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What is USB-C?

USB-C has reversible connectors and means faster charging and quicker data transfer rates. It can support lots of different types of data – including video – and power over a single connector.

USB Type-C boasts much faster charging and can deliver power at up to 100 watts at 20 volts. This means that larger devices can now be charged from USB, including laptops and tablets.

Coming to a phone near you
Pretty much all new phones have USB-C for charging – although the iPhone still uses Apple’s own proprietary Lightning standard. But Apple has changed things up with the new iPad Pro – like the MacBook, new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro it now also has a USB-C port for charging and connectivity.

Some proprietary charging technologies such as Qualcomm Quick Charge and Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging are built on top of the USB-C/3.1 standards to provide even faster recharging.

Apple’s Lightning standard is similar to USB-C in many ways in that it can also support faster charging and the connector is reversible. The fastest way to charge an iPhone X or 8, for example, is to plug a USB-C to Lightning cable into a USB-C MacBook (or other laptop) charger.

How do USB 3.1, USB 3.2 and 4 differ from USB-C?
Put simply, the numbers dictate the speed of connection while the letter refers to the connector. So we have USB 3.1 now, USB 3.2 later in 2019 and USB 4 in maybe 2021. All will use the USB-C connector.

What about USB-C on laptops?
The need for a separate power port on a laptop is gone, enabling manufacturers to make even smaller devices.

Apple’s MacBook led the way in the laptop space in 2015 with a single USB-C port for all purposes, but many new models now also have USB-C, meaning that you can use the cable from your laptop to charge your phone, for example. This is especially the case for thin and light laptops and tablets.

Some manufacturers are resisting; while Microsoft Surface devices have USB-C for data, they also have their own non-standard chargers. That will surely change in 2019.

USB-C also has display support so you can connect up a monitor and other devices to a single USB-C port. What’s more, this plug is compatible with the USB 3.1 standard meaning super fast data transfer rates.

Charging can be performed while transferring data at the same time, something previous standards could not always manage.

USB-C boasts up to 10Gbps data transfer rates. That means a full movie can be transferred in a single second, theoretically. With wireless data being used more often but being limited, this new USB standard may cause a resurgence of cable connection use as super high-speed data rates are required for things like gaming on tablets connected to TVs.

You’ll need some adapters
There are plenty of adapters for USB-C, making Type-C backwards compatible so anyone can adopt it.

In any case it’s likely you’ll need to buy at least some accessories; even if you have a high-end MacBook Pro with four USB-C ports you will almost certainly have enough ports but there will be some devices you own that you will need a converter for.

The USB-C connector has been designed so that it can be scaled with future developments in speed, meaning the shape itself shouldn’t need to change again for a long time.

Certain USB-C laptops are also compatible with Thunderbolt 3 – this uses the same connector as USB-C but adds faster data transfer speeds. Think of it like a USB-C Plus. It enables connection speeds up to 40Gbps and is ideal for high-bandwidth activities like video editing or backing up huge swathes of data.

Thunderbolt 3 is being combined with the USB standard as part of USB 4 so in theory, all future USB 4 devices will have the same fast data transfer speed.

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