The Extra Dimension

The Extra Dimension features deep discussions on how technology intersects with other parts of our lives. Welcome to the heart of the technological convergence.

USB Type-C: One Connector to Rule Them All

Episode #24The Fringe #440

Chances are you will soon own a phone that charges via USB Type-C, and maybe even a laptop and console too! What are the promises and challenges that come with switching to this new connector? Join Ian R Buck and Ryan Rampersad as they explore this topic!

01:28 | Brief History of USB

  • A brief history of USB, what it replaced, and what has failed to replace it | Ars Technica
  • USB - Wikipedia
  • Universal Serial Bus
  • Prior to USB, most different classes of devices required different ports to connect to your computer
  • USB replaced more and more things as its speed capabilities improved. First simple things like mouse and keyboard, later more sophisticated things like optical drives or wifi cards
  • Reasons USB has remained ubiquitous
    • Not proprietary
    • Usually cheaper to implement than other standards that supported faster throughput (like FireWire)
    • USB 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 have all had the same physical connector and are backwards-compatible
    • Drivers

13:30 | What is USB Type-C

  • USB-C - Wikipedia
  • New USB connector (design finalized August 2014) that is meant to be small enough, powerful enough, versatile enough to be used in everything from smartphones to desktops
    • First laptop with USB-C: Chromebook Pixel 2, March 2015
    • First phone with USB-C: OnePlus 2, July 2015
  • Smaller than USB-A, USB-B, slightly bigger than micro USB
  • Reversible
  • Most cables use the same connector on both ends, for both host and peripheral
    • Of course there are cables available for USB-A to USB-C so you can plug your new phone into old power bricks
  • Meant to be future-proof

28:30 | Cool Things

  • Quickly approaching a world where I can leave home with one charging cord for all of my devices
    • Phone
    • Laptop
    • Portable battery
    • Tablet
    • Switch
    • Google Wifi
  • When connecting two smartphones, you can tell one to charge the other
  • Data hosting and power hosting are independent
  • Laptops that have multiple USB-C ports can charge using any of them
  • Alternate Mode allows manufacturers to use some of the pins to run their own data protocols, without using the USB 2.0 lanes (so you can charge while plugged into an adapter)
    • If a device is incompatible, it can present a user-readable message explaining the problem

33:27 | Potential Pitfalls

  • Confusion of different supported protocols on different devices/peripherals
    • Not all USB-C cables are full-featured 3.1
    • Some cables can only carry 3 A, some 5 A, and if an A-to-C cable doesn’t implement properly, a phone could draw too much power and damage the brick
    • DisplayPort
    • MHL
    • Thunderbolt
    • HDMI
    • PCI-E
    • Ethernet
  • USB-A was so pervasive that it is going to take a long time to phase out existing infrastructure
  • The iPhone

45:00 | Surviving the Transition

Attributions