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USB Type-C is still a mess (androidauthority.com)
312 points by kissickas 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 226 comments

Speaking as someone in the industry who's worked on Type C-enabled gadgets, half the bloody problem is that the Type C products offered by the major semiconductor companies are _terrible_.

For sake of a simple example, consider designing a rechargeable flashlight. For whatever reason, you'd like it to be rechargeable over a USB-C port. You also want the flashlight to charge as fast as possible from whatever power source you connect it to, because you know people will need to charge it quickly. To do that, the ideal solution would be a single IC that sits on the USB port and monitors D+/D-, CC1/2, and the rail voltages and sets a few GPIOs to tell your battery charge circuit what is and isn't allowed on this port.

Inexplicably, _that chip doesn't exist_. It does exist for USB 2.0 (that is, BC1.2), available from several vendors, and works perfectly. There are solutions marketed for Type-C... but they don't touch USB 2.0. That means someone who uses a Type-A to Type-C cable with a beefy older Type-A charger doesn't get fast charging. There are some bigger Type-C products that might work, but they're incredibly complex, physically large, expensive, often in BGA packages, and will blow out every line on your budget.

Admittedly it's been about a year since I turned over every stone in the industry searching for my Magical Unicorn Charging IC (like the ones that exist for USB 2.0...), but I do pay attention to new product releases and I haven't seen anyone going in this direction. Probably you could get something customized (at medium volumes) or certainly full custom (at high volumes), but if volumes or margins are low enough to require COTS parts, there really aren't any workable solutions.

I am confident that Type-C's market penetration will skyrocket as soon as the difficulty and cost of actually integrating it into a product reaches sane levels.

There's no innovation in this sector. It needed Apple to kick Ti's sorry ass to get us to Ti 83 even instead of the Ti 82. It says quite a lot every Thunderbolt enclosure uses this chip: there are no other USB PD controllers (USB PD is used to negotiate Alternate Modes).

Another example: you can buy a small and cheap USB C to DisplayPort adapter with power passthrough (< 20 USD). You can buy a (relatively) small and cheap USB C to dual DisplayPort MST hub (<50 USD). You can not buy a USB C to dual DisplayPort MST hub with power passthrough unless it's a full dock, huge in size and expensive (200 USD at least).

To anyone as confused as I was: the parent comment refers to the Texas Instruments TPS65982/TPS65983, not the graphing calculators.

"you can buy a small and cheap USB C to DisplayPort adapter with power passthrough (< 20 USD)"

*may destroy motherboard

Is this because of patents, or is this because nobody wants to do the R&D?

The latter. The entire area of vaguely PC peripheral chips died in 2014 when MegaChips took over ST's DP chips.

Consider how much a 10 GbE card still costs -- this is the same speed! Apparently, it's not cheap making chips working with 10-20-40 gigabit/s line speeds but the market demands low cost. USB C wouldn't get far if a plain USB C to DP adapter would cost a hundred bucks.

> Consider how much a 10 GbE card still costs -- this is the same speed! Apparently, it's not cheap making chips working with 10-20-40 gigabit/s line speeds but the market demands low cost. USB C wouldn't get far if a plain USB C to DP adapter would cost a hundred bucks.

You can thank the laws of physics for that because at 10+ gbit data rates you start needing crazy internal clock speeds (which can be significantly higher than the input clocks). Since the distance a signal can travel before it loses too much energy to register logic HIGH is proportional to the wavelength, you have to pack everything close enough while still doing what your specs call for. In the case of 10GigE and USB Type C, this means having to move to smaller fabrication processes than most companies are prepared for or even have access to.

Most protocols designed to be that fast are either massively parallelized to avoid this problem like PCIe/DDR2+ or very expensive to implement as peripherals/silicon like MIPI3/10GigE/USB Type C.

Yes, it seems ten gig is about where the fertilizer hits the circular cooling device. The new 2.5 and 5 gbe cards are much cheaper and DisplayPort 1.2 ICs with the 5.4 gbit HBR2 lane speed are widespread and of course there's USB 3.1 Gen 1 (formerly known as 3.0) with also 5 gbit/s. There is practically nothing working with the DP 1.3 defined HBR3 8.1 Gbit/s lane speed, though.

The only strange thing here is how five years ago we already had USB 3.0 and DP 1.2 devices in abundance but ten gig is still somewhat problematic.

Regardless of industries, you can always assume, as it is always 98% of the cases, that any failure of correction or innovation is because 1) It doesn't improves their bottom line and 2) Anything that involves higher cost budget or lower profits.

That is why we need competitions. Sadly patents also prevent competitions from happening.

If an equivalent exists for USB 2.0, I'm surprised a company hasn't come it to sweep up the low hanging fruit.

Why do you think that is? Is there something in the spec that's holding anyone back? or is it a chicken and egg problem where no one invests in Type C because no one has yet?

According to the spec a USB 2.0 to USB C cable must have a resistor that tells the USB C end to max deliver 0.5 A.

If another resistor is used to signal higher currents using that cable could fry peripherals that follow the USB 2.0 spec.

Also, I don't know much about USB 2.0 but I thought we had a whole slew of proprietary solutions for fast charging and all were incompatible with each other. So it was quite messy even before USB C came and made everything even worse.

For charging though you generally wan't to slow charge as it greatly reduces wear on batteries anyway.

You only really need to slow charge when you get near to top or bottom end of the battery's charge. From around 20-80% charge you can charge the fuck out of you shit with no drawbacks, but if you try and push the those limits then you start seeing significant wear.


I thought heat was the primary source of wear. And fast charge produces lots of heat regardless if it's in the middle of the range or not.

I'm not an electrochemist, but I have been told one of the major wear mechanisms is lithium plating, which is a function of anode voltage and charge current (and probably 100 other things). As I understand, the standard CI/CV charge cycle is very conservative to avoid this complexity. I believe more sophisticated parts like the TI Max charge series get around this by running estimators of the cells anode voltage and can scale charge current appropriately.

Sorry no good references to offer off hand, this is all just stuff I've been told by engineers and chemists. Take with a grain of salt.

I don't know enough to reason about it myself, but there are plenty of people that claim it has negative effects. And when pressed most people I've encountered that say that any negative effects are negligible reveal that their source have been marketing from the manufacturer.


I'm not saying the link above is supposed to be more credible than your post. But it is an alternative view point that resonates with most of what I've read.

For the same reason Tesla recommends you to not over-use supercharging (though this obviously is a sensitive subject), since it puts a toll on batteries - and Tesla unlike most other battery peripherals actually have good and active cooling.

Oh, no doubt heat is also not good for batteries (neither is the cold). I didn't mean to imply it wasn't.

However I'm still not sure heat is the first order effect limiting charge rates. If you consider that the charge efficiency of the cell is something around 99%, the total losses at a 1C rate relative to the thermal mass of the cell are pretty negligible ( nominally, around 3.6mW per A of charge current ). I'd wager that when your cellphone heats up under charge, that's primarily due to losses in the ~90+% efficient charger circuitry. Heat is heat, and that is still not good for the battery of course. I believe the cooling system in the Tesla is primarily for when the cells are being discharged, but it would be really interesting to hear the full story on that from a Tesla engineer.

I found the below link which also seems to imply the lithium plating as well as other chemical effects are the first order issues. http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/bu_808b_what_caus...

Thanks, I feel there is something missing when translating the stress tests made in that article to consumer peripherals. I get the impression that longevity is greatly sacrificed for short term performance in phones and laptops. But that is just me trying to explain why (my) phones and laptops loose their battery capacity so quickly.

Regarding Tesla supercharging I found this: https://www.teslarati.com/watch-tesla-battery-thermal-manage...

I also heard of issues of other cars (don't remember brand) who can't perform a supercharge - some driving - and then another supercharge because the batteries would overheat (still from the previous supercharge), preventing long trips.

Yea, it's quite possible that something changes at these (scary) high charge rates. Maybe charge efficiency takes a nosedive, or there are some other effects that are non-linear with charge rate. Thanks for the link.

Anecdote: this is what my Nissan Leaf does. 20 to 80% it charges like a bat out of hell. 0-20 and 80-100 you might as well put a solar calculator to charge it up, takes a long time.

Wouldn't there always be companies trying to sell the cheapest qualifier?

Wouldn't the expensive products you mention that "might work" become more affordable if they were manufactured at a higher rate? (But maybe they aren't because they are harder to sell)

>I am confident that Type-C's market penetration will skyrocket as soon as the difficulty and cost of actually integrating it into a product reaches sane levels.

