Why USB-C Is the Meryl Streep of Cables

Oct 28, 2022 · 275 comments
Jp (Ml)
I'll give Manjoo credit. Unlike Tim Cook, when discussing standards and why they should be supported, Manjoo didn't find it necessary to fire off a generational warfare salvo. In Tim Cook's case it was a matter of commercial self-interest and an attempt at ingratiating himself with the "non mom" generation.
Mike (Jersey City)
This perspective is so refreshing. Overtime it is these day to day tactile interactions with our tech that matter most. I care little for the “shinny balls” like the extra mega pixel or a slightly better screen that entice others to upgrade - which is why I still have an iPhone X. But - provide USB -C enabling 1 cord for my phone, laptop, and AirPods? I would run, not walk, to make that upgrade.
Dermot Trellis (Nova Scotia)
I miss FireWire!
Serg (New York)
Like, they can do accents?
Asher (California)
Farhad, This is your best column in months. You're back in your tech review wheelhouse. More of this and less of the speculative social commentary.
Gary (Oslo)
I have some Scart cables for sale if anyone's interested.
Bill (Brooklyn)
One nitpick here: USB-C is a type of connector, not a type of cable.
Jk (Cambridge)
Nothing more frustrating then realizing a usb cable is not minior micro usb nor lightning bolt or Lightning ,and currently useless
Amiros (SF)
The illustration shows Micro USBs but the article is about USB C. They are completely different cables. I would update the illustration to show what the article is about.
Stefan W (Paris)
Meryl Streep? Wrong. Rather, George Clooney: mediocre and perfectly serviceable for most purposes.
news-junkie (California)
What I'd like to see are standards on just how long products must last and be supported. Perhaps it will slow down the rate of innovation but right now we are innovating our way to a lot of trash.
Marcy (Paris, TX)
Why does the E.U. need to involve itself if consumers prefer USB-C? You just got done talking about how much you love it, because you don’t have to have so many different cables. Most consumers feel just as you do. The E.U. is meddling in the tech industry and using this excuse about wanting to reduce e-waste as their justification. They're making a mistake.
David (Brisbane)
What nonsense. There is not even a single USB-C standard. It is actually worse that having different cables and connectors - at least you were sure that if it fits it will work. With this bloody USB-C they all fit but only some of them actually work. And there is no telling which ones will work and which ones won’t. And I am just talking about charging here. With data transfer it’s a whole other can of worms. Hello, is anybody home? Having the same shape of plug is not enough to call it “universal” - everything has to be portable.
Squidly (California)
One cable to rule them all, one cable to find them, One cable to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them; In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie.
David (California)
Using a real person as a metaphor is a bad idea.
David Fairbanks (Reno Nevada)
Without USB C, there is nothing.
StevieC (Brooklyn)
@David Esrati The dream is alive for “universal plug” for all EV / Hybrid vehicles and / or wireless recharging while on a electrified grid? The wave of the future…
Gordon (Memphis)
I'm with ya all the way up to the "dongles" thing. Sorry-not-sorry, friend. "Dongle" is a nearly perfect appellation. (What would you alternately propose?)
APS (Olympia WA)
I wish cygolite and planet bike would update their tail lights from the archaic usb plugs they are currently using...
StevieC (Brooklyn)
@FunkyIrishman @Tina “ Ditto “… Noted: Marie Kondo philosophy of less is more…
Uxf (Cal.)
Wouldn't it be nice if the cables TELL you what they are - at both ends - so you don't have to squint at tiny plugs that may or may not be symmetrical, may or may not be rounded? Wouldn't it be nice if an article about USB-C had a PICTURE of the USB-C end and distinguish it from lighting, micro-USB, and whatever else?
Molly Bloom (Tri-State)
My brain hurts after reading this...
David Williams (San Diego county)
I think it's actually a better actor than Streep; no ridiculous accents.
leftyrite (Bristol County, Mass.)
Who is the Arnold Swartzenegger of vacuum tubes? Or, for the Robots reading this through artifice intelligence: "What is the algorithm, Kenneth?"
Henry Lieberman (Cambridge, MA)
Trouble in paradise: USB-C isn't as "universal" as this article would have you believe. From the Times' own Wirecutter: "Unfortunately, when it comes to USB-C, even cables that look identical can behave very differently—for instance, a cable that charges your phone at top speed might be sluggish at transferring music files, or vice versa.". The worst is that the various subtypes are not identified anywhere on the connector there's no simple way to tell which is which. Explanation at https://learn.adafruit.com/understanding-usb-type-c-cable-types-pitfalls-and-more/cable-types-and-differences. And how long before we get USB-D or some other supposed "standard", "universal" thing that doesn't always work? The Connector Conspiracy" :-) strikes again!
Prakash (Virginia)
I like it in principle, but not the flimsy implementation. If your laptop is near an edge, it comes out by the weight of the dongle. I also think after a year’s use the contacts will become loose, wait and see.
MrsEichner (Atlanta, GA)
I'm so glad the link to the diagram was included, I was wracking my brain trying to figure out which cable in my ever-expanding 25-year old IT graveyard was a USB-C. Thank you for that detail!
Robert Hunt (Vermont)
Plugging in a USB 2 cable has always been a coin toss. Getting it right every time is boring.
Global Charm (British Columbia)
Smaller is not better with cables and connectors. The original USB-A connector was simple and robust. For things like flash drives being plugged into a laptop, it provided good mechanical support. The electrical contacts were large in size, so that the wiping action of the spring-loaded contact against the flat contact would clean the surfaces of dirt and corrosion. The contacts themselves were accessible for cleaning, although this was seldom necessary. I now have a MacBook with USB-C ports. The cables regularly loosen and break contact. This is inevitable given the small size of the connector, since any lateral movement of the cable exterts a much greater force on the contacts (it’s simple leverage). This is not the Meryl Streep of connectors. Form and function are at odds here.
John Harper (Carlsbad, CA)
I just bought a replacement MagSafe cable and charger for my roommate. I think it puts out 12A/5V/60W to the MacBook. Most portable chargers put out 3.1A/5V at most, so I guess it will work, but will take 4X longer for a full charge? So, it will work, but don't expect a fast recharge?
