest, it is necessary to clarify that USB Type-C is not a data transfer speed standard or an increased power output standard, but is simply a new type of connection port standard”. Now, people who complain about s7 no type C and said usb C is important for fast transfer data have begin to dissappear cuz they were fck wrong! Where the hell are you now?

    • Craig

      No they were not wrong. USB C is the port, but it allows both USB 2 and 3/3.1 transfer speeds. So unless they go back to the S5 big old microUSB 3 port, USB C is required for fast transfer speeds.

    • TheDude

      USB C = USB 2.0/3.0/3.1 USB 2.0 = Micro USB

    • SeanPR11

      Not the fck wrong, yo..I’m right the hell here, yo.

  • Ismail Akram

    Its great feature I just wish our mobiles also get USB 3.1 too as new phones have UFS 2.0 or NVMe ssd controller so they are plenty fast. I’m happy with USB Type C on my Nexus 6p, my iPhone 6s plus have also reversible port. but my Moto X pure have microUSB for which I’ve to fiddle when putting on charge..

  • Larry

    Samsung said they stuck with micro for gear vr compatibility..

  • Craig

    Ya most likely they didn’t want to update Gear VR to USB C to make it compatible with the S7. The Gear VR 2 will most definitely be compatible.

  • cristoux

    There’s only one way to avoid compatibility issues: new standards must be implemented by all OEMs in all the product lines from the first day. Thus all the new products from 1-2 years now would be Type-C and everyone would have several t-C cables/devices at home. End of story.

    • Matthew Merrick

      That’s not possible. Stuff like this happens with open standards

  • charlie Jason

    It needs to be based on USB 3.1 with very high data transfer speed and power carrying capability.

    • Lindle

      3.1 is insignificant. That could easily be iterated in.

      • charlie Jason

        Insignificant? Currently most Type C ports are based on USB 2.0 which is much much slower and doesn’t carry as much power.

        • Lindle

          What I meant was that 3.1 is not that different from 3.0. If it was the jump from 2.0 to 3.1 then yes, that would be significant

          • benoita74

            Actually 3.1 can now be the same as 3.0: When USB 3.1 got released, the manufacturers with 3.0 went angry for not being able to market their product as having the best port, so it was decided to rename USB 3.0 USB 3.1, and the distinction goes between 3.1 10gbps (the “real” 3.1) and 3.1 5gbps (which are in fact 3.0)

        • Power in Amps to charge? or Data speed? Beacuse USB 2.0 USB-C cables do include the max power (3A output), what they lack is the higher data transfers that USB version 3.0 or 3.1 offer at 5 Gbps & 10 Gbps respectively.

        • Filly Jnr

          However you need to factor in the fact that having a 3.1 (or 3.0) usb port requires significantly more battery to power(when its not plugged in) then 2.0 and for most people the fact that they cant copy and paste a 1GB file in 30 seconds doesnt really matter when compared to the loss of battery life

    • Sun Sand

      USB C Supports all USB Standards including USB 2, 3, 3.1(Gen 1 as well as Gen 2), Thunderbolt, and it will even be supporting Display port 1.4(8k videos).
      Try reading the article again to understand its scope here -maybe you’ll understand better, Esp – “it is necessary to clarify that USB Type-C is not a data transfer speed standard or an increased power output standard, but is simply a new type of connection port standard”.

      • charlie Jason

        I’m not dumb, that’s why I said it (Type C port) needs to be based on USB 3.1.
        Currently most type Cs are based on USB 2.0

      • charlie Jason

        I know that it type c can be 3.1, but I am annoyed that most are just 2.0

        • Sun Sand

          Samsung is reportedly looking to have 3.1 on the next Note -that means it will finally get USB TYPE C!(better late than never). Soon enough there will be tons of devices -laptops, detachables, tablets, mobiles. Even printers, hard drives & TV’s too all having same port!
          We will need to carry only an USB C Charger & cable which will be common for all device n things!!