Isn't the current market of so many low-cost Type-C devices evidence that the cost is already low?

The cost of crappy things that don't solve the problem described which leads to the mess we're complaining about is low, yes.

Forgive me for sounding extremely ignorant. I know this is not my area of specialty and I admit I'm about to sound stupid. I want to admit this right off the bat.

Can't you just hook up the VCC and ground from any USB charging IC to a type-c socket? It's all +5v right? I don't understand why the type of connector dictates how fast a cable should be useful for charging. That seems like it should be up to the simple gauge and length of the wire and thus how much current it can handle.

From what I've heard re: that chart in OP's link that shows the different fast charge rates for different manufacturer's wall warts and cables, most of that is caused by proprietary ICs doing sneaky things like throttling the charge rate when it discovers it isn't connected to an official Huawei cable or whatever through some resistor value going to ground from one of the data lines, or some similar method. Couldn't the IC in the device read the resistance / inductance of the cable and determine through that how much current it could handle? I feel like this is all bad faith shenanigans through proprietary cable DRM. When charging is concerned, a conductor is a conductor assuming there's enough thickness to prevent overheating, right?

You can’t make that assumption at the end. These cables are as thin as they can possibly be to carry the maximum current they’re rated for. That maximum current could be 0.5A or it could be 5A. Try to pull 5A through a cable rated for 0.5A and you’re likely to burn the customer’s house down. You can’t really measure the resistance of the cable from one end. You can try to guess by watching for a voltage drop as you pull more current, but that’s extremely error prone. Because of this, all of the components are supposed to signal what they can handle, and if they don’t, they fall back to the minimum current known to work.

Wait, so a USB-C cable cannot be a completely passive component?

Yes and no. There is no IC in there, but there are small segment in the cable spec that talks about resistors on one of the lines that signal the type of cable available.

So you put one resistor in for a low rated C to C cable, another for a higher C to C rated, and yet another for an A to C converter (indicating that the C end should fall back to the older battery charging spec).

Guess how many fly by night cable manufacturers get those wrong...

the C to C spec charging, or Power Delivery, spec is a whole different barrel of stinking fish. Where you can have everything from 0.5A at 5V to multiple As at 20V running over the same C to C cable.

This is akin to the Qualcomm quickcharge scheme that run 9V over existing micro-USB cables and ports (thus allowing higher wattage without cranking up the amps).

Power Delivery is not just for USB-C. It was defined for use with USB 2.0 and up on any of the legacy connectors.

While true on paper, i wonder if it will ever be implemented as such. And frankly it may well be yet another black mark on the mess that is USB "C" (or 3.1 or whatever).

The resistor in the USB-C cable to identify its current carrying capacity is still a passive component. And of course you can omit this resistor but your device will fall back to the minimum current.

They can be passive - thus the resistor to incidicate the cable's rating.

Type-C offers charge rates up to 100W, which means the voltage is ramped to 20V.

There is an entire protocol to negotiate power delivery (including who charges who) http://www.usb.org/developers/powerdelivery/

And the latter part have caught some people unaware, where a battery pack and a phone will ping pong who is charging who until both are dead.

> And the latter part have caught some people unaware, where a battery pack and a phone will ping pong who is charging who until both are dead.

Or, if you're really unlucky, it'll attempt to charge your wall. No, I'm not joking: https://twitter.com/chimeracoder/status/941820122406064128

My phone has offered that option when I plug into the car. While the car could in theory benefit from the charge (it's a plug-in hybrid), I doubt the phone would be able to provide much of value.

Sounds like a good way to steal power from work -- charge up your phone at the office and supply power to your wall outlet when you come home.


Ok, that's it. Murphy does not need to verified any more. And i need a really really stiff drink.

That is hilarious. At least it gives you the option.

Gotcha, I was wondering if the VBUS was dynamic. Thanks for clearing that up for me and linking to the documentation, I appreciate that.

That's a tiny part of the USB 3.1 Power Delivery spec. The bulk of the issue lies in the negotiation between sink and source, which is fraught with complications.

PDF link: http://www.ti.com/lit/an/slva842/slva842.pdf

There's usually a lot more involved in charging a device, not to mention that USB-C can charge at 20V instead of just 5V. Charging speed is often based on current, but you also want to make sure you don't discharge too much current too quickly for various reasons (such as the battery capacity, and to prevent surges, etc). If you're curious, there are teardowns that go over chargers that discuss everything involved.

I remember arguing with people when Type-C was new; they told me it would change the world, I told them it would never work.

The problem is... they made everything optional, and thus when a user sees a Type-C port, they have no idea what to expect. Will it work with a device that requires Thunderbolt? Will it drive a DisplayPort monitor? Will this charger charge their laptop? Will this charger charge their phone?

The answer to any of those questions is "it depends". Many Type C ports do DisplayPort. Many don't. Many Type C chargers will charge something that needs 5V, but not something that needs a higher voltage. The end result is that you end up with thousands of devices with the same physical connector that can't actually operate with each other.

My favorite USB C device is Wacom's Intuos Pro pen tablet thingie. It has 3 Type C ports and needs DisplayPort input, USB 2.0, and 20V power. So there is not a computer in the world that you can plug it into with one cable, because I've never seen a computer that can output 20V over Type C. To get around that it, it has three ports and ships with a power brick... so you have two Type C cables going into it at a minimum. So close... if only they would accept 5V power. (I did some measurements and it uses only a tiny amount of power that is well under what can be supplied with 5V, but they appear to have reused the power delivery subsystem from their nearly-identical laptops, which do really need a lot of power to charge the battery.)

I don't see the situation improving. When you have 3 versions of power delivery and at least 4 "alternate modes" to implement, nobody is ever going to implement them all. So people will always be connecting Type C peripherals to Type C computers and being disappointed. And there is no way for the user to predict what works, because it's not like anyone shares specifications of what's required ("this monitor needs 20V and DisplayPort Alternate Mode") ("this computer can supply 100W, and implements USB 3.1, DisplayPort Alternate Mode and HDMI Alternate Mode").

It failed. I look forward to USB Type D that has a more durable connector and doesn't allow "optional" extensions. Maybe that will work. But for now, it looks like I will be struggling with upside-down Type A connectors for the next ten years. Sigh.

Unless some competitor comes and knocks Type-C off the pole position, eventually the odds are implementing more complete Type-C will get easier and easier. Better Type-C chips will come out, get cheaper, & easier to design with. Maybe the chip will even boost your 5V input to supply 20V at low currents. It won't happen in 2018, but by 2020 or 2021, I'm bullish.

"it depends" is a fine answer for whether a device supports something. that's how USB-A/B worked. you didn't know if the device supported quick charging, worked at better than USB 1.1 speed, or even if it supported data transfer. there's lots of power-only USB devices.

But you at least could make a fair assumption that the cable you were trying to use supported all of that (beyond the rare power-only cables). For me the real killer with USB-C is the wide variety of cables that all look physically identical. it's fairly easy to keep track of what features a computer, phone, or peripheral has. but having to keep track of which features each cable supports is a huge pain in the ass. It means i can't just have a box of random USB cables on my shelf, and grab one when i need one.

Quick charging is a little different. You can take any USB phone and plug it into any USB port and it will try to charge. Maybe slowly, but something will happen. That is not the case with Type-C alternate modes and power delivery. If what you're connected to doesn't support what the device needs, it won't work, and won't tell you why. That is what's annoying. Is it the power adaptor? Is your device dead? Does it not agree on which alternate modes to use? Is the cable incompatible? Nobody knows without a $100 debugging device to sniff out the negotiation packets.

I’m not sure optionality is the problem so much as they didn’t NEED to combine three things into one.

If USB-C has video and USB it would be pretty great. Video could be optional but that’s easy enough.

But Thunderbolt is a HUGE complication. It should have used some other connector and then this stuff would be easy enough to figure out but you’d still get plenty of benefit.

Of course TB already used the Mini-DP connector, so that would have made video out a mess. And it was too late to fix that.

And leaving all three separate is it’s own mess.

I’m not sure there was a good solution at this point. Which seems like a lack of planning.

A more aggressive re-imagining of how peripherals interoperate is probably what needs to happen. Having a cable and connectors just be some differential pairs is perfect for pretty much everything, that's how PCIE, DisplayPort, USB 3.0, Ethernet, etc. all work with their own special details. The problem is how computers are built. PCIE is expected to be contained inside the computer, and fully trusted. Video data for monitors is just binary data flowing along the differential pairs, but the only place on the computer that can produce that data is the video card, which has no way to send that data anywhere but a physical port on the video card. Thunderbolt 3 is just some PCIE lanes with some security/authentication on it.