Bill Smale (Vietnam)
This is a simplified view! Between my powerbank, Samsung in ear speakers, Samsung and iPhone phones, Huawei and iPad tablets and my Apple laptop i need 3 different USB C cables. Don’t confuse the physical connector with the internal wiring. USB C is not yet a STANDARD configuration.
LC Shepherd (USA)
"When I was a kid you connected a TV to a VCR or Nintendo using RCA cables (a braid of two or three colored round plugs)." Actually, before that the original Atari Computer (1981) was connected to the TV with 300 ohm wires.
Dom (Lunatopia)
Yea great. Sure we all get tired of all the different cables. But here is the catch.... technology moves soooo fast that in say another 5-10 years certain applications will actually require a new type of connector for reasons we don't know of today. What will happen in the EU market is that they will be held back. the connectors for earbuds need to use usb-c? that's just crazy that connector was standardized decades ago. there is literally no need to change that.
CalBear (California)
There is much to like about a universal connector. What Mr. Manjoo fails to mention is the frustration that will happen when the USB-C cable is plugged in and does not work as expected. Now we must read the specifications of the USB-C cables very carefully to find out if a particular cable will work for a particular use. Just because the cable plugs in does not mean it will transmit data or video signals at the desired rate. It's much more of a mess than Mr. Manjoo suggests. And these cables are expensive!
Plumberb (California)
Yes, expensive, but the newer power mode items are fully backwards compatible, with amazing data transfer speeds and can handle 60 watts or more for charging duties. when an old cable goes bad, get a new model! You will be fine.
Bill Smale (Vietnam)
Not exactly what reality is. For example, i have a USB C cable that works with my tablet but not powerbank or tablet, one that works with powerbank but nothing else, one that works with Samsung but Samsung doesn’t work with another one, one that works with laptop but not powerbank or Samsung. USB C is a physical, connector standard for the EU but not a LOGICAL one.
Bill Smale (Vietnam)
Marcy (Paris, TX)
USB-C is often characterized as “future proof” by the tech industry. The engineers put a lot of thought into its design, making it capable of even carrying up to 100 watts of power. I have USB-C on my Android phone and I like it. I like that I don’t have to look at the end to make sure I’m plugging it in the right way. Now, that said, I think the E.U. is overreaching. E-waste is nothing compared to the plastic waste created by the food and beverage industries. Millions of Europeans toss plastic water bottles in the trash everyday. They throw away food containers, too. How often to they dispose of a data cable? How much landfill space do think e-waste is taking compared to food waste? It’s nothing. This move by the E.U. isn’t about trying to reduce waste. Forcing American tech companies to comply with their design requirements is about power and control. Apple should consider pulling their products from the E.U. and watch the politicians in Brussels pay the price for their arrogance.
Right here (Fayetteville, Ark.)
I’m OK with it but the conversion is gradual. My CD/DVD player (yes, I unashamedly still use one) needs to use the USB-to-USB-C converter to work with my MacBook that comes with only USB-C ports. My iMac is a little older and still has the old USB ports. Improvising helps.
pnkdhr (Canada)
The USB-C has a data transfer rate about 100x that of the Lightning cable, and power deliver capacity about 20x of the Lightning. Guess the fanboys still love their proprietary, more expensive and poor quality cables!
Stephen Grubb (Toronto)
USB C is just a connector. The data and charging capabilities are determined by the port specs and cable specs, and can range from USB 2, 480KB/s capability up to TB4 40GB/s. Charging limits can be 5 to 100 watts. This is the biggest flaw with USB C. Although the cables all look the same, It’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.
Gary V. (Oakland, CA)
HDMI was cooked up to satisfy Movie studios and built with so called security protocols to prevent copying. IMO it is kludgy. Until USB-C can equal it, it will have to live alongside HDMI in Home entertainment products. I am a bit out of touch so correct me if I am wrong.
Brooklyn Dog Geek (Brooklyn Of Course)
Just don’t be adding their outlets into house outlets. Nothing more desperately Y2K than any sort of USB outlet built into a home.
Richard (Nashville)
I use my MacBook Pro as a music server into a mid-fi headphone system, the connection is USB into the DAC. I was using a 2014 Pro with USB-A, and am now on a 2021 Pro with USB-C (via an AudioQuest A-C adapter). The Pro also has the M1 Pro chip, highly recommended. I noticed an immediate improvement in sound quality. I suspect it's the higher power capability of the USB-C port, of which there are three on this Pro. Now if only my cable purveyor will make me a USB-C to USB-B cable to ditch the adapter. :)
Sake (Santa Cruz, CA)
Great article. Coincidentally, I heard recently that the inventor of the USB cable died. Apparently when the pallbearers lowered his casket into the ground it was facing the wrong way, so they had to turn him around the other way so it fit.
MuzikJunky (New York, NY)
FireWire is superior for recording audio, however, as the recording signal doesn’t degrade en route from the source to the storage unit to the degree that it does with USB cables. Peace.
Dave Brown (Petaluma, CA)
@MuzikJunky They are both digital transmission systems, not analog. There is no degradation of the digitized audio signal.
Nick (California)
Aren't they all digital signals?
Les (Bethesda)
"(USB-C, like Lightning, is symmetrical, so you can plug it in in any direction.)" Literally not true. It has a 180 degree axis of symmetry, which means there are two ways you can plug it in. If it is rotated in any position other than those two axes, it won't go in.
L (DC)
But I really liked the regular USB... I still use my devices from those days- like 10 years ago.
Carol (Oregon)
Back when USB was first introduced, it was the "universal" cable that would work for everything: both ends identical, worked on a whole lot of things. Indeed, it looked like universality was going to happen. And then they added a different end for printers. And then they added another different end for phones. And then they added a different end for cameras. And soon we were right back to where we were with all the previous cables, no two interchangeable. I'm not holding my breath for USB-C to accomplish that.
