Type-C Opinion


Very quickly, USB Type-C has this year become a part of every phone’s spec sheet. Either a new phone has USB Type-C, or it doesn’t. And it’s already being seen as a pro (or a con) when comparing phones against each other. Before the introduction of USB-C, pretty much every handset was assumed to have the previous connector, microUSB. And pretty much every phone did. Now, that’s changing.

With the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, and the OnePlus 2 before that, Android smartphones have recently begun adopting the new standard en masse, and as far as we know, many of the phones set to be announced in the coming months — including the HTC One M10 and the LG G5 — are going to make the jump. For me, supporting USB Type-C is absolutely a requirement for my next phone. Here’s why…

1. It’s reversible

The first thing I love about USB-C is that, like the Lightning connector that Apple introduced a few years ago, it’s totally reversible. Instead of fumbling around in the dark trying to get your phone plugged in, the cable will slide right in no matter what orientation you go with. Sadly the Type-A USB connector still has its problems (how many times do you have to switch it before it works for you?), but at least one end (the end you’re more often plugging and unplugging) will be easy to plug in, right?

Reversibility is something that iPhone owners have been enjoying since the iPhone 5, and it’s something that finally needs to find its way to the mainstream lines of Android phones. Google’s not always the one playing catch up, but in this case they are.

2. It’s future-proof

The second reason I absolutely require USB Type-C for my next phone is that USB Type-C is simply the future. We can complain about all the microUSB cables and accessories we have laying around, but the fact is that Type-C seems to have already shown that it’s just better. It’s a pain that’s unfortunate, but it’s something that I think we’re going to have to accept, and something that will get easier with time. Half of my chargers are now USB Type-C since I own a Nexus 6P, and I’m already getting over the death of microUSB.

In case you didn’t notice, Android handsets that don’t have USB Type-C are going to be the ones that stick out in 2016. Google has already pushed Type-C support to the Nexus line (phones that are supposed to model the best of Android for other manufacturers), the upcoming LG G5 is likely going to get Type-C support, the HTC One M10 will probably get USB Type-C support, and I’m sure the next generation of Motorola phones, OnePlus phones, LG’s V line, and countless others will consider the standard as well.

Perhaps one of the mysterious exclusions from this list is the Galaxy S7, which will purportedly have microUSB on some devices and USB Type-C on others. A recent leak showing the bottom of the device shows microUSB. But couple of months back, the Wall Street Journal reported that the S7 and S7 Edge would have a USB Type-C port, and some sources for 9to5Google — having spent time with the device — say the same. My guess is that it will correlate with which processor the phone has: Exynos vs. Snapdragon.

3. It’s versatile

Another huge advantage to USB Type-C is that it’s not just for charging and data transfer as it has been in the past. In Android Marshmallow, Android has a new prompt for devices with a USB-C port that lets you choose how you want to use it. Of course you can use it for charging and file transfers as was the case with microUSB, but there are several new options as well.

For Android phones, you can choose to 1) use USB for charging the device itself, 2) use the device as a power supply for another USB-C device, 3) for MTP file transfers, 4) for PTP photo transfers, or 5) use USB-C for MIDI input. USB accessories have long been able to provide this kind of functionality of a variety of devices, but now it’s as simple as plugging in one universal cable and using it across the board.

And that brings us to…

4. One cable to rule them all

And it’s not just Android phones. In case you haven’t been paying attention, other companies are adopting the new standard too. The new 12-inch MacBook has USB Type-C, Google’s line of Chromebook Pixel laptops have USB Type-C, and the connector is likely making its way to several other devices in the coming years as well. Future-proofing my phone to be compatible with devices in the future is reason enough for it to be something that I absolutely need in my next phone.

There will of course always be exceptions to the rule (Apple’s Lightning comes to mind), but by and large I think we’ll see USB Type-A plugs — which are currently the most popular by a wide margin — disappear over the coming years. Hopefully with USB Type-C plugs popping up on laptops, desktops, all-in-ones, tablets, and more devices, there just won’t be a need for the clunky Type-A anymore.

5. microUSB sucks

The last and final reason I need USB Type-C on my next phone is that microUSB — while it’s definitely one of the most popular USB connectors ever — just isn’t very good. It doesn’t have the transfer and power capabilities of the Type-C plug, and even more importantly for me, it’s not anywhere near as durable.

At least in my experience, microUSB has long been a failure point of Android phones. There have been at least a few times — and maybe this is simply because I’m a more “hardcore” user than most, considering I use and review phones for a living — that I’ve had a microUSB port break on me. The cables are usually fine, but the weak point — the part that’s actually part of the expensive phone — doesn’t have the best durability. For years there have been articles floating around about how to fix lose microUSB ports on a variety of Nexus phones, and that simply needs to be a problem of the past.

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