So in the end, it's perfectly reasonable to have One True cable/port that delivers power and data over some differential pairs.

The problem is cost and legacy. If we have one power delivery spec that can power a giant TV, it will be too expensive to make a cell phone charger with the same port type just to charge a phone. Similarly, nobody is going to buy a new monitor that uses our new interconnection method when HDMI and DisplayPort are good enough. (People should be alarmed that most monitors come with both HDMI and DisplayPort ports... they do the same thing, but society could not decide on just one, so we pay for two protocols every time we buy a monitor or video card.)

USB Type-C tried to fix both of these problems by just reusing the old protocols and being flexible about power... but it's too confusing for users. The old system of one port doing one thing was much easier to understand. Nobody ever tried to connect their hard drive to their monitor... until Thunderbolt came out and made that physically (but not logically) possible.

For that reason, I don't see a solution.

> I remember arguing with people when Type-C was new; they told me it would change the world, I told them it would never work.

Yep I did the same thing. I was hugely skeptical Type-C was the panacea for our woes. I'm so glad I haven't adopted anything Type-C yet except the Switch (so really, no interaction with anything else).

My highest score answer on superuser.com is about USB C https://superuser.com/a/1200112/41259 and I had this to say after a long list of capabilities:

> They really, really should have provided some way to clarify this mess but they didn't. If colors and icons with the big variety and the space constrains are not viable then provide a standard way for software to give a capability list to the user. Or a diagnostics tool that you can plug into USB-C and it gives you a list of "this port can provide signals A, B, C and accepts inputs D, E, F".

Given the lack of that when plugging together two USB C sockets and the results are not satisfactory any of the following might occur:

1. The signal you want is not provided by the source 2. The cable is not capable of carrying the signal you want 3. The sink can't process the signal 4. It just doesn't work because of firmware bugs or driver bugs 5. There might be interference, there was a Dell problem where lowering wifi signal strength made Thunderbolt better.

After reading through this thread, I was thinking something similar to what you are proposing is the cleanest way forward (except I was thinking numbers instead of letters). You could even get more clever and use colors, where complementary colors work together.

Couple that with some error messages that mirror what you wrote in the last part of your post in software whenever you plugged in a USB-C device to a connector and I think the standard could be salvaged and even a relative pleasure to use given the background.

Out of the five points I wrote only 1 and 3 can be tested via a standard USB C tester device if it existed. 2 and most especially 5 is fiercely expensive to test and 4 is well, software bugs (firmware is just software, after all). You know how that goes.

Maybe it's just me, but I've had zero major issues with USB-C and can't imagine going back. I spent maybe $100 on new cables so I have one or two of everything. I only wish they had USB-C hubs so I could drop the USB Type-A connectors all together.

I honestly find it much easier. The simplicity of just not having to flip he connector around 3 times every time you plug something in alone is worth it.

It can be a little tricky to figure out what voltages/options are supported, but this has already gotten much better. This is really just an issue with manufactures not labeling things. On the cable end I feel like this is actually already mostly solved. Cable Matters gives pretty good specs for every cable. It's really device manufactures that kind of leave you in the dark. I'd venture a guess that if the USB consortium actually created an easy to use label with some good information architecutre that this problem would fix itself.

There are some hubs out there but they're more designed for thunderbolt 3.

Who wants to spend $100 on cables?

I wouldn't mind at all if it means I only have to carry ONE cable for all my devices or risk not using them/paying for a new cable. I got 4 devices, and 4 cables:

- Smartphone: USB-C

- Laptop: 12v barrel charger

- Kindle: micro USB

- GoPro 3: mini USB

My next laptop will be USB-C charging for sure, so at least the 2 items I use the most can share a charger.

Now I don't mind so much, but when I was travelling/nomad it'd have made my life way easier.

For micro and mini there are some adaptor thingies. I bought a few to deal with the couple of older devices I have with mini.

One probably exists for USB-C so you only need one cable.

I always hear how USB-C is such a mess, and everyone agrees - I just wanted to quickly provide a counter anecdote. As a user, who knows nothing about the protocol or the politics or anything else - USB-C works wonderfully for me - I only wish more devices used it.

My laptop plugs into my monitor, provides more USB ports there, and audio out, which feeds into speakers. My dinky phone charger can charge my laptop, which I love. Easier to take around when traveling. No low points for me yet.

Ok, so counter-counter point. I was recently in the market for a laptop. The one I bought has a USB-C port and two USB-A ports. Because it's a Thunderbolt USB-C Port, it even has a little lightning bolt printed next to it on the chassis.

Previous laptops I've owned with USB-C could charge over it. This one can't. The model with the smaller screen can, but not the 15 inch. The slightly different model can, but not the one with the discrete graphics card.

Why is this? I assume it's because charging the laptop at full utilisation requires over 100W. But really I have no idea.

The lightning bolt really makes me assume that you can use it to charge.

Seriously, this.

I love reversible connectors.

I love being able to use my phone as host or as client (charge a friend's phone from mine? No problem).

Right now though, there are zero cases on the market with USB-C ports on the front, zero USB-C hubs that have all USB-C ports for downstream (I think there is one with two C, two A).

Right now, I have my phone, my battery pack, and my yubikey on USB-C, and if I could find a hub I'd buy a ton of adaptors and switch everything to it. It's so convenient.

It's this chicken and egg thing where even as an early adopter you just can't get it. I have the same problem with DisplayPort 1.4 - you literally can't get devices for it. I have a multi-monitor setup with 4K displays and would love a DisplayPort hub (or better yet, switch), that supported DP1.4 so I could hook them all up down one line (not enough bandwidth on pre-1.4 stuff).

What laptop do you have? I'm in the market for a new one and thinking I'd really love to get one that's got usb-c charging

I have the Xiaomi Air 12 laptop [1]. It's charged from USB-C, which allows me to take one charger for my laptop, phone and headphones.

It will not charge from a phone charger though, as it is not powerful enough. I have to use the one that came with it or a similar powerful enough one. I tried the ones in the Apple store and they power this laptop just fine.

1. https://www.gearbest.com/laptops/pp_416105.html?wid=1349303

“Why doesn’t Apple just get rid of Lightning and use USB-C on their iPhones!”

This is why. Ignoring the momentum Lightning had from being a few years older, this is a great reason not to switch.

Sadly I know this has become a big problem for people on the new Macs. Plug a USB-C hub in? Now that port doesn’t do Thunderbolt or Display Port. How do you know that? Trial and error.

Very un-Appley.

In my experience the connector from Apple is far more reliable than USB C. USB C is a rounded flat rectangle with a piece of plastic in the center and pins between, which is small and can easily be damaged. Lightning on the other hand is a solid metal connector with the pins/contacts on the outside, which is much more sturdier. Lighting also does a nice "click" when connected.

I really like the Lightning connector, it's by far my favorite connector.

It does seem like with USB C both the plug and the port are fragile. The plug can easily be crushed and the port, like Micro USB, has the weird plastic tab with pins that can be smashed. That being said the only mechanical failures I ever witnessed with a Micro USB Port were when a cable was forced in the wrong way, I would definitely chalk those up to the user (ex-mother-in-law) being a supreme idiot and not necessarily a flaw in the port.

> Lighting also does a nice "click" when connected.

All of the USB C Cables and devices I own give a very nice thunk when plugged-in, almost like going over a speed bump in a car. There's no question that a connection is made.

I think the biggest issue over all is dodgy cables and I had my fair share of those with Lightning and Micro USB. I've only bought ISB C cables off Benson Leung's recommended lists so I have yet to get a bad one yet though I have no doubt the problem is as bad or worse than with Micro USB.

My experience says the opposite. I don't have an iPhone anymore, but when I did I was constantly having issues with the Lightning connector not connecting.

OTOH, all my USB-C devices, quite a few at this point and some I've had for years, have always worked flawlessly with regard to the port.

Also, all other things being equal, I would rather have the contact springs on the connector rather than the port so that if they go bad I can just replace the cable. I suspect this is what kept happening with my Lightning devices.

This could be because lint built up in your charging port. It happened to me a few times. The techs at an Apple store can clean it out for free.