TheniD (Phoenix)
Whenever I see the word proprietary, I get an automatic withdrawal feel in my tummy. All engineers like to see the word Universal or open-source. Just like women like to see the word Sale at a shoe-store. There are way too many USB types connectors but if we finally settle on the USB-C I would be a happy camper. Thank god for the EU countries!
Chris Carvalho (Beaverton, OR)
In the interest of accuracy, a USB-C connector is about 1/10 of an inch thick and is about 1/3 inch long and wide. Apple's Lightning connector has been proven to be unreliable in my experience, with the contacts burning out after about a year of use, requiring the entire cable to be replaced at quite a cost of money and resources. I welcome Apple's change to USB-C. They did not do their homework on the reliability of their design.
JB (Raleigh, NC)
Wrong! They DID do the research. Apple needs cash cows to keep buying replacement cables. They know what they're doing.
shazam (brooklyn)
...but can the usb-c ruin Deer Hunter?
Carl Steefel (Beekeley, CA)
Problem is that you buy a Mac or a newer PC and you have to hang some kind of dongle off it to get the other cables to work. Walk around with my laptop with this big Dongle hanging off...
American Expat (In Asia)
"USB-C’s singular selling point is universality. It was designed to plug in to more or less everything to accomplish more or less anything ..." That can't be right, Mr. Manjoo. I just tried plugging in my USB-C cable into the USB A/B slot, the HDMI slot, the mini-USB slot, the micro-USB slot and it wouldn't fit in a single one of them! Not one! It's a scandal, I tell you!
Okbyme (Santa Fe)
If they could just make plumbing parts compatible….
wyleecoyoteus (Caldwell, NJ)
Uh-huh. Or maybe it's just another gimmick to make me buy more new stuff. Here's an example. Just got a new cell phone and discovered that it won't connect to my old computer or my car's gps system like the old one did that have the old USB plugs. What's the solution? Buy new cables, of course. Didn't we used to call this "planned obsolescence"?
Dean R (Vancouver)
You are missing the point. The new EU rule is intended to prevent the constant churn of new cables you have to buy because manufacturers decide to change them every few years.
A Very Different Donald (Upstate NY)
@PaulIN, I alway thought houses should be built with a hydraulic jack on one side, so when the house gets dirty, you just pump the jack up, let's say the higher side is 5 feet above the lower, you get the hose out, and you hose the whole thing clean. Including bathrooms, everything. This presupposes the homes are made for this excellent idea, like all the floors are solid tile so they can handle a flowing water hose. We are thinking Unibody here, as if you were on a Navy ship, let's say. This also might get the teenagers in your home to hang their clothes up on hangers, which would be safe from the weekend hose action. A few details to be worked out, but yes, that was my dream !! (If you not in a humorous mood today, please just relax. Thank you, my friends !!).
bubba (TN)
A bad title, it is almost like saying Meryl Streep is a "universal" woman.
John (Brooklyn)
When I got my first MacBook Pro with ONLY USB-C plugs my initial reaction was, "What, no way. This is gonna suck with all the extra cables I'll have to carry around." I ended up buying a small adapter that took USB-C to everything, and have always been able to find the cables I need wherever I am or already attached to whatever it is I want to plug into.
David Heim (Connecticut)
I've broken more than one USB-C plug for my Apple MacBook. The plug is very fragile and easy to bend into oblivion. I also found it hard to main a solid connection; my computer would begin to charge, then stop. Which led me to wiggle the USB-C plug in its socket. Which led to the break.
Dottie (San Francisco)
I learned a lot from this. I didn't know that the USB-C could also carry video data like the HDMI cable. It makes sense to standardize all these cables. I have a box in my closet with random cables in it. I have to dig around to find the right one to power up or connect an older device. I would be nice to have just one cable that can do everything in the future.
Tautologie (Washington State)
I dearly hope that all iPhones get a USB-C port, not only European ones. Lightning cables are absurdly fragile. Every USB-C cable I ever owned is still in working order, while I am more than $200 into replacement Lightning cables for my household. We don't treat the one cable more gently than the other. I am tired of waste created by lousy design. There's no excuse for it.
A Very Different Donald (Upstate NY)
I already read 6 or so months ago, that all connectors for Apple products, would be USB-C as new versions of everything came out. GO, APPLE ! And for the rest of the world, it's time to catch up !!
Dean R (Vancouver)
The rest of the world (that is, the non-Apple world) is already there waiting for Apple to catch up.
Nick (California)
Apple is the one doing the catching up.
Jon (Is)
I think this article is a lament on technical progress in the personal computer industry over the past 50 years. Of course there are going to be different standards as different actors produce and test out different products that are evolving and advancing at a pace mostly unprecedented in human history. If USB-C is the final plug standard over the next 100 years, that will be quite surprising. For environmental reasons of course we hope it is, but for technical progress reasons, I'm not sure. Have we now really reached hammer, screwdriver, and pliers level of stability in consumer computer connectivity? Part of me hopes not as that would suggest we're at the end of the computer revolution. p.s. Edit: USB-C is symmetrical so you can plug it in *either* direction, not *any* direction.
Philippe Egalité (Le Monde)
@jon Well, the proliferation of different types of cables has only partially been about technology and was also about compelling people to remain within an Apple (for example) ecosystem. Government standards are a crucial supplement to protecting citizens from corporate predation.
Nick (California)
USB C probably is the end, just like Blu-ray - the future is probably wireless for most consumer products.
David Esrati (Dayton Ohio)
Now let’s standardize charging ports/connectors on electric vehicles please.
Devin (Philly)
The manufactures could have make one cable for everything 30 years ago. They didn't so they could gouge you and force you to buy proprietary accessories. Which yes, led to a monumnetal amount of waste and unnecssary pain for most consumers. About time. At least the EU has a government that actually does something to improve life for their constinuents instead of bowing to the highest bidder or donor.
LB (Phoenix)
"Meryl Streep of cables" ?? How clever!
Paul King (USA)
Till the next better cable comes along.
