September 28, 2023
More than just a simple port, USB-C (or USB Type-C) is a modern feat in engineering. This standard offers high power, speedy data transfer and a symmetrical, reversible design that makes it extremely user-friendly… amongst many other advantages. This new protocol didn’t appear overnight, and it has taken decades of technological advancements to become the USB-C we know today.
In this article you will learn about:
Developed nearly 30 years ago, the USB standard was the starting point for the USB-C we know today.
Most technology users will have heard the term “USB” – also known as a universal serial bus, a plug-and-play technology standard that was designed to standardize and simplify the way we connect attachments from peripheral devices to a computer. Not only easy to use but multifunctional too – USB technology handles communication from a computer to a peripheral as well as a power supply. When it entered the market in 1996, the USB standard levelled the playing field and helped alleviate the need to develop individual interfaces for each new peripheral that entered the market. It created one universal port that could accommodate a multitude of technologies.
The USB standard was a major moment in technology history. Prior, attaching peripherals to a computer required a variety of cables and ports, as each manufacturer used their own. More ports to work with meant more fragmentation in the market, requiring a wider variety of cables. As technology developed and became more advanced over time, new USB types rose to meet the market’s ever-changing needs.
You may have heard of the USB-IF – otherwise known as the USB Implementers Forum. This nonprofit organization was created to promote and maintain USB standards. Belkin was an early adopter of this technology and had its first involvement with the USB-IF nearly 30 years ago. In fact, Belkin was the first to introduce technologies like USB PCI cards, USB serial adapters, and USB PS2 adapters.
Belkin engineers collaborated with the USB-IF to develop the USB-C protocol from 2012 through 2014. The first Belkin USB-C product was launched in 2015 and was a USB-A to USB-C cable. USB-C offered a new type of connector shape, a 24-pin system that is compact and easier to use than the traditional USB-A, a long-standing industry standard. Its reversible design means there’s no wrong way to plug in, and it’s more powerful too. USB-C can support new USB advancements like USB 3.1 and USB power delivery (USB PD) -- a fast charging technology supported by certain iOS/Apple and Android/Google/Samsung devices that delivers much higher levels of power than standard charging.
With USB-C now firmly in the market, this new era in peripheral technology began to gain traction. Unfortunately, a flood of non-compliant cables showed up at the party too. Benson Leung, an ex-Google engineer and USB-C pioneer, is famously known for reviewing USB-C cables for safety and specification compliance. Benson performed tests across a spectrum of branded (and non-branded) USB-C cables to learn which producers are dependable when it comes to USB-C.
Benson learned that by not using cables up to spec, you run the risk of damaging your hardware in both the short and long term. Many producers were putting products out that looked like USB-C but didn’t follow the necessary standards and protocols. With his work, Benson raised awareness of the possible risks and prevalence of non-compliant cables in the market, for both consumers and the wider industry at large. Unfortunately for Benson, during his testing, he permanently damaged his laptop with a cable that did not adequately meet the specification standards. Benson is quoted in this research paper, published in 2015.
The world’s most popular mobile devices support USB-C. This includes the latest iPhone 15 lineup, Samsung Galaxy devices, and Google Pixel models.
USB-C cables offer several benefits that make them a versatile and convenient choice for connecting and charging various devices. Here are some of the key benefits of USB-C cables:
Overall, USB-C cables offer a combination of speed, versatility, and convenience, making them an excellent choice for connecting and charging a wide range of devices in the modern digital ecosystem. However, it's essential to ensure that the USB-C cables you use are of good quality and certified by reputable organizations to avoid potential compatibility or safety issues.
Choosing the right USB-C cable for your phone is essential to ensure safe and efficient charging and data transfer. Here are 10 factors to consider when selecting a USB-C cable:
Keep in mind that using substandard or low-quality USB-C cables can pose safety risks, potentially damaging your device or causing electrical hazards. It's advisable to avoid cheap, unbranded cables of unknown origin and instead opt for reputable and certified options from reliable manufacturers.
No, not all USB-C cables are the same. There are different versions of USB-C cables with varying capabilities, such as USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.1, and USB 3.2 and USB4. There are also proprietary protocols designed by different brands to mark the differences in USB-C cables. Additionally, some cables may support features like video output or power delivery, while others may not. Bear in mind that some USB-C cables in the market are designed solely for charging purposes and may lack the necessary wires or circuitry to support data transfer. These cables are commonly referred to as "charging cables" and may not be suitable for transferring data. However, all “charging cables” from Belkin are USB 2.0 cables that support data transfer speeds up to 480 Mbps.
USB2.0 has a maximum data transfer speed of 480Mbps, while USB3.2 can reach up to 20Gbps. USB3.2 is backward compatible with USB2.0.
USB Power Delivery (PD) is a charging standard that allows for higher power delivery through USB-C cables. It enables faster charging of devices, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones, by negotiating the appropriate power level between the power source and the device. It supports power levels ranging from 5 watts to up to 100 watts with PD3.0 and below, and enables power delivery of up to 240 watts with the USB PD 3.1 specification.
Thunderbolt is a hardware interface that supports high-speed data transfer and peripheral connection technology developed by Intel. Thunderbolt technology is integrated into some USB-C ports, allowing for fast data transfer, video output, and power delivery capabilities. Symbol used on Thunderbolt ports and cables is a downward-facing arrow with a tail of lightning.
Thunderbolt itself does not inherently support faster charging speeds than regular USB-C. The charging speed depends on the power delivery capabilities of the USBC cable, device and charger being used.
E-marker (electronic marker) is a chip that is used in USB-C cable, to communicate between power source and power sink devices. An E-marker is required on all USB Type-C cables that support 5A.
Yes, every certified cable can, at a minimum, pass data at 480 Mbps and provide 15W power. Popular applications can be divided in two ways, charging devices with minimal to no data transfer needs. Examples of these charging cables include:
And combining charging devices with high data transfer needs, such as connecting a laptop to a workstation dock or connecting a laptop to a monitor such as Apple Studio Display. Examples of these computer cables include:
There are also hybrid USB-C cables that combine popular USB-C connection with HDMI and DisplayPort. Examples of these A/V cables include: