USB type C is a surprising mess

USB’s Type C connector has been with us for a couple of years now. If you have a higher-end Android, you probably see it on the bottom of your phone. If you have a lower-end Android, you probably wish you did.

The USB Type C connector was designed to address the common problems with MicroUSB, the connector that permeated the world of Android phones until recently. Everyone hated MicroUSB (including myself) and here’s why.

  • It is practically impossible to put a MicroUSB connector in right all the time.
  • It’s a flimsy connection.
  • It doesn’t provide enough power to charge your phone quickly.
  • It doesn’t give you a high-speed connection.

Enter USB Type C

USB Type C was designed to be part of the USB 3.1 standard revealed in 2014. It sounds like a dream. 100 watts of power, it’s truly reversible, and it moves data fast enough that you can even use it for 4K video. I do wish, as I did then, that it didn’t have a big dust-sucking hole in the middle but I guess you can’t have it all. USB Type C should be a dream come true, except it isn’t.

Enter the trolls

The problem with USB Type C is that it’s a virtually unregulated system. Apple’s Lightning connector may be expensive and proprietary, but if you see that “Made for iPhone” logo on the bag it comes in, you know it will work. Period.

USB Type C doesn’t have any sort of “made for” program. So you don’t know what the quality is going to be like. Three years ago, Ars Technica took Amazon to task for the quality of their cables, and it hasn’t gotten better. To do all those amazing things requires a well-built cable. And truth be told most USB cables aren’t. That’s been a problem for over a decade.

There’s no implementation standard for USB Type C either. If you have a laptop with USB Type C ports, you don’t know how much power can flow through each port. You don’t know if each port handles video. You may have four ports yet only one of them can function as a power connector. It’s a mess.

And I say, “Enter the trolls” but in this case those internet commenters are right. This really shouldn’t be this hard.

Pick the right brand

It’s really important for you to choose the right cable. You can’t necessarily control what ports are on your laptop or phone (unless you buy a new one.) You can definitely control your choice of cable. If you’re talking about putting 4K video or a lot of power through a cable, you really don’t want to use a cable you got out of a bin at the drugstore.

When you shop the great selection at Solid Signal, you’ll find brand names you recognize, and although the prices are a little higher than they are at the drugstore, you’ll know you’re paying for quality. Those drugstore cables might not even have all the pins connected… don’t laugh this has actually been a problem for people. There are several forms of USB Type C connector and not all of them will do everything. It’s a real problem especially since the connectors aren’t labeled.

Why, why, why?

I really thought USB Type C would solve all sorts of problems. It does, but I certainly didn’t expect it would cause so many, either.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.