PaulN (Columbus, Ohio, US of A)
I also recommend that every automobile and every vacuum cleaner must be the same. That would save a tremendous amount on spare parts. Even more if automobiles included vacuum cleaners.
Andy In Tuxon (Tucson, Ariz.)
What's weird about the USB-C charging mandate is that the argument is "too many different types of chargers," which is not true. The rectangular USB Type A (host side) connector has been the de facto charger outlet for many years, at least since the first iPhone was introduced in 2007 with its cube wall charger. Anyone who had a phone before iPhone likely remembers the insane number of different chargers supplied by phone manufacturers, with different plugs and more importantly different output voltages. Sometimes a vendor would change charger types each year! So Apple's choice of a charger with USB-A connector accomplished a couple of things. One, a phone could be attached to the computer with the same cable you used to charge it. Two, it got rid of the disparate barrel-jack chargers which were all incompatible. This move made the USB-A connector on a charge a standard, and we see it everywhere now. Android manufacturers and others similarly adopted the USB-A charger. Where they differed from Apple was on the phone end, and they chose the USB standard Mini-B and then the Micro-B. Mini-B was a lousy choice because they always broke. The cables were the standard USB A to Mini-B or Micro-B, so not proprietary. But here's the thing. Cables are a consumable. They break, they get lost. Replacing an Apple cable costs the same as an Android cable. Now everyone will need to spend $40 on new USB-C CHARGERS to replace the USB-A chargers we have all over the place!
Haile (Boston, MA)
@Andy In Tuxon If you have a USB-A charger, you can use A-to-B cables to charge your USB-C devices. If your phone is non-Apple and made after 2016, chances are you already have one.
Lord Krishna (Somewhere in India)
The biggest problem with proprietary power chords was losing it during travel. To get a replacement on the go from the manufacturer was an enormous challenge, especially if you were in a foreign country. Until then you could kiss your data and connectivity goodbye. How we put up with this is a mystery.
max (bay area)
As an AV tech for a major university I cannot tell you how much simpler this will make my life! I thank the gods. But what will i do with the vast piles of ancient cables and adapters that inhabit the dusty corners of my storage closet? Burn them all in a toxic pit I hope. As long as it's downwind.
Bob (Smith)
Though USB-C can do a lot, there’s no indication the cable you buy will be able to do it. It’s actually more confusing because the plug fits but it may not be rated to deliver enough power, or be slower, or only handle limited video signals. Also, enforcing a sweeping rule like this prevents better technologies from being adopted. It’s truly stupid for the EU to micro-manage tech standards.
Paula (StillHere)
Who thinks it should say 1/3 inch long & 1/10 inch wide
Dave Brown (Petaluma, CA)
@Paula Wide and tall?
Jim Mountjoy (Galesburg IL)
I can appreciate the theory, but I have not been impressed with the real world results. I have 2 laptops (MacBook Pro and MacBook Air) and both have developed serious difficulties establishing a stable connection for charging. I have pretty much abandoned the Mac chargers, and have had a bit more success with 'PC type chargers' purchased separately, but I am one my second one of those after the first stopped charging without endless wiggling of the connection. Similarly, I have had problems with both a Mac dongle and a third-party dongle in getting secure connections when trying to use flash drives and other devices. I am not sure exactly what causes this, but comments on Mac support make me suspect it is not a rare occurrence. I also wonder if this is the reason my laptop battery now says 'service recommended'.
Nancy (Detroit, Michigan)
It's about time USBs were standardized. But yes, I'm going to grieve as I clean out all the wires that have accumulated since the mid 1990s that are useful to no one today. It's a terrible waste--of my money and our resources. With my new MacBookPro I've had to buy a connector that sticks out of it like an unhealthy growth just to recharge my phone. As an elder, I'm not making these transitions easily. I'd still prefer to go for a walk with my min-iPod than my phone. I'd even give my right arm for an iPod (I'm left-handed). That's how much I miss it.
Mark (OC CA)
I've had Android phones since forever. I have often used "unauthorized" charges purchased at CVS or Walgreens or the local liquor store. Never once has it been a problem. Going on 12 years now. I will never own an Appler product preciselyl because they are propreitary and have no added value by being such. For those who know, Apple is the Specialized of the electronics world. Overpriced, subpar gadgets that perform no better than others. But you're tethered to their "ecosystem." Nope.
TGA (Los Angeles, CA)
Well if everyone is being forced to go all in on USB-C, why not go all in on a universal operating system, Linux? It's time to retire Windows and Apple OS's. They're both such garbage. Okay that might result in a lot of unemployment, but everyone would have a robust operating system ;-).
Nick (Connecticut)
Great understated article, this is why I read NYT!
Ann O. Dyne (Unglaciated Indiana)
Wikipedia has a good photo of USB-C.
Claudia (PA)
All of these were "universal" until they no longer were…
Xolotl (USA)
I'm on my third phone in a row with USB-C. Old news.
What about the connectors Microsoft Surface devices use?
J (Seattle)
I agree with you completely but what is missing from this conversation is an even more confusing subset of consumer tech, cables/ports that look the same but aren't! Mainly, a good example is Thunderbolt and USB-C. Compliance of cables to go with the spec of the port that look exactly the same are the nuances that the industry does not explain/express/market well at all. Best setup I have is a docking station to my laptop. Single thunderbolt cable. Passes ethernet/charging/video/audio all over this single cable. It's great. Cable is super short though and a longer one is exponentially more expensive and fragile. Looks the exact same as a USB-C cable that costs a fraction.. and I promise people confuse the 2 and don't expose the true potential of the hardware setup they just bought. So while I'm excited for a standard 'port' to be around for a bit longer than the current tech cycle, without at least education/marketing to teach what some of these sub/super sets are of standards that use the same port 'type', there's still a mess out there. Analog cables were so easy. Sigh..
Rick (Dale)
Those USB-C cables that can carry video signals and two-way 100-watt power are pretty expensive per-foot. It's still good to have cheaper ones around to use with less demanding applications and devices. And isn't this another name for thunderbolt 4, or vice-versa? Where does that fit in?