I can confirm your suspicions. My Xperia X Compact is barely holding any USB-C cable now (after just 1.5 years of usage). And I went through 5 or 6 USB mini to USB-C adapters from Anker in the meantime.

At the same time my nearly 4 year old Samsung Galaxy is holding strong without any wiggle room on the USB port.

My experience with USB-C female sockets is mostly that, especially on phones where they're frequently in clothing, end up full of lint, and that's what causes the cable to go in.

Be careful, stick something sharp in (avoiding the middle pins!), and get the lint out, and it'll be fine.

Same thing happens with iPhones and iPads, but the socket shape means you can clear it out with a toothpick or compressed air.

Everyone I know with a Pixel 1 or 2 has a loose connection to their USB-C cable, even nice aftermarket Anker ones. It feels as fragile as the USB 3 external hard drive connector type.

My MacBook Pro has the same issue, constant plugging and unplugging whenever it moves while it's on my lap. it doesn't matter which port or cable I use, it's very fragile.

it's hard to use a laptop as a laptop when it has to remain still to be plugged in.

I have the opposite experience. I keep getting arcing on the power pin on lightning cables, which causes "black pin plague" to spread between devices and cables. No such issue with USB-C. https://ioshacker.com/iphone/why-the-fourth-pin-on-your-ligh...

"Lighting also does a nice "click" when connected."

So does USB-C, at least on every device with which I've used it. That stops being the case if the port gets clogged up with dust (which is unfortunately as common and annoying as it is for USB-micro-B), but until then the click is quite satisfying.

I think we can consider that an implementation detail and that fragile connectors are not mandated or inherent to the specification. There are a lot of ways to skin the cat even within the constraints given.

Your concern is totally valid, but that it’s more about design/manufacturing quality rather than lightning versus USB.

Do you not think it's possible that the specification makes it hard to make a connector that is robust?

Of course, yes. But making it hard doesn’t prevent it from being done robustly, practicality speaking “hard” usually means they’ve made the mistake of increasing costs. As expensive as realizable lightning cables are I’m not sure how big of a factor the extra cost / effort for someone like anker to contract a high quality cable would really matter in the decision process of one vs. the other.

I don’t think that logic follows. Apple could’ve taken the scenarios into account and designed things in the way such that they weren’t issues. They’ve done it before many times even with standardized technologies.

For example, Air buds headphones (Bluetooth) work fine with Android phones. But Bluetooth has been a pain in peoples ass for a decade, and Apple went through a lot of trouble to make the experience very nice when used within its own ecosystem. without abandoning compatibility.

I've always thought that the Lightning connector is intended to work as a structural element as well. If you look at iPhone docks[1], they rely on the rigid connector to hold the weight of the phone at an angle. I don't think USB-C is designed for this?

[1] https://i.imgur.com/LspYnWj.jpg

For one thing, Lightning is smaller. That's not just a technicality from looking at Wikipedia. Its design is noticeably more compact and overall nicer in terms of real-world "feel".

I understand Lightning is a worse connector because it places the “moving parts” (the bendable pins) in the recipient “female” socket in the host device which is subject to more wear-and-tear than the insertable plug which is on the cable which is more disposable.

USB-C corrects this by placing more of the mechanical complexity in the plug again - though I’m wary of the thin plastic “tongue” in the socket.

This is technically true, but in practice I've yet to have a Lightning port fail. The worst thing is that they tend to accumulate pocket fluff quite easily, though they're not hard to clean.

The rumor I remember hearing is that Apple designed USB-C after Lightning and gave it to the standards board because they wanted to get rid of USB-A on their laptops. But to get it to work they didn’t take credit and let Google have the first product with it (a Chromebook?).

A very interesting rumour, but considering how inelegant the USB-C connector is compared to lightning, I'm skeptical. Way too many pins and twice as many surfaces.

Do you have a source?

It's trade-offs. The pins are very durable, it's hard to push the connector in at an angle that'd wreck them, but that tongue can get bent by forcing it.

Older micro-USB devices suffered the same problems.

> How do you know that?

You label the damn thing.

The idea behind Type-C is that you don't need a million different cables because everything uses a different physical port. Now you can have fewer cables, and even fewer ports, because the physical ports are consistent. That doesn't mean anything else is consistent! It doesn't need to be!

Users only need to know what ends are what. That isn't hard at all.

It's ridiculous. Thankfully, many insider reports state that they are indeed changing out the other end that goes into the charger from USB-A to USB-C on the next generation iPhone lineup so at least you'll be able to plug the damn thing into your Macbook Pro. That misstep was probably the most un-Appley thing i've seen them do in quite some time.

You can already buy a lightning to usb-c cable from Apple, and it enables fast charging too.

Looking at the last couple of years, I’d say “very Apple-y.” So unfortunate given they are the only large company in the space which prioritizes privacy.

Yeah, unfortunately that is quintessentially apple-y. Even the charging cable has seen endless unnecessary permutation, all proprietary and all expensive as hell. And mostly pointless. It's two wires. Two wires that carry a constant DC charge. Why so complicated?

I use my computer in a metal shop and my magsafe gathers iron filings, shorts itself and catches fire. I've gone through so many chargers. I've vowed that the next time it happens, I'm going to mill away part of this laptop's case and solder in a DC barrel jack. So much of apple design is about sleekness and cool factor, not actual robustness or effectiveness. I suppose this isn't the intended use case, but I feel like the use case apple has in mind is unrealistically safe and ideal. And rich.

I still like using a mac, as well as a windows machine and several linux distros. If you have a collection of tools in your tool shed, you want to have all sorts of different tools. Not just rows and rows of the same flat-head screwdriver.

> Even the charging cable has seen endless unnecessary permutation, all proprietary and all expensive as hell. And mostly pointless. It's two wires. Two wires that carry a constant DC charge. Why so complicated?

Which voltage, and how much current? Put 20V down the wire and you'd blow up a device expecting 5V. Pull 100W through a cable rated for 5W and you'd burn your house down.

As soon as USB-C became the catch-all standard to do all of the things, the complexity was inevitable. It could have been communicated better to the user (proper symbology, color-coded ports, etc) but unless all the devices support all the modes, you are mostly going to be dealing with the minimum standard. And making every device capable of dealing with the full extent of Type-C capabilities (DisplayPort, PCIe channels, etc) is going to get expensive.

I should not be expected to not plug a cable that matches the port.

If it fits, it sits. If I should only be using one cable for one port then they should be the only ones matching. And, if that one cable happens to lead to a plug in the wall somewhere then having MagSafe or comparable solutions is a lifesaver.

Removing these is beyond comprehension.

It may “just work” for Apple but it certainly does not for me.

> Which voltage, and how much current? Put 20V down the wire and you'd blow up a device expecting 5V. Pull 100W through a cable rated for 5W and you'd burn your house down.

Those aren't really cable issues. All USB-C cables support 20 volts and 60 watts. The only cable permutation is whether it's 3 or 5 amps, which isn't a fire-hazard-level distinction, just a small annoyance.

And just how many people work in a metal shop and get iron filings on their connectors?!

USB-C has somehow made docking stations take a big backwards step. Which is a huge shame because we finally got to a good place with USB3 docking stations, where weird ports on the underside of specific laptops could finally go away in favour of a highly standardized one-cord docking solution.

18 months ago we deployed USB3 docks into a sizeable office space. We were able to standardize on a model that works reliably, every time. The only down-side is the dock can't provide power.

Now we're looking at a similar situation and USB-C is the 'obvious' choice. But it's a far more complicated situation.

Some devices will take a charge, some won't, and you have to match up the power input/output requirements quite carefully. It's a more complex landscape than PoE, for no good reason.

Thunderbolt docks are the only ones we've found to provide reliable operation, but they also suffer from weird docking/un-docking behaviour as well as massive security flaws since you lost a lot of the 'standard' USB safe/abstraction layer stuff by plugging in what is effectively a DMA device.

Yuck, frankly. This shouldn't have been so difficult - Just take USB3, introduce a Power-over-USB capability, and bump the speed. But no.

Not putting enough ports on devices is a crucial problem. Apple with their stupid single port is just idiotic. The best port selection with usb-c is on the 2015 chrome pixel laptop. 2 usb-c, 2 usb-a. Just having a single usb-c has caused endless pain, all so apple could sell stupid dongles. The new google pixelbook 2018 is a great form factor, except they only have 2 usb-c, they dropped usb-a. The reason was probably to make it a little thinner. But like on a macbook pro laptop, having two usb-a's mean you can plug a mouse and keyboard into it. The new pixelbook needs an adapter for that.

edit: mixed up usb-a and -b. D'oh!

