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Thought USB standards were a mess? USB 4 announced, mere days after USB 3.2

Will this new standard improve fast charging compatibility? Well, you shouldn't hold your breath just yet.

Published onMarch 5, 2019

The USB-C landscape is in a bit of a mess, owing to incompatibility issues, but the USB standard at large isn’t perfect either. Now, just a few days after revealing the USB 3.2 standard, the USB Promoter Group has revealed the USB 4 standard.

It’s a pretty big upgrade as it’s now built atop Intel’s Thunderbolt standard, which has been released royalty-free by the chipmaker. USB 4 also brings two-lane operation with your current USB-C cables, and up to 40Gbps operation when using certified cables.

Read: Not all 5G smartphones are created equal

Despite the new underlying protocol, the standard will still be compatible with USB 3.2, USB 2.0 and Thunderbolt 3 hosts and devices. The upgrade is also focused on display output, as the promoter group notes.

“As the USB Type-C connector has evolved into the role as the external display port of many host products, the USB 4 specification provides the host the ability to optimally scale allocations for display data flow,” reads an excerpt from the press statement.

Will it really streamline the landscape?

Furthermore, Intel claims that USB 4 will “increase compatibility among USB Type-C connector-based products, simplifying how people connect their devices.”

Will this simplify USB-C’s complicated fast-charging situation in the smartphone arena though? Well, we’ll probably have to wait for the next USB-C update for any news on that front. But if I were a betting man, I’d say “no.”

And, as our own Scott Adam Gordon noted last week, the new Snapdragon 855 flagship chipset doesn’t fully support USB 3.2, let alone USB 4. So smartphone users likely won’t be able to reap all the USB 4 benefits for a while yet.

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