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What is USB-C?

USB-C is commonplace in the technology world nowadays, with most Android users recognising it as their power charger.

It has also been picked up by multiple companies around the world and has been improved since its debut, expanding to multiple other devices including laptops, tablets, headphones and even video game controllers.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about USB-C.

What is USB-C?

USB-C is an industry-standard connector that can charge a device as well as transmit data, making it one of the most convenient and versatile port options currently available.

The USB-C connector is oval shaped, with smooth curved edges, making it easy to distinguish from the older rectangle-shaped USB-A port.

It was originally developed by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) and is currently used by over 700 companies around the world, including Apple, Dell, Samsung, Intel, Microsoft and HP.

iPad Pro USB C
The iPad Pro packs a useful USB-C port

Its popularity and benefits have also seen it accepted by PC manufacturers since it can transfer data at such high speeds. This is useful for transferring over large video files and the like.

A lot of Android handsets use USB-C for charging, with Apple being the main outlier for its iPhone range; although the company did finally introduce the port connector for the new iPad 9 and iPad Mini 6.

How fast is USB-C?

USB-C can charge up a device and transmit data, and it can do both actions pretty fast.

It can transfer data across devices at up to 40GB/s (gigabits per second), but only when supported by Intel’s Thunderbolt 4 technology. If a device’s USB-C port is marked with a lightning bolt icon, you’ll know that it supports the technology.

Without Thunderbolt support, a USB-C port’s speeds can range anywhere between 5GB/s and 20GB/s, depending on which generation your device supports.

But what do these speeds actually mean for real-world use? Belkin claims that 10Gb/s translates to transferring a high definition feature-length film over to another device in just 30 seconds when working at peak performance.

Wallpaper of a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C cable

Looking at the charging front, USB-C can go up to 240 watts, meaning it can power pretty much any device very quickly. For comparison, Apple’s Lightning charger caps out at just 5W, which is why the Apple Mac and iPhone chargers are not interchangeable; the phone chargers just aren’t powerful enough.

So while it is convenient to use the same charger between your tablet, laptop and phone, it’s also the more powerful option, which should result in less time waiting around waiting for your phone’s battery to be fully replenished.

USB vs Thunderbolt

USB-C and Thunderbolt are not the same thing, and so shouldn’t be mixed up.

USB-C is just the name of the physical oval-shaped port. This means that all Thunderbolt 4 technology uses the USB-C connector, but this isn’t true vice versa as there are other compatible port standards such as USB 3.2 Gen 1 etc.

Thunderbolt has its own features and max speeds, with new iterations intermittently released as the technology improves.

Thunderbolt 4 is the latest iteration, supporting up to 40Gb/s, making data transfer even faster. Thunderbolt can also move as much as 100W of power over an interface, which further adds to its impressive speed and overall benefits.

iMac 24-inch braided USB-C to Lightning cable
Lightning to USB-C cable

Thunderbolt can be used to transfer large data or media files (such as 4K video) over to a computer or PC without long waiting times.

It can be seen as the supercharger version of a USB-C connector, with Intel deciding to stick to the universal connector to ensure cables are backwards compatible and can work with a large range of devices.

Why do iPhones not use USB-C?

There are currently no iPhone models available that come with this connection.

There are a couple of reasons that Apple doesn’t include USB-C on its current handsets; one claim was that it will stifle the company’s innovation and that it would create a lot of electrical waste, in the form of leftover Lightning adaptors.

It’s also important to consider how much revenue Apple makes from its chargers since it is the main creator and user of this connector; iPhone users don’t have too many options when it comes to replacing a broken charger.

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