"All so Apple could sell stupid dongles"

I hear this charge a fair amount, but it seems really unlikely that Apple moved to USB-C solely to "sell stupid dongles," for the fairly obvious reason that you don't need to buy your dongles from Apple. USB-C is indeed still a mess, but it's a non-proprietary mess. As far as I know, Apple's 100% USB-C laptops are the first machines Apple has shipped in their history that don't have a single proprietary connector on them; there's something distinctly ironic about how annoyed we all are over it. I don't think going in on all USB-C was a great idea, but I think it's less of a problem with laptops than it is with phones; I think it would certainly be possible to label USB-C ports in some fashion to indicate their capabilities; and I think a laptop with 2 USB-C ports on each side, like several of Apple's MacBook Pros have, is really not going to create hardships for most users.

(Although they should really have a micro-SD card slot on at least the 15" model. C'mon, Jony, get over yourself.)

"Stupid single port"

Well, again to be fair, there's only one laptop Apple sells with a single USB-C port on it, the 12" uber-thin MacBook. That machine is kind of a radical experiment in some ways, an attempt to build a laptop using the principles of the iPad. (That's not just a pet theory of mine; I've heard from more than one source in a position to know that there were internal prototypes of the single-port MacBook that used Apple's Lightning port.) I'm glad it exists, but I'm also glad I don't own one, and I'm not at all glad that Apple has infected the rest of its laptop line with that keyboard. (Again: get over yourself, Jony.)

> I hear this charge a fair amount, but it seems really unlikely that Apple moved to USB-C solely to "sell stupid dongles," for the fairly obvious reason that you don't need to buy your dongles from Apple.

This is classic techy naivety.

When Apple marketing looks at what percentage of their customers almost certainly going to buy dongles exclusively from them, what number do you think they come up with? If you're under 50% you are WAY off.

Tens of millions of dog-loyal Apple customers don't even suspect that using another company's dongle is even an option. And how insane is the markup on Apples dongles? Use your head, man.

My head in general tells me that people who make arguments that take it for granted that the majority of Apple customers are idiots are not arguing in particularly good faith.

Being unaware does not mean you're an idiot. People who don't care or give a shit about technology or available hardware offerings are not idiots. They just stick with what they think they can rely on. I assume you know that. Now who's arguing in bad faith?

This would be fine if there were good USB-C port expanders. They're all terrible, even the Apple one. If you just want power or video, you're fine. But nobody can build a working, stable USB 3.0 hub into one.

So while you can charge your 12" MacBook at the same time that you're plugged into a 4k or 2560x1440 monitor, you can't use any damn external drives. They either run at turtle speeds or they randomly unmount or don't work at all.

This would be fine if there were good USB-C port expanders. They're all terrible, even the Apple one. If you just want power or video, you're fine. But nobody can build a working, stable USB 3.0 hub into one.

Don't get me started on the Apple one. I bought one early (for the MacBook 2015) and the earlier series have a USB 2.0 hub. They touted the USB-C connector and how it would carry USB 3.0 (now 3.1). And their adapters, which set me back 80 Euro each (needed both HDMI and VGA) were only USB 2.0. To add to the confusion, they apparently also started selling variants with a USB 3.0 hub, without any clear indication on the packaging.

I still feel incredibly sour about buying a 1400 Euro MacBook with two 80 Euro cables, resulting in poor USB 2.0 speeds. And at the time there wasn't really any choice in adapters. Oh, and it doesn't support HDMI 2.0. So when I got a MacBook Pro later and a 4k screen, the cable was worthless and I had to get an USB-C <-> DisplayPort cable.

I liked Apple computers and I would recommend them to family, friends, colleagues. But their USB-C debacle is one of the reasons (besides the keyboard) why I stopped recommending Apple. If they'd just added two USB-A ports... (I don't care about the few extra millimeters.)

No, it wouldn't be fine... There is definitely a need for better hubs out there but apple also needs to put an acceptable number of ports on their machines. The laptop being all sleek and awesome loses a bit of that niceness when you're tethered to a jumble of daisy-chained wires.

Also, usb-c is super small, just pop like 4 or so on and it won't even effect your design.

Apple with their stupid single port is just idiotic

This is on a single specific device.

The best port selection with usb-c is on the 2015 chrome pixel laptop. 2 usb-c, 2 usb-b

You mean USB-A.

Just having a single usb-c has caused endless pain, all so apple could sell stupid dongles.

Nobody I know using MacBooks has a particular problem with this. A dongle would be required in most cases to connect to an external display in any case; it's not like Apple are selling more dongles.

Nobody I know using MacBooks has a particular problem with this. A dongle would be required in most cases to connect to an external display in any case; it's not like Apple are selling more dongles.


My wife has a MacBook with a single USB-C port. Having only one port has exactly zero impact on her. The only thing she uses it for is for charging, and very occasionally plugging in a tiny hard drive to look at her iPhoto library which is larger than the computer's built-in SSD.

Everything else in her lifestyle is wireless. And that's where Apple has been going for a long time. She is Apple's target market for a single USB port device.

If you're the kind of person whose lifestyle or workflow necessitates more than one port, you buy a computer with more than one port. Doesn't seem like rocket surgery. I don't understand why OC is so upset.

As for Apple selling more dongles, I don't think that's what's behind it. Apple would probably rather have the shelf space for higher-margin in-house products than use the space for SKUs from another company. I doubt Apple is making bank on USB-C dongles.

What does she do when she has low battery and needs to look at her iPhoto library?

Hasn't happened, to my knowledge. The MacBook has way more battery than she needs. (It's a home computer, not a work computer.)

And she's a human bring, not a squirrel on crack, or a nerd caught in a social media feedback loop, so she never "needs" to look at her iPhoto library right now. She can wait 30 minutes for a partial charge to see pictures of her family or cats or whatever.

Is the condescension really warranted for a simple question?

Any condescension is your perception only; not my intent.

I didn't read it as being directed at you; just a statement of fact, not everyone is glued to technology like the average demographic on HN, it's weird to hear that someone can be unable to use their laptop immediately and they're comfortable with that.

It's a statement of fact that the average demographic of HN are not human beings?

> Apple would probably rather have the shelf space for higher-margin in-house products than use the space for SKUs from another company.

Are you for real? The margins on their dongles are astronomical!

Apple's USB-C dongle is the least functional, most overpriced dongle there is. It has to have a huge margin.

Apple's USB-C dongle...

Which dongle do you mean? Apple has about five different USB-C dongles, each for a specific purpose.

Do you mean the $19 USB-C to old USB dongle? How is it less functional than any other USB-C to old USB dongle? It seems to achieve its stated purpose. What functionality do other USB-C to old USB dongles have that it lacks?

I mean the first Google result when you lookup 'apple usb-c dongle' [1]. It's $70.

[1]: https://www.apple.com/shop/product/MJ1K2AM/A/usb-c-digital-a...

If you're on HN, you should know that Google results are tailored to the person, not the search query.

The first Google result I got for the same query was the previously mentioned $19 dongle.

> If you're on HN, you should know that Google results are tailored to the person, not the search query.

Incognito FTW

But they're all overpriced, because they cost $.80 to make. That's the essence of the whole dongle thing, the margins on them are gigantic. It's why Apple's iPhone connectors were proprietary for so long, it's why they're moving away from analog headphone jacks, it's why the MacBook only has one USB-C port. I honestly don't know how this is controversial at all.

OTOH literally everyone I know with the new MBP has this problem. They used to be able to use the HDMI port, but now they need a smattering of adapters for HDMI and minidisplayport. They also have trouble with the adapter not working when hotswapping ethernet cables

I just have a Thunderbolt 3 hub and it connects everything I need to a single port. Its actually much more convenient than before.

Same here. Now with a single connection I get 2 external displays, USB peripherals, Gigabit Ethernet connection, external speakers AND it also provides 85W of power to charge my MBP...

which one do you have? as reported in this discussion, it's not that uncommon to have problems.

Not the GP, but I also have similar setup and I use CalDigit TS-3 at home and Kensington SD5200T at work - zero issues. I don't use 4K displays though, just 1080p.

> A dongle would be required in most cases to connect to an external display in any case

Is it? You'd need to be using a display that provides neither DisplayPort nor HDMI. HDMI tends to be available on even somewhat older displays, and most modern ones I've dealt with definitely have both.