Philipp (Monterey, CA)
It's a shame USB-C isn't a better connector. It's way less positive than Lighting (though similar to, perhaps a modest improvement on, other smaller USB connectors). Cables and ports wear out more quickly. You might have to fiddle with the connector to get and keep a connection. In theory, a more widespread/universal connector is wonderful. I just wish the actual connector were better. I wonder if there's any potential for improvement over time, I'm guessing not within the constraints of the current connector design
Dheep' (Midgard)
I was recently re-building my recording setup & my I/O box/converter required USB C to USB A. In the interim I lost the original Cable. Did some research & learned that little plug was USB C. Then realized the plug on my phone charger would do it. (Temporarily) But of course the cables that come with phones are so ridiculously short. Got a lot them lying around. Ordered a 2 pack on AMAZON that were actually Long, & all my problems solved.
Tim Clark (Los Angeles)
I'm still surprised at the universal adaptation of wireless battery-powered disposable earbuds over a simple headphone jack. Which is why I'm not letting go of my Pixel 3a anytime soon.
WhichyOne (California)
Apple isn't "all in" for USB-c for its laptops. My (mostly) new MacBook pro has MagSafe thank god! Having to use a non-detachable cable like USB-C for charging turned out to be a bad idea, one I was really glad that Apple decided to fix.
Sam (San Jose, CA)
Apple should have switched to type-C long ago. After all they did this for Mac and ipads. Type-C supports many underlying protocols including the super-powerful Thunderbolt which was developed by Intel & Apple.
Chuck (Indiana)
What an absolute load of garbage. The author waxes on and on about this "One Cable", this USB-C, as though it's a single object with infinite use. It is NOT. There are dozens of versions of this cable already - similar only in that they can connect to the same objects - but functionally completely different. Which do you prefer - cables that only plug in to objects they're designed to function with, or cables that can plug in to anything even when they're completely inadequate for the purpose you were intending to perform? Treating every cable as a "charging cable" and assuming they're all capable of the same power handling, charging speed, data transfer rate - this is a complete falsehood. USB-C is already doomed as a concept. Of course it's The Law now...
Thomas Moore (Washington DC)
Now can we make Apple comply with all the other standards so that we can all communicate with each other, share quality videos, etc.? Either that, or they "free" their technology for others to use as well at no cost. I don't care, I'm just tired of one company thinking they are so exceptional (even if in many ways they are) that they can bollix up the whole point of NETWORKING.
Mark Bau (Australia)
I’m a long time Apple user but I’m over the moon to know that Thunderbolt cables may soon become history, they are on of Apples worst ideas. Lint and other crud continually get stuck inside the thunderbolt socket on iPhones and then you have to deal with the cables suddenly not working. And the of course there is the dreaded message saying you are a very naughty boy for not using a genuine Apple cable.
drollere (sebastopol, CA)
another useful and stylish piece by mr. manjoo. keep up the work, sir, your career looks bright to me. for the rest: a token mechanical simplification -- obvious in its context -- is not really a step forward. the main goal is to enmesh us all entirely in the digital surveillance and control, consumer consumption state of corporate profiteering ... at the mere cost of continuous climate change. if a standard plug will help that happen, then -- well, here's your standard plug. happy now, little credit card holder? plug it in, but be sure to ignore news about climate change. making it all more convenient and pleasant to head in the profitable direction is what i call a "grandin chute". temple grandin devised new slaughterhouse design to make animals headed for the meat display to go willingly forward. two principles: make the steps forward calming, and make the steps forward appear attractive. are we going willingly forward? why, we have a new standard universal plug cable to charge and transfer data! of course we go willingly! i always ask this question, and i never get a reasonable answer: where do we think we are all going, and what do we expect to find when we get there?
Mr Blue Sky (Somewhere Red)
I’m not sure who said it first, but… “The great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from”
Chris (Santa Barbara)
I find USB-C to be structurally weak. Repeated lateral stress from the male USB-C onto the female USB-C receptacle can make the female receptacle fail pretty quickly. I had a Dell laptop where the female USB-C receptacle failed within a year, and I was being careful and gentle with how I plugged and unplugged the USB-C cable. By contrast, an original USB, Ethernet, or HDMI connection is physically much sturdier, both on the female and male sides. The typical USB-C male connector can easily put a lot of lateral force on a fairly weakly seated, thin-walled USB-C female receptacle.
Sf (Sf)
Will this law preclude innovation? What plug would we all be stuck with if this law passed 10 years ago?
@Sf Establishing one standard as the rule is a good first step. It doesn't mean we will be stuck with it forever. Maybe it will slow the mass introduction of newer versions, but it will also mean that a new one will have to be significantly superior in order to warrant replacing the old. In the mean time, we will be spared from having to buy multiples of cables and we'll reduce waste. It's no secret that accessories make a lot of money for the likes of Apple and they have zero incentive to stop changing the standards and forcing us to buy only licensed chargers.
Lee (NYC)
I’m looking forward to some great artwork made of all these previous generations of cables
unquity (Seattle)
While I like USB-C, over time I've noticed (at least on the MacBook) the plug becomes looser and looser and starts to fall out of the jack with the slightest movement. Don't know if it's the fault of the computer or the plug. Then again, my MacBook Pro is a lemon...faulty keyboard, defective Touch-Bar, unusable audio preferences. What you want for $3,600. At least the USB-C connections still work.
syfredrick (Providence)
I suggest that you tag this column for review in 10 years. Meanwhile, we'll do what we have to do to get the latest device, and throw away what is no longer supported whether we like it or not.
KMM (North Carolina)
On a trip to Europe this past summer, we found to our dismay that our rental car had only USB-C ports, making it impossible to use our iPhones for navigation, until, at considerable inconvenience, we were able to buy an adapter. Next time we will know to bring one.
