Blog: Why we don’t yet live in a USB Type-C world

July 29, 2019  /  Blog , Cable Assemblies

USB Type-C - designed as the be all and end all of USB connectors, the technology has largely failed to take off as it was once forecast to do.

As an upgrade to existing universal series bus cables, it offers more power delivery and faster data transfer speeds and comes packaged up in a new, reversible connector designed to prevent the memeable USB superposition. However, the success of the technology depends on manufacturers adopting USB Type-C ports into their products, which has not been implemented as much as originally hoped.

USB type-c cables

Why is this? As an OEM, your role is to offer customers a product that offers the best performance for their budget. Adding a USB Type-C connector port to your product should therefore be a ‘no brainer’. However, there are a number of issues hampering USB Type-C that may give you pause.

1. USB-C cables offer notoriously unreliable charging speeds

Despite promising more power, USB Type-C cables are often suboptimal for charging peripherals. Assuming you add USB Type-C connectors to your product for power purposes, you must ensure that customers use a correctly spec’d cable, as third party USB Type-C cables can offer suboptimal charging. Unless you can guarantee that your customer will only use the correct cable or you can provide a cable with your product, it may not be worth offering USB Type-C.

2. There are data transfer issues

USB Type-C is capable of handling an array of data transfer speeds, from USB 2.x and 3.x through to Thunderbolt. However, optimal speeds are only achieved when a consumer selects a cable that is capable of that transfer. For example, if they choose a USB Type-C cable that is of the USB 2.0 generation, speed will be severely hindered. As a manufacturer, this again means that choosing to incorporate a USB Type-C connector in your product means opening your device up to a wide variability in both transfer speeds and power options.

3. Improper cables can destroy products

In rare occasions if customers don’t use a cable that includes a resistor, plugging a cable that has an older USB A cable into a USB Type-C port can cause power surges which can fry electronics. Unless you can guarantee what type of cable your customers will use is USB Type-C compliant, it can be dangerous for your product and your reputation to use USB Type-C. 

Some companies, such as Apple, have got around this by only allowing certified products to function with their ports. However, that’s an additional level of security that you'd need to factor in to your design. 

4. You may cause port shortage problems 

By adding a USB Type-C port to your product, you’re technically opening it up to offer a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution - where you can offer charging, data transfer and media usage all from one connector. However, in practice replacing other ports with USB Type-C means that your customers lose out on versatility. For example, if they’re using your port to charge something, they can’t use it for media. A work-around could be to add additional ports but then you would need to configure these on your board to perform specific functions, like power delivery or data transfer, as well as make it clear to the user which port does what.

For that reason, it’s important to remember that USB Type-C can’t simply replace traditional connector types. Instead, you can incorporate a USB Type-C port, but you will also have to ensure that users have more than a single option for charging/media/data transfer. 

5. Widespread adoption is still years away

As a final point, there are still many years to go before customers won’t need to carry dongles and adaptors made just to marry up their many different devices with USB Type-C. New products are made with older USB inputs and other forms of connector every day, with only flagship smartphones and laptops consistently opting for USB Type-C.

What USB Type-C means for you

It’s clear that, while we’re not yet all using USB Type-C devices, there will be a time when the technology reaches mass adoption. As a manufacturer, you’re faced with a choice - do you implement USB Type-C now to stay ahead of your competition and adhere to the changing expectations of customers, or do you use a different port in the interest of safety, consistency and cost? 

Ultimately, there are no right or wrong answers - it’s about your product’s intended purpose. At GTK, we can help advise on the best course of action and can build custom USB Cables and connectors that fit your product’s purpose. We’ll take a collaborative approach, helping you understand the options available and what they might mean for end-users. If you want to combine data, power and media transfer capabilities, USB Type-C is a promising option, but care must be taken to ensure product efficiency.