The equivalent Macs to the MacBook One would have had mini-DP. I don’t think they had HDMI. So you’d need an adapter.

Even then, you often don't need any adaptors — the Dell U2415 I use at home has both DP and miniDP ports, and packed a miniDP to DP cable — I could use that out of the box both with my macbook (by using a DP port) or my desktop computer (by using the miniDP port)

yeah, sorry, fixed.

Not having USB-C on my laptop doesn't even matter. The Google Pixels 1/2/C and Nexus 6P have USB-C, but they don't transfer data at that speed.

I also don't want to fry my devices however and I'm scared of these poor quality miswired cables, so I am a steadfast advocate of buying my USB-C cables from Anker.

Pixel 2 does actually do usb 3 speeds if you have a usb 3 host and cable.

I stand corrected.

> all so apple could sell stupid dongles

Do people really think that Apple is making any significant money on dongle sales, and that it was a main reason they decided to go with single type c ports? Most people who own new MacBooks I know purchase non Apple branded dongles anyway. And even those that apple sells are not really bringing that much money to Apple imo

> Apple with their stupid single port is just idiotic.

Not really. The entry-grade MacBook is designed to be tiny and portable. One port that does everything fits with this philosophy (makes the laptop thinner and smaller and less complex - yes, it makes a surprisingly large difference).

Want more? The MacBook Pro is for you then with 4 ports - all of which, as they are usb-c, are more multi-functional than usb-a (not b, that's like you see on printers).

You may not be the target customer for a single port but it is a very intentional design choice and makes a lot of sense as most tech people use now supports wireless communication.

In fact you can see you're not the target market - you want to plug in a mouse and keyboard to a damn laptop. Basically you're docking your laptop. Ok, so get a hub. You are an edge case.

Products not making themselves worse for a tiny fringe of the market is a good thing.

Theres literally nothing preventing them from adding another port on the other side. It was a design decision not a technical limitation - there's plenty of ultralights the same size for a lot less money that have two USB-C's. It's been the single biggest complaint about the product. Calling it an edge case is a massive understatement.

No, it’s literally an edge case. For the target market anyhow.

Also it’s not just “adding another port”. It’s adding all the circuitry, changing the internal routing, changing the logic board, adding at least one more IC... etc.

For what? An edge case.

Sure, I may be an edge case. But I come to work, I need to plug my laptop into power and my work monitor is a 4k tv, so I need to plug that in. Often I like to close the screen and just that monitor. They could at least put two of them on there.

And this is why socks & hubs exist. Sounds like you have a base station in all but name.

Also there is nothing stopping that 4K TV from supporting both video AND power over USB-C.

My Macbook Pro has 4 USB-Cs and I have a dongle for ethernet (which is rare).

If I'm using my external monitor I bought a DisplayPort to Thunderbolt/USB-C cable.

If I'm out and about and need HDMI, I have another dongle (but that's no different to my previous Mac which needed a dongle for HDMI as well)

There are 2 usb-C ports on the X1 Carbon 6 as well

> Not putting enough ports on devices is a crucial problem.

With USB-C the reality is you have to pick two of: cheap, supports every USB-C standard, and has lots of USB-C ports.

> usb-c is on the 2015 chrome pixel laptop. 2 usb-c, 2 usb-b.

That'd be 2 USB-C and 2 USB-A and the 2018 ThinkPads have similar port selection. The 2017 X1 Carbon and Yoga already had.

The mind boggles at how the dongle mongerers hobbled these Mac models. From every new Mac, a tangle of dongles hang at odd angles. What a boondoggle.

I would like a USB-C hub that's like the USB-A hubs of yore: more than 2 USB-C ports, ideally 4 or more downstream facing ports. I saw one once that had 2 downstream ports and one upstream port, as well as several USB-A downstream ports, but I just want to transition fully to USB-C.

Why are there no products for that, I wonder?

Have you tried using those '2 ports' on a USB-C 'hub'?

The ones I've tested, the second one is only useful for power in. You can't actually chain devices off the hub to reduce the number of things you have to plug in.

When USB-C was introduced it was finally a connector that could do power and all your data. The culmination of the idea that started with the Mac monitors with the single cable with 2 tails. No more ritual to go to or leave your desk, wearing out the connectors on all your peripherals.

But we're not there yet. At all.

Even Anker has fucked this up. I can't plug a USB keyboard into their top of the line hub if I plug the power supply into it. Probably because of the overvoltage problem discussed here a few weeks ago.

Since I stopped plugging the power into it I've had no problems. But now I'm back to plugging in 3 cables every time I come back from a meeting.

This is the biggest problem in my opinion. It's not possible for people to transition fully to USB-C even if you want to because of the limited number of USB-C ports on computers and the inability to add any more with hubs.

The USB-C port can pull substantially more power than the USB-A ports.

Instead of getting the USB-PD stuff setup to reject requests, they just have a single USB-C port.

The biggest fraud of USB-C is it just doesn't do what consumers expect. I bought a USB-C device, expecting the device to then provide all the functionality that USB-C was advertised as having. But the manufacturer didn't implement any of those features, so it's just a non-standard cable that I need a dozen adapters for. What a joke.

That's just expectations which will adapt quickly enough. I doubt you'll make the same mistake again. It's not just type C either I bought a USB 3.0 thumbdrive once and it turned out to be the same speed as a normal one, so even though it was 3.0 as advertised, there was absolutely no advantage in that. Nobody complains that their bedside lamp doesn't deliver the full 2400 W that the wall outlet advertises or that it doesn't allow bulbs more than 40 W even though the same socket can take 100 W bulbs in other lamps.

People do complain about lightbulbs. That's why lamps for sale list standard safety ratings, bulb socket types, and bulb capacities. But nowhere on my $450 phone did it say "No USB-C extensions supported, this is just a standard USB-3.0 device with a plug nothing supports".

If you bought a bulb that said "CFL form factor" and it was actually an incandescent bulb that just looked like a CFL, you could arguably sue for deceptive advertising.

> Nobody complains that their bedside lamp doesn't deliver the full 2400 W that the wall outlet

I don't think the same information asymmetry exists for lamps that we have in USB C.

> Port shortages

Would it hurt anyone to put two USB-C ports on a smartphone? Thank goodness my phone still has a 3.5mm jack, but some people would like to charge their phone and listen to (wired) audio without having to buy an adapter. And it's not like this is an uncommon use case either, anecdotally some of my friends with iPhones face this issue.

You're not supposed to charge and listen to wired audio without an adapter. You're supposed to use bluetooth headphones called "AirPods", which cost far, far more than regular wired headphones. If you don't like this and resent being pushed to buy very expensive accessories and dongles, then maybe Apple isn't the company for you.

What's the explanation for every other phone company removing the ports? No phone manufacturer benefited financially from the purchase of my Bluetooth headphones.

I have no way to prove this, but the standard explanation is that other companies are stupid and just want to ape Apple, thinking they'll somehow capture Apple's loyal customers. Cargo-cult mentality.

Of course, there's also the fact that extra ports take up more space, and it's easier to just eliminate features that not enough customers care about. But enough people seem to be complaining that it looks like it really is just cargo-cult behavior, just like these companies have needlessly aped Apple on other design decisions instead of trying to pursue other market niches.

The latest trend of adding iPhone X-style display notches, even by companies that mocked that design when it came out, supports the "cargo cult" theory.

OnePlus 6, still has 3.5 mm jack, and has USB-C.

A second port would remove a significant amount of internal volume, as well as increasing the cost due to the port and whatever electronics you'd need to mux them. I doubt those tradeoffs would be worth it for the majority of consumers.

I agree - I'd like to have one on either end, that way you should never have to fish around to plug things in.

Ever since the Palm V, I've wanted a handheld device with a second charging port built into the side. When LiPo batteries came into production I was hoping for the day where the flip cover had a supplemental battery built in instead of cardboard.

Apple went exactly the other way and built a data port into it. And did the same thing with the Apple Watch (the prototypes had an extra set of contacts in the band slot that people were excited about). Disappointed.

Would you really have a second USB-C port over just keeping the headphone jack?

I mean, USB-C seems to be the direction we're going anyways, plus it offers a lot more flexibility for audio eg. allows for active components like a higher-end DAC or amp on the headphones.

Most people probably wouldn't really care for this, and the ones who do probably have portable media players already, so I would prefer to keep the headphone jack. The reality is, though, that USB-C appears to be the future.