VinceInSeattle (Seattle)
Thanks, Europeans, for carrying the water for the US! Our manufacturers have too much influence to permit a rational, pro-consumer regulation like requiring USB-C. I hope various remaining incompatibilities will be ironed out soon. The next frontier is rechargeable batteries. Battery chemistries and manufacturing methods are changing too fast right now to impose regulation, but I hope that in a few years, regulators can agree with manufacturers on a few form factors and charging standards and connectors. It should be easy and cheap to replace batteries in both consumer electronics and autos when necessary, as easy as it is to replace or charge a AA battery.
Anders Host-Madsen (Hawaii)
What you are describing is USB-C utopia. The reality is different: while there are one connector, there are myriads of different type of cables. They all have different speeds and power delivery capability. Connect a powerful charger with the wrong cable, and you get trickle charge. Some cables cannot even deliver data. And the worst: there is no way to know what a given cable can do because they all have the same connector! The idea of USB-C is great, but it has turned into a terrible mess, worse that when there were different types of connectors.
Horace Greeley (New York, NY)
I cannot backup my iPhone to iTunes using USB-C. It can only be done with standard USB.
Ace (NJ)
What’s next, black is the new white. Everything must only made in black? Promotes equality, consistency, and standardization. And Europeans said so! You know, the nation states responsible for the great technological innovations in computers & phones in recent years. Especially, consumer technology. If we need to rely on Euro innovations, might as well grab a landline with rotary dialer.
Meighan Corbett (Westchester County NY)
Here's how to sort your cables etc. Put them all in a box in the closet; only go there to take the cables you need. At the end of the month anything left in the box, can be responsibly disposed of. You don't own the device that needs that cable/plug any more.
Commenter Girl (Exit 9, NJ)
Some Apple partisans have been screaming government overreach. socialism, communism, kakistocracy, etc. Come on people, it is just a clever way to lock you in to their "ecosystem". The invention of standard threads on nuts and bolts helped industry move forward (most of the time). Taste the freedom of being able to buy cables and chargers from anyone. -- Proud owner of a $100 Android phone
Katrin (Wisconsin)
Once you’ve sorted out all your useless cables, take them to Best Buy. They’re a recycle hub and have bins in the store for these used cables.
Joshua Brown (SF)
"a cable with at least one end that looks something like a squashed Tic Tac — a rectangular plug with rounded corners, about a tenth of an inch long and a third of an inch wide." 1/3 of an inch?? About 1/10th?? Maybe use Eighths. Or 16ths. Or millimeters, whatever. Or just leave the tic toc analogy stand on its own. Anything would be better. We do have ways of measuring things, afterall, and style guides I'd imagine.
Wilson C. (San Francisco)
This is the kind of government "overreach" that makes life much easier but the right doesn't appreciate. When left to their own devices (no pun intended), of course corporations like Apple will want to make their own proprietary cables to make more money but that hurts us, the consumer.
Hank Scorpio (upstate NY)
Ever since I bought an all-USB-C-port Mac laptop five years ago, I've had to carry around a half-briefcase full of dongles to adapt all the things I have to plug into it. Still seems like a money-making scheme to me.
Paul Plummer (Coon Rapids MN)
Apple no doubt opposes using USB-C in it's iPhones. Having double ended USB-C charging cables would expose iPhones to chargers that might be incompatible to an iPhone. Plus the USB-C connector is slightly more bulky than the Apple Lightning port and real estate inside the iPhone is at a premium.
Farhad Manjoo (SF)
The current Apple chargers are USBC to Lightning — they have the same problem of “exposing” apple devices to non-Apple chargers.
Brian (MA)
@Paul Plummer If Apple or other manufacturers were really concerned about incompatible chargers they'd still include one with the very expensive electronics they sell. Apple, Samsung, etc. all do this, pay $1,200 for a mobile device and they can't be bothered to include a charger.
Bogey907 (USA)
@Paul Plummer Apple will have to switch to USB-C due to an EU law just passed requiring compatibility.
Peter H (NYC)
One cable to rule them all. I won't buy anything that doesn't have USB-C (watches excepted). So nice advancing from the stone age, when everything had it's own cable. Especially not missed are the giant brick chargers that laptops used back then. The new GaN chargers are amazingly small and capable. One charger and one cable goes with me on the road - charges my headphones, laptop and phone. My watch still needs a proprietary connector, but a small adapter to USB-C solves that problem effectively. Just learned about the USB-C monitor trick - excellent feature. I will definitely look for that next time I need a new monitor!
Ethan Allen (Vermont)
Will Apple still be able to ascertain whether my charging cable is a genuine, high cost Apple purchase, or a cheaper generic version, and refuse to charge my device accordingly?
joelm (Andover, MA)
You glossed over the one (really big) issue with USB-C: There is no one "USB-C" and a consumer can't know the capabilities of any one cable in their hands. Some cables carry power, some data and some both both. They support different power loads (capacities) and figuring out which cable you are buying or holding in your hand, and why your device isn't charging as fast as you'd expect is very hard. Apple stuck with Lightening so long, most likely because there are billions of devices out there for compatibility, and it's a single cable, so they all 'just work'. This also has value to consumers.
Robert (Bellingham)
@joelm It is interesting. I've read the article and dozens of comments and have yet to see first cousin Thunderbolt mentioned. Great tech, but another order of confusion.
Koho (Santa Barbara, CA)
I like the connector. By my estimate, I have lost about a week of my life plugging in the conventional USB connector the wrong way and having to flip it over. Long live symmetrical connectors!
Richard (Nashville)
@Koho LOL! That post rocks, mate.
James Jordan (Falls Church,Va)
Great article! Thanks for the tips. I desperately need to simplify my rig. When possible I am a fan of wireless but as you know there are some devices that must be connected to power. I am also interested in the concept of universal connectors bout automobile and public transport, aircraft, passenger rail, and passenger SC Maglev. It would be great in future pieces if you dd diagrams for a home studio for efficient "zoom" calls that would allow showing two camera views of your ppt deck, your talking head and the picture of your conference audience and their questions. I also would like to mark up drawings and show them in a window on a screen. This would be great for design conferences. Remember, in the design business we need to integrate real images from different perspectives sometimes from aerial drone cameras so we can generate alternative routes for the public review process. This kind of approach can facilitate infrastructure renewal and save a lot of money.
