USB 3.1 Type C for Mobile Devices

USB 3.1 Type C for Mobile Devices

The USB connector has been around for almost 20 years and it has gone through several versions. Whether you realize it or not, you most likely use USB every day. In addition to the USB ports on laptops for connecting thumb drives, printers, cameras, etc. most of our mobile devices use USB for charging. The USB ports and connectors are defined by the USB specification and in December 2014, the USB-Implementers Forum (USB-IF) released its latest USB specification, USB 3.1, which defined a new connector type, USB Type C.

The USB Type C connector will be a redefining technology in mobile devices. The USB-IF designed the USB Type C connector to fit within a small form factor on devices and best of all, it is reversible! This reversible design means no more squinting into a port trying to find the right way to connect your cable, you can now make a connection on the first try. Additionally, with just one USB Type C connector, you can now charge your device, transfer data, and send video and audio signals from your laptop or smartphone to a TV. Since all of this can be done over one small connector, devices can be made much smaller. Instead of needing a power port, a USB port, and an HDMI or VGA port, one USB Type C port is all that is necessary. Another area of focus for the USB-IF was the durability of the USB Type C connector. This new connector has increased durability over previous generations and is now rated to be plugged in and out of a port over 10,000 times. This adds longevity to your mobile devices and means that you will not have to buy a new device because of a failed port.

The increased power delivery of the USB 3.1 specification through the USB Type C connector means that we will be able to charge our devices much faster. The new USB Power Delivery standard of USB 3.1 includes up to 100 watts of power over the Type C connector and the power will automatically scale to the amount needed! That is more power than most laptops currently require and, on a smaller battery, this will charge devices much quicker than what we have previously seen. No more switching to airplane mode for charging and hoping that you get enough of a charge to make it to your next stop.

The USB 3.1 specification will have the ability to support DisplayPort video and four channel audio for a simplistic way to interface with current monitors and TVs through a USB Type C port. That video and audio will be supported without the need for drivers or chipsets, just make the connection with an adapter cable and you can show video from your mobile device on your TV. In addition to video and audio, the USB 3.1 specification supports other data signals like traditional USB data signals, an Internet connection, and even power for charging through alternate mode. For devices which support alternate mode, you can easily dock your mobile device and support a video display, audio, your mouse and keyboard, an internet connection, and charge your device all through a single USB Type C connector.

Another advantage of the USB 3.1 specification is that, with a USB Type C to Type C cable, you will have an easy way to connect two mobile devices. USB Type C ports will support host mode, device mode, or even a new dual role. When connecting 2 USB devices together, the different modes will allow you to send and receive not only data, but also power between two different devices. Imagine charging your phone with you tablet while sending pictures between the two, how cool!

Because of all of these advantages, many of the large consumer electronics makers are already talking about standardizing on the USB Type C connector. This is great news for us consumers if all the manufacturers can standardize. Instead of needing a different cable for each of your different mobile devices, you will need just one. The USB Type C connector seems to solve many of the problems that we face today with USB and is set to revolutionize how we connect and use our mobile devices.

By-Brad Shinkle

photo credit: March of the devices via photopin (license)

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