The connector that was supposed to rule them all is turning into the greatest fraud of our lifetime. And I completely blame manufacturers for it.
My excitement shot through the roof when first devices with USB-C started to emerge on the market. Then Apple went head-first into the arena with the MacBook, ultimately ditching all ports in its Pro lineup of notebooks for USB-C/Thunderbolt 3. Things were looking great. Finally, a standard that would make things simple. Just grab a USB-C to USB-C cable, plug it in, you’re good to go.
With USB-C, we also got acquainted to USB Power Delivery. A faster charging standard introduced by the USB Implementers Forum. This allowed power of up to 100W to be delivered over a USB-C to USB-C cable. No longer we had to deal with proprietary technologies as USB Power Delivery was hailed as a golden standard. Just pick up a USB Power Delivery adapter, plug a USB-C to USB-C cable into it, and you’ll be charging like a bullet.
Data, video, audio, power. It does it all!
Sounds good right? Except that manufactures are trying their level best to shove it down the drain.
Let’s start things off with a company that’s really dear to a lot of fans out there, OnePlus. Their phones have USB-C, but their phones ship with a USB-C to USB-A cable. But wait, it gets better. That cable is especially manufactured with extra charging pins to make room for OnePlus’ own DASH Charge and WARP Charge technologies.
Awesome, fast charging!
But it makes a quick turn for the worst. What happens when you plug in a OnePlus 6T (or older) to a USB Power Delivery charger? The phone does not follow any Power Delivery protocols at all. The charging speeds are capped to just 12W. Yes, that's just a wannabe USB-C connector in the phone.
Although I specifically pointed out OnePlus here, do keep in mind that other manufactures have pulled off this marvelous feat as well. Remember the ZUK phone? It had a connector that looked like USB-C and that’s all there was to it. You didn’t get USB Power Delivery at all. It was a wannabe USB-C connector too. This is applicable to all cheap smartphones out there that are ditching microUSB in favor of USB-C just to appease users without giving anyone the added advantage of it.
Then there was my experience with the Crazybaby Air 1S truly wireless earphones. I thought the charging case had died on me and I might want to put it to rest once and for all. I tried every single USB-C to USB-C cable at home with a USB Power Delivery charger just to make sure that my charging accessories weren’t botched. That orange light just wouldn’t come on for charging.
Out of sheer curiosity, I plugged in a USB-C to USB-A cable to the charging case, along with a regular 5V/2A wall adapter. And what do you know, the charging case starts to juice up. In other words: no Power Delivery + a fraud implementation of the USB-C standard, again.
Want me to go on? Sure.
There are tons of phones out there that are ditching the headphone jack in favor of wireless audio. But if you need to be wired, then just grab a USB-C to 3.5mm dongle and you’ll be good to go. Except you won’t be. Why? Because not all dongles will work on your phone or tablet. You have to source down a specific one that actually works for your device only then you’ll walk out working, or listening.
In all this noise, even Apple messed up slightly with USB-C by pairing it with its proprietary Lightning connector, forcing you to buy cables either from Apple itself or upcoming ones from their manufacturing partners. But at least, I’m slightly hopeful that down the line, maybe the company will replace Lightning with a USB-C port like it did in its iPad Pro lineup. But given how big the ‘Lightning’ and MFi business is for Apple, it’s hard to speculate where things will go from here.
Last but not the least, the cables that are available right now are a huge mess. You can’t just pick up one cable blindly, thinking that it would transfer data, video, audio and power all at the same time. You have to go through the cable’s spec with a keen eye otherwise you’ll end up with something you totally did not want. Some cables only do power while some just exist for the sake of it while others are overpriced that do it all.
USB 2.0, 3.0, 3.1 Gen 1, 3.1 Gen 2 - these are the standards we shouldn’t be dealing with in 2019. We should just pick up a cable that does it all, that too in the best possible manner. But sadly, the world isn’t a perfect place, and no one is trying hard enough in the USB-C arena.
The commitment to jump onboard the USB-C bandwagon while keeping the other end of the cable USB-A for no apparent reason (Samsung is a good example here) is like fixing a broken bridge with duct tape and even convincing people that they did the right thing. But if you can see through this noise, you’ll understand that we’re living the complete USB-C lie.
Will someone fix this mess? I’m not sure. But I do know is this: one big manufacturer needs to take charge of the reigns and show everyone else how it’s done in the USB-C era. If not, then dear manufacturers, take us back to the USB-A and microUSB era where things were simple, free of confusion.
Don't sell us lies. Give us the future which we were thoroughly promised.