CJF (Oberlin, OH)
Two faults I see with USB-C over Lightning ports: 1) That thin, thin blade in the center of USB-C looks fragile. Plugging in at a slight angle could damage it. Am I wrong? 2) My phone's charging port accumulates pocket lint. I can get a pin into the Lightning port to clean it out, not so USB-C (that center blade, again). Given a choice of two standards, the Europeans picked the wrong one, looks like.
Glenn Eisen (Hastings On Hudson NY)
My new Surface has only one USB C and USB A (the port that all the USB 1,2, 3 work with. The good news is I was able to buy a USB C hub that accepts the old USB, HDMI plugs and even has a slot for mini memory cards. As an over 80-year-old guy who started getting these cable things before many of today's users were born, I was using PC's back in the 1970's and was involved with wiring computer boards in the 60's. Its amazing how much of the old stuff I still have laying around. I question what the next evolution will be. Data on the original PC floppy data disks can only be read by very few people. Negatives from the late 1800's can still be used to produce photographs. Data saved on old storage media might be lost forever unless it has been migrated to the latest readable media. Those who remember the past and have not evolved are out of luck. They won't have the ability to review the stuff to find out most of it is meaningless anyway, but just has fond memories of what was but never will be again.
Joe Fineman (Bellevue)
Vinyl records, my friend, that's why I buy everything on long playing 12" vinyl!
Bob Jones (Lafayette, CA)
On my desk I have a 2015 MacBook Pro with two USB-A (I think that’s the right name) ports. [there is a Thunderbolt port, too, I think — I’ve never dreamed of using it] To that I needed to connect - an Apple CD/DVD drive - a digital audio interface - a 4TB backup hard drive - a MIDI keyboard - a 1TB solid state storage drive for music files - a graphics tablet to use a whiteboard on Zoom - a printer/scanner - a charger cable for my iPhone - a seven-port USB hub to direct traffic to and from seven of the eight items above (the DVD drive’s USB cable is too short to reach the hub, so it goes right into one of the two ports on the Mac) All of the above devices use USB-A cables (except the solid state drive, which came with a short, interchangeable USB-C cable). I’m locked into USB-A for the foreseeable future. Don’t talk to me about USB-C.
Jr (Broken)
Dude your laptop is now almost 8 years old…it’s time
M. (California)
One bummer: USB-C PD, or power delivery, for charging devices: a charger can provide several different power options, and the device being charged can accept several different power options, but if they don't line up, nothing charges. You'll see this if you try to plug a laptop into a phone charger. Sure, they're connected, but nothing happens. Wouldn't it be lovely if the laptop accepted even small amounts of power to help it along? Better than nothing!
Greg (Washington DC)
Yep- USB-C is the standard. On many many of my older tech devices you have find the adapter, who find them anymore . I waited in the hospital waiting room for hours running out of power for my phone. I did have USB-C to plug connecter back in business for continued waiting.
Kaysea (Seattle)
I am a relatively old person returning to college this year. One of my Bio classmates' laptops died mid class yesterday. Prof asked if anybody had a charger, and I did! It all worked both devices were USB-C! Amazing. The bit I don't understand, and could perhaps be the question to answer in your next article about cords and charging... what is the best way to charge multiple devices? Even though we are moving to cording standards, which is GREAT, I still I have: - iPhone 13 (lightning, magsafe) - AirPods Pro 2 (lightning, Apple Watch Charger) - Apple Watch 7 (Apple Watch Charger) - iPad Pro 2019 (USB-C) - Samsung GalaxyBook Laptop (USB-C) I still have 3 cord types (though I count myself lucky that there are only three!). I have an "EGOWAY" 90W 4 port charger. One port is a 60W USB-C that I have a USB-C cord plugged into. This gets swapped between the laptop or iPad. Then in the 18W USBC, I have a lightning cord (iPhone). In the two USB-A plugs, I have a lightning cord (AirPods) and an Apple Watch cord. All of these cords are semi-neatly wrapped inside of a bamboo Charging Station box. Then, I have another EGOWAY charger wrapped in a wad of cords that I take with me when I travel. It works, but it seems fairly complicated. There must be a better way?? (Perhaps the "better way" is to own less devices :))
LH (Michigan)
I’m sure they’re great, but I find USB-Cs hard to grip. I never had a problem unplugging my old laptop with its USB-A. My new laptop is so lightweight and the C so hard to get a hold of, that I have to actually stop, hold the computer down, and then make sure I have a good grip before I unplug it. If I don’t, the computer moves with the plug!
Bill (Midwest)
Ms Streep is much too pretty for the analogy How about the roofer repairing shingles?... Pants worn low around the hips, that covers everything. If comparability laws are needed to decrease the clutter in our lives, then so be it. Why hasn't the same motivation extended to over the air TV broadcast? When color began to replace black and white signals, the FCC stepped in and required comparability between the two. So that citizen consumers could continue receiving and viewing the new color format on older black and white sets. Now, with new digital formats, planned for introduction in 5 years or less, even the newest TV's will be obsolete regarding the new(est) standards, forcing citizen consumers to buy more.
DavidJ (NJ)
Along with the myriad of cables came the marketing of cables. Thick cables, thin cables, gold cables, braided cables, on and on. Years ago I worked across the street from the still viable Radio Shack on west 57th street in NYC. I needed new connectors for my stereo system, they had oxidized with age and humidity. I went into Radio Shack, where they were on sale for ten dollars, gold plated. I thought I’d pick up several pair returning from my lunch hour walk. Up the street was Stereo Warehouse. I’d comparison shop. The salesman showed me connectors. $150.00. Then told me, if I couldn’t tell the difference between $10 connectors and $150 connectors, perhaps I didn’t deserve $150 connectors. Chutzpah! Stereo Warehouse went out of business the next week. I worked in broadcasting. We used a million connectors and cables. Non of them gold. Wirecutter, suggests standard cables.