    • Knowbody

      A phones doesn’t need to have 10gbps transfer speeds, so USB 3.1 is overkill. But it would probably benefit from USB 3.0 over USB 2.0 at least.
      But you can use Type C with any version of USB.

  • David

    From an industry-observing perspective it’s definitely disappointing to see the slow growth of type-C. However, from a consumer standpoint (I have a Nexus 6P) it doesn’t effect me much at all. Found myself a good quality type-C to type-A cable and now everything just works. Google seemed a bit too optimistic not including a type-A cable in the 5X (and only including a mini cable with the 6P) but if that’s the only sacrafice I had to make as a Nexus user then I was more than okay with it. Type-C is the future, hands down, and the debate over its future will be as memorable and relevant as the debate over the cost/value of DVD debates in the early 21st century.

    • SeanPR11


  • Kody

    Why does it only have to be love it or hate it? I choose not give a shit cause whatever.

  • Andrew M

    I like to paraphrase a comment made on the embedded podcast. “There are 13 standards out there, and I’m going to make a standard to replace them all. Now we have 14 standards.”

    Still love the C and I believe it is to the future, just not 2016 future, but perhaps 2017 when more devices incorporate it.

  • Kimyban

    was surprised when I saw Samsung left out type C in his newest flagships S7 / S7 edge

  • Thomas Waznis

    Right now with no peripherals and companies cheating the spec in cords I want usb 3.0.

  • Irapollo

    Everyone knows there’s only 1 way USB-C will get popular and that’s using a page from apple’s book. Which no one wants to hear, but it’s true. Samsung and other companies need to stop making new products with Micro USB and start making them with USB-C. Its a shady move but it’s for the better.

  • AS118

    I vote option c: I like it in theory, but I don’t have a use for it yet.

  • Michael

    You people fall to realize that the next iteration of flagships usually start before the launch of this year’s model.

  • Tobias Evensen

    Micro USB can’t handle 3.1, right? Also micro usb can’t handle power and data at the same time, right? = type c is a better standard, and is plenty of future proof.

  • Ronald Sims

    I like it, but want to wait until they perfect the technology and more phones adopt it. Remember, it came out to the mainstream at the last fiscal quarter. Micro USB is still capable, so it not like people going to care about this until the end of 2016 or beginning of 2017.

  • 1213 1213

    Don’t like the poll, should be an in-between for those who are indifferent.

  • Scott Dabson

    I’m looking for a new phone as I am switching carriers. I find myself a little bit disappointed The GS7 did not come with a USB-C. The G5 didn’t come with AMOLED. I like the waterproofing and big battery on GS7. Also think the G5 modular chin could become a weak spot and if I put it in a case I’ll probably not swap out a battery anyway. so I don’t know. I have a Note4, many good things, but slow to focus camera. The carrier I’m on is less than good in my area and need to switch. I feel a bit trapped. I like the idea of a Nexus 6P. Should I hold up till next version to see whats up?…

    • monsterdonutkid

      As far as USB standards go, there’s nothing to be disappointed about. USB Type-C is a fairly new standard, and is still being further streamlined. While the Nexus 6P remains a good option, if you can wait, the Note 6 comes out later this year and I’m putting my trust on Samsung that it’s going to be even better than the S7.

      • Scott Dabson

        Thanks monsterdonutkid! I think you are right. I can hang in there a bit longer. I like new stuff I guess. I just think that we hang onto phones for 2 years, by this time next year everyone will be on the new standard and I’ll be itchy again.

    • 1213 1213

      Usb-c isn’t a big deal for phones individually. Its only exciting as a new standard. There’s nothing wrong with being ‘behind’ a couple years. Especially if you don’t plan on using someone else’s type-c.