You don't need type-C for running an external DAC/amp. Most smartphones support USB-OTG over micro-B and many DAC units use generic audio drivers.

Of course you'd still need two ports if you wanted to charge at the same time.

It would probably be more interesting to see smartphones that could use the headphone output as a digital signal, like a coaxial output. We want the 3.5mm output anyway, so why not just let it dump a digital signal to an external amp?

Can one port source data (digital audio) and sink power at the same time to a splitter?

I prefer keeping the headphone jack, but am not against a second USB-C port. If you make the device thick enough for a headphone jack to work properly then you've got room for a reasonably large battery and the extra ports without any issues.

Mobile phones are thermally constrained these days anyway.

The one nice thing I can say about USB Type-C is that the physical connector is pretty great, especially when compared to Micro USB, which was awful.

Of course, even here I have to add a huge caveat, as I've seen devices that charge at different rates depending on the orientation of the Type-C plug.


From my n=1 experience with USB-C, I prefer micro-USB because the connection (female) is not sharp at the bottom of my phone. The one C connector I've tried (Xiaomi Mi A1) was so sharp it was just not comfortable to hold. This was one of the reasons I returned it and got another device with micro-USB instead.

I finally broke down and bought a generic USB-C charger (Insignia from Best Buy) to keep in the shop, because enough USB-C laptops come through and nobody ever brings a charger.

But just because a laptop has USB-C ports doesn't mean you can charge using it, here's looking at you, Lenovo P51. This machine is a workstation and requires 130W, USB-C can only supply 100W so it won't charge at all over USB-C. Blah.

Also had no luck even trickle-charging smaller USB-C machines like the HP x360 using a phone charger.

> Also had no luck even trickle-charging smaller USB-C machines like the HP x360 using a phone charger.

That sucks, one of my favorite features of the new MacBook Pros is extending the battery life using a portable USB battery intended for phones

Man, that sucks! I managed to trickle charge my 15" MacBook Pro with a 12W iPad charger once when I forgot the laptop adapter. Took overnight but it worked!

Color me dumbfounded, but does "won't charge at all" mean it accepts 0A inward or that it takes in only 100W while still draining itself at ~30W?

Doesn't take a charge via USB-C, period.

Same is true of my Razer Blade (2016).

A few years back I thought USB-C was a better mechanical design than Apple's lightning port. You see, the spring loaded parts were built into the male conductors on the cable while lightning had them on the female connectors of the actual device; judging from the number of broken USB and DC charging ports I have witnessed it seemed prudent that moving parts should be placed in the side that is more easily replaced.

Well, I got what I asked for. I bought my first smartphone with USB-C connection by the end of 2106 and I'm on the 5th charging cable at the moment. The cable that came with the phone failed 6 month in and the $20 replacements (reputable brand with full fast charging capability while it worked) barely lasted any longer. I am hesitant to buy anything more expensive as they'd have a limited lifespan too.

Meanwhile all my lighning cables and devices bought in 2014 are going strong. I did have to retire a couple of cables because the ends had started to fray but even those never really ceased to charge.

My impression of USB-C so far gives me the vibes of early SATA ports rated to last 50 insertions. A lot of work is needed to make it on par with USB-B connectors in terms of physical reliability.

There's two fundamentally unrelated but easily muddled situations here.

A) USB-C PD, USB-C audio, or even just straight-up USB-C data devices, and/or USB-C hosts not adhering to standards.

This is definitely a problem, but it's something that needs to be addressed by device manufacturers, not by the spec itself.

B) Protocols other than USB over the USB-C connector (Thunderbolt 3, Displayport, potentially analog audio output?) not being universally inter-compatible.

I don't see how this one is a real issue. Imagine for a moment that you had a magical morphing port that could be an audio jack, HDMI port, thunderbolt port, or USB port, and it just became whichever one it needed to be when you plugged something in. This is the situation we're in with USB-C multi-protocol, the port on the host device changes identity based on what it's connected to. That wouldn't mean that you could suddenly run your hard drive off a 3.5mm headphone cable.

> Imagine for a moment that you had a magical morphing port

That's mostly the case with Apple's devices where all ports support all functionality, but there's products in the market where some but not all USB-C ports are Thunderbolt- or USBPD-enabled. This becomes a royal pain in the arse, where you have a bunch of ports that all look like they should support the peripheral you're trying to plug in, but don't, for some reason.

So put a USB-C hub (because that’s the connector, what else would you buy?) into your Mac. And you plug your display into that. And it has some USB-C and Thunderbolt stuff plugged in.

It used to all work, but now with the hub in-line your Thunderbolt drive doesn’t work and your display doesn’t get a signal.

The hub must be broken, right? So you buy a new one. Same problem.

How is any normal person supposed to figure this stuff out?

You’re right. It’s a total mess.

> So put a USB-C hub (because that’s the connector, what else would you buy?) into your Mac.

This will eventually become a problem, definitely. Thankfully, it doesn't seem to be much of a problem right now because USB-C hubs are as common as hen's teeth (they're usually C to A, or C to a bazillion things)

Right. If the hub supports Thunderbolt that fixes TB and USB-C will keep working but you’d still lose passyhrough video unless it was designed for that too. And don’t forget power delivery.

Good USB-C hubs that support everything will be quite expensive. They’re basically limited Thunderbolt docks.

Just today I setup a Dell monitor (S2718D) to a new Macbook and was the first time I thought USB-C was nice. Out of one cable you charge the Macbook, output video to the monitor and get 2 very welcome USB ports from a hub in the monitor base.

I disagree. It's not a mess. It works well. So much better than USB 2.0.

I don't have to try to 'key' it correctly when plugging it in and the connections are fast and 'just work'.

"USB-C adoption is a mess" may have been a more accurate headline

I agree. My device charges faster, and I haven't had any issues with cables not working.

So far the only issues I've had with USB C is that I had to buy a Nintendo USB C cable to charge my switch and a separate USB C cable wouldn't charge my Pixel. It did work with an external hard drive so I know the cable wasn't completely broken.

I know there's other cables from some brands that might have worked, but after the 3rd one that wouldn't work for my switch I went for Nintendo.

I don't have a lot of USB C devices yet, so I'm hoping they get things ironed out.

That is because the switch is not compliant with the usb-c specification. There have been lots of reports of people bricking their switch using usb-c cables which otherwise work fine with other usb-c devices.

Discussion on hn: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16706803

Designed by the same consortium that was fine with letting manufactures put the “this side up” symbol for micro USB in black, on a black cable, in a size ~a couple millimeters square?

Btw, if you are still using some of these cables coloring one side with a bright colored Sharpie will change your life.

I love it, mentioned it the other day in the thread about MBP gripes. One cable to connect everything. Way better than the older days of plugging in power, usb, displayport cables (and ethernet if thats your thing).

I have 3 dongles and one power plugged into my macbook pro right now (ethernet could be optional, external monitor, USB, power).

Maybe there will be a nice docking station sometime, but for now, it's dongle city, and picking up the laptop a bit to connect/disconnect each one every time I transition between mobile and desktop-replacement.

Maybe something like https://nerdtechy.com/best-usb-c-docking-stations, though they currently are biased toward providing many USB-A ports.

There are many many single-connector dongles that act like docking stations. The docking stations in your link look really really big. It's easy to find something that does 2x USB-A, ethernet, HDMI, and power on Amazon, for $60-$70 dollars. This will let you have a single cable to plug into to get your monitor and everything.

Maybe there will be a nice docking station sometime, but for now, it's dongle city, and picking up the laptop a bit to connect/disconnect each one every time I transition between mobile and desktop-replacement.

That's not unique to USB-C. My MacBook has no USB-C ports, just the previous gen. But right now has power, external hard drive, headphones, HDMI and a mouse plugged into it. When I transition to mobile, I'll have to unplug all of those, too.

As you note, a docking station would be the best solution, but it's just another piece of gear I don't want on my desk.

What if there was a dongle that securely clipped/glued onto the bottom of the computer so it feels like it's part of it? You'd never remove it and it would simply become a bigger computer with all the ports you want. Just like if the computer maker had put all those ports there in the first place.

I used to use a 3rd party battery that had double the capacity of the factory battery but stuck out the bottom. It doubled as a small tilt-stand. No cables or ever removing it like you would an external battery pack.

>I used to use a 3rd party battery that had double the capacity of the factory battery but stuck out the bottom. It doubled as a small tilt-stand. No cables or ever removing it like you would an external battery pack.