      • b

        In fact USB 3.1 type C IS a big deal ONLY for phones- this is easiest way to provide fast charging for ANY device from any PC with usb 3.1…

        • 1213 1213

          The g5 has type c but only supports 3.0

  • Ronnie Brewer

    the s7 is an outdated phone coming out the box. it is so sad to see only quick charge 2.0 and no USB c with 3.0 because it should. sad

  • ConCal

    Why hate type C? After reading this I still don’t understand.

  • Virtual Anomaly

    It’s kind of obvious why Samsung didn’t include it. They stopped being the inventor and pusher forward this year and let lg do it instead because they need profits.

  • Qbancelli

    So usb-c is bad because you need to use the cable that comes with your phone, and Samsung didn’t use?

    OK. That makes so much sense.
    I bet this guy is a Samsung fanboy.

  • Joe nobody

    I thought the future was wireless and everyone is talking about a stupid cord.

  • jdt1986

    When third party Type C cables (including ones to connect to older USB ports on PC’s and wall chargers) become safe, reliable and much cheaper to buy, I’ll support Type C. Until then, I’m happy with my micro USB devices and the ton of spare micro USB cables I have.

    • devilreaper

      If you want a solid usb c cable go to the Microsoft store and get one. The Lumia phones use usb c with usb 3.1

  • Josh Adams

    The author seems to be unaware of Samsung’s decision to keep microUSB due to their VR headset. The 2017 version of this device will support USB-C, and so too will the S8. Am I disappointed that Samsung didn’t usher in type-C in full force? Somewhat, however, this year will be the year that USB-C begins to appear more frequently on laptops and phones. This will be the nice transitionary period that will culminate in Samsung giving USB-C its approval.

  • Swordylove

    Compatibility issue can easily be solved by including or make available an official adapter.

  • Jake

    If it’s just a new connector design and doesn’t offer any improvements in data transfer speeds or increased charging capabilities. I don’t really care for it. As I’ve gotten use to using the currently microUSB connector and have a few OTG/MHL cables for it.

  • A.K. S

    Love it or hate it isn’t enough of an choice. I don’t think USB C is the answer to anything, everything works perfectly fine as it is, but if it was implemented across android, I wouldn’t complain as long as replacement cables were readily available for a decent price. Basically, “I don’t care” is the answer I would have chosen.

  • 3223

    There should be a third option: indifferent. Because no matter what, I don’t really care.

    My only concern is with regard to the perceived instability of type c. If Google’s own engineer had to review available type c cables and some even shorted his device, I feel like there would be more problems than solutions.

    Alternatively, it could just be that normal Micro USB also has those issues but due to its ubiquity there doesn’t seem to be any widespread problems.

  • Jim Belesiu

    Leung’s Chromebook Pixel was damaged because the cable’s Ground and Vbus was swapped (Type-A Vbus wired to Type-C Ground, Type-A Ground wired to Type-C Vbus). This points to a poor manufacturing practices and not a Type-C issue (how did this cable pass final test?). This fault has nothing to do with Type-C; a charger with reversed polarity would likely damage most device.

  • Sun Sand

    Apple had the 2nd highest number of Engineers after Intel (followed by Microsoft) work on the the Brilliant future-proof USB C! Is that a possible reason for their skimping on this wonderful new standard! Sammy ought to be Ashamed of themselves, USB C final version was released almost a year and half back now!!

  • Serdar Vikramjeet Ramani

    Thinnest slimmest reversible unifying all ports most elegant invention USB type c with 40 gbps speed we definetly need it it’s time saving life saving … Instantaneous back up ,data transfer, insertion ,extraction, import – export time consuming projects all this instantaneously
    Fast charging of 100 watt unimaginable
    Daisy chaining of different mobile devices laptops notebooks fastest external storage ps4 Xbox what’s not?

  • Matt H

    How about the ability to use the Type C external video cards/GPUs / multi monitors at higher frame rates than HDMI or the other video conections out.currently…wonders if this would work with my nvida shield tv…..