I have something like that now for my MacBook Air. I think it's called a Chug Plug, or something like that. Instead of using Apple's ever-changing computer-side plug, it has the very-stable-so-far electrical socket end connection. So you pop the little regional adapter off your laptop's wall wart and attach the wall wart to the portable battery so it works with every laptop Apple's made this century.

Heavy as hell, but works well.

> picking up the laptop a bit to connect/disconnect each one every time I transition between mobile and desktop-replacement.

Am I missing something? You’d have to do that even if there weren’t dongles.

I notice it more with the USB-C MBP, probably because of the thinness of the device, the number of the cables I have to dis/connect, and the fact I have to do it for both sides of the laptop.

For MacBook Pro with USB-C ports (that are also Thunderbolt 3) you should look into Thunderbolt 3 docks instead. They are pricey, but do the job really well. Just look for ones that support 85W charging - not all of them do, some are limited to 60W. I use CalDigit TS3 at home and Kensington SD5200T at work - both work really well.

People got really mad when Apple decided not to put USB-C on the latest iPhones. Now that's looking to have been a pretty wise choice.

This kind of makes sense if you look at how this should work..

Having a single port for everything is bad idea, because the electrical interface can't possibly be the same for everything.

Making this happen is obviously a really hard task from an engineering standpoint. Device makers have to employ various adapters internally, so that everything works on the same interface.

No wonder manufacturers are suffering to keep up!

In order to solve the USB Type-C dumpster fire we need a new USB Type-D standard which is unambiguously and apologetically NOT backward compatible... which is usually an Apple move. Except if Apple invents it they aren't going to share it so there's no solution anytime soon.

USB-C /w DisplayPort seems to work really well for monitors. If you have a monitor that can output a good amount of voltage, it is quite literally the only connector you need.

At work the only cable connected to my MacBook Pro (running Linux) is a USB-C thunderbolt cable to a monitor which connects all my standard USB-A devices (keyboard, mouse, hub, flash, drives, etc.)

At home I can do the same thing with my HP Spectre or Dell XPS 15 and an LG monitor (XPS complains about voltage, but it still charges).

Viewsonic even has USB-C monitors that are KVMs too. You plug in your keyboard and mouse to the monitor and it will switch them on input select.

Ultimately I'd really like to see a pure USB-C KVM that support DisplayPort 1.4 (no KVM does this currently) so you could have laptop power and full 4k+10Bit all from one cable.

The Nintendo Switch probably has the worst implementation of USB-C I've ever seen.

As power delivery, it's great though. I love that I can charge my Switch with the same power adaptor as a phone/laptop/router. I can usually find or pack a generic USB-C charger and not have to think about carrying a proprietary brick to charge it.

I understand that people who have USB-C video cables are upset that they can't use them; but as somebody who uses the Switch as a travel device, I really appreciate the charging flexibility.

Did Nintendo even advertise it as being USB-C compliant? See https://plus.google.com/102612254593917101378/posts/2CUPZ5yV...

They do, at least on their japanese site.


I don’t think they ever say it’s USB-C, we all just know it is. So they can claim things are damaging your device when they’re not Nintendo certified.

I like Nintendo, but that’s a joke and a jerk move. They have a Tegra platform, why couldn’t they do it right?

To be fair, when companies try to avoid these problems by putting a physical bump in their not-entirely-compatible USB connectors, lots of other people scream bloody murder about how it's a conspiracy to force us all to buy more cables.

I think going with USB-C is a great idea, it just seems like they messed it up a bit so it’s not fully compatible.

This is certainly better than another proprietary thing.

What happened to enforcing trademark rights on the USB logo? Just about every obviously non-compliant 10m long USB extension cable or retractable power-only cable has the USB logo on it. Sometimes it's a bastardized form but it's basically still the logo. If they were more aggressive in eliminating these products from the market, even one-man Amazon shops, then at you could look at the logo to decide if it at least meets the spec.

I have a new MacBook Pro, an external USB-C HDD for backup, and an Android portable music player, also with USB-C. I got a cable to connect the HDD to the MBP, and it works fine for that purpose, but when I use that cable to connect the PMP to the MBP, it doesn't work: the MBP doesn't mount the PMP's filesystem. But if I use a C-male-to-A-female adapter, then an A-to-C cable, the PMP mounts just fine. Anyone know why?

Never mind — it's working now. I don't know why it didn't work earlier.

And voip, and sharing files, sending encrypted emails, managing your contacts, taking notes on a computer, make a backup, simple photo edition, email clients, todo management, rss readers, deal with your encryption key, work in a terminal, packaging in Python...

I find it a good news: there is always something you can take as a mission. There is plenty of things to do.

And that's just the geeks stuff, not even talking about the important specie level issues.

The main issue here is that USB IF wanted to "please everyone" and had a very weak compliance process accompanied by a complex licensing scheme.

This is an idea created by their own hand. Hopefully there will be a Type-C 2.0 or something where everyone has to implement either all the specs or none of them. And all chargers and devices must be 100% compatible.

The crazy part is that "reversible USB" was already a solved problem, by clever engineering of the A plug.

Never mind that on its face, the C plug is a nice reversible plug. But then someone noticed all those contact points on one side that went to waste half the time, and thought they could cram even more signals down the wire, and here we are...

> thought they could cram even more signals down the wire, and here we are...

How so? I'd say 95% of the complication would still exist if you only used the contact points on one side. You would eliminate 3.2 speeds (would anyone notice?), the video+data mode would be slightly different and slightly simpler... and not much else would change.

Are you saying that some USB-C implementations are direction-specific? I've never heard of that problem before.

Best i understand, they kinda are. But then the electronics at either end is responsible for negotiating what side is "up".

Another fun defect I've found while doing hardware support: some USB-C dongles (for various ports) are directionally sensitive (only work when turned a certain way. This isn't limited to cheap dongles, nor does it seem to be a physical (shaky port or loose connection) problem. I'd love to know why that's the case.

Believe me or not, I've bought a MacBook Pro with a 3rd-party usb-c Hub adapter and I've noticed whenever I plug it, it interferes with my hotspot connection (I don't receive any data from my hotspot anymore). Does anyone know anything about this?

I still don't understand why Apple did not release a USB-A + USB-C hub / dongle to replace the Charging Brick on their new laptops. Would eliminate so many of their USB-C issues just by having a high-quality port expander in the market.

It's not just a 4-pin USB connector. It's a 24-pin connector with pins for USB, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, Ethernet, and JTAG. Some of which may work.

Do those 24 tiny pins hold up in use?

In my experience, yes, they hold up far better than Micro USB. The Type-C physical connector seems to be the one thing they actually managed to get right.

I see that laptops don't come with HDMI output anymore. How many monitors have USB-C inputs?

Not a one of the dozen or so that I have, between work and home.

Say what you want about USB-C, but it has been a bonanza for dongle sales.


cycle of life

927 is also the number of times I have seen that comic linked here.

Sorry, it's just that...well this is the fact of life, isn't it?

Technologists ALL want standardization...but can't agree with themselves...and us consumers have to suffer.

It was true then, when this comic was released (I still have a USB mini cable somewhere), and it's true now.

Instead of trying for ONE universal standard... why not try for a "few" tiers of standards? That way instead of a zillion variations of USB-C, we have at most... five or six, perhaps.

No need for comics. This is literally the documentation for the .PLY mesh format:

"The way out of this morass of formats is to create a single file format that is both flexible enough to anticipate future needs and that is simple enough so as not to drive away potential users."

and now it really is just one more format to have to deal with.

I'm pretty sure that wasn't the goal. USB needed a compact, robust port that also supported 3.0 speeds. Nothing else could fill that role, so they made a new port spec.

I guess this solidifies the more and more common view that Apple's thought leadership is something from the past.

A few years ago, the messaging was along the lines of "just wait, this will just be a temporary pain - Apple is just being brave and taking the industry leader role as usual".

> USB Type-C’s complexity is undoubtedly its undoing. Although the idea of one cable to support everything sounds very useful, the reality has quickly become a convoluted combination of proprietary versus on-spec products, differing cable qualities and capabilities, and opaque feature support. The result is a standard that looks simple to use but quickly leads to consumer frustration as there is no clear indication why certain cables and features don’t work across devices.

Spot on.

And, in the decades it'll take to sort out, Apple will be able to bolt on and extra $250 per laptop in dongle fees. Genius.

* Steve Jobs Foretold the Downfall of Apple! - YouTube || https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBma82g3Uag&t=0m40s

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