Cal Prof (Berkeley, USA)
I had to scroll and dip into a number of NYTimes articles until I found what I was looking for — something positive, uplifting, some good news. This little paean to common sense and progress (real, measurable advances in data and power capacity plus inter connectivity) hits the spot. I’m going to refrain from the stock “if only engineers were in charge of society” complaint (because governance and politics are so different from engineering problems). But I will say what great things can be done when rational, creative and hard working people with shared values and shared assumptions (e.g., physics is real, 2+2 cannot equal 5) get together to pursue a clearly stated goal. Hats off to the USB designers and standards groups. A little ray of hope in a largely crazy world …
Rose (WA)
I am thrilled with the EU's decision! Hopefully it means the entire world will follow suit, and we will not prove our independence with sticking with the idiocracy of multi charging systems we have now. Oh wait, now I am thinking about inches and pounds. Sheesh.
M Brien (Canada)
Dont forget the biggest of them, all SCART cables. My wife actually had a panic attack once when she looked behind our TV, and she cant even look in my "cable cupboard". Also, why is Apple needing to be forced like this ? The purpose of the EU directive is not to make things more convenient for the user. The purpose is to stop us throwing out billions of deprecated cables into landfill each year. I thought Apple cared about the environment ? Everytime they bring out a new format the planet bleeds another huge amount of copper.
Scott Walters (Pittsburgh)
I can only assume this article is specifically intended for Apple users, because the rest of us have been using USB-C for years. I remain mystified as to why so many people voluntarily reside in Apple's prison of limited choice and absurdly high cost. But...to each their own, I suppose!
Steve (Virginia)
@Scott Walters I don't know, there are still a lot of devices using the micro-USB connector. I'll be much happier to never have to use that again than the lightning connector.
David Evans (Bulgaria)
Two things; UX, though the gap has narrowed a good deal, and reliability. I have two Windows laptops—an enterprise-level Lenovo, 3.5 years old, and a top-of-the-line consumer Samsung, 10 months old. The fingerprint ID on the Lenovo stopped working after 3 months, and the machine is getting creaky and cranky. The sound card disappeared from the Samsung almost immediately, and nothing anyone can do gets it to work again. Contrariwise, I have a 12-year-old MacBook Pro 15”, an 8-year-old MacBook Pro 14”, a 4-year-old MacBook (the little one), and a 15-year-old MacBook (the white plastic kind), and except for batteries they all still work perfectly, though they can’t run a lot of newer software. On a cost per-use basis, they’re massively better than the PCs. They’re also all still worth some money on EBay.
Alan White (Toronto)
@Scott Walters I was exclusively non-Apple for decades but over the last 6 years or so have migrated to all Apple. I am not sure what choices are not available to me now and love the fantastic degree of integration of all my current devices. I agree that the cost is very high.
Paul (Vermont)
I have been known to grouse about all the USB varieties in contrast to the use of universal in the acronym. I asked my son "what does the U stand for in USB". He replied, "U need another cable".
Brian (Gotham suburbs)
As someone who has an impressive collection of serial, parallel, MIDI, SCSI, USB, USB 2, USB 3, FW400, FW 800, Thunderbolt, Thunderbolt 2, Thunderbolt 3, Cat5, Cat5A, Cat6, VGA, SVGA, DVI, HDMI sharing space with at least 30 power supplies, most entirely proprietary... I've heard the siren song of One Universal Standard To Rule Them All a couple of times before. Not holding my breath this time either. Lucy and the football...and cables/adapters are a lucrative annuity business.
Gary E (Santa Monica CA)
Get rid of ALL the cables on all devices and replace them with pure wireless technology! Why not?
Edward Allen (Spokane Valley)
I am excited about the USB-C standard, and the USB 4 improvements. However, the universal nature of usb-c is also it's biggest weakness. A USB-C to USB-C may, or may not, be able to charge your device at the power you'd like. It may or may not be able to transfer data at the speed that you'd like. Usb4 is seeking to label things better, with cables indicating how much power they can carry and their maximum data rate. No matter what happens, however, we will find ourselves in a world where cables with the exact same connectors on both ends will work for some devices and in some circumstances, but not others. It's better than the alternative, hundreds of cables of various types, and for that I am grateful.
Catwhisperer (Upstate NY)
@Edward Allen I loathe USB-C. Sometimes a certain cable will charge my husband's smartphone. Sometimes that cable will not, but a cable that worked 3 days ago, but not yesterday will. From a tech standpoint, it's not nearly as bulletproof as the Apple Lightening. I hope Apple keeps lightning for it's ipads and iphones.
Edward Allen (Spokane Valley)
@Catwhisperer you're comparing apples to oranges. Poor quality cables are just as much of a problem for lightning cables as they are for USBC. The difference is is that uspc cables can be used to carry video signals, and other extremely high bandwidth uses. The lightning cable carries data much slower than the wireless connection on your phone, is only used by Apple, and has fragile circuitry on both the cord and the device that authenticate the cable as being officially licensed that tends to break on either the cable or the device all the time. It's time that Apple changes, and they have. They have dropped lightning on their iPads, because their iPads have increased data demands. You can't plug a monitor in to a lightning connector, you can plug a monitor into USBC. You can't plug and monitor into your phone and use it at full speed. I can.
Carole (Virginia)
@Catwhisperer IPads sadly have USB-C now. I own 4 iPads- an early one with the wide connector( does it have a name?), 2 with lightning and the year old one has USB-C. I am not a huge USB-C fan, the connector bends so easily and these are the cables the came with various Apple devices. I did not know that various USB-C cables have different capabilities- guess I'll stick with Apples , bendy or not.
Gary E (Santa Monica CA)
Hopefully someday we can get rid of ALL the cords dangling from devices and cluttering up our space by replacing them with pure wireless technology along the lines of Bluetooth. I'm not enough of an engineer to know whether this will never happen because today's wireless technology lacks the capacity to carry enough electrical power.
Joe (Laguna Beach, CA)
I agree with you Farhad. My favorite setup of all time: the monitor plugs into the wall, the laptop plugs into the monitor via USB-C, and the keyboard and mouse are wireless, and fast speed internet is cheaper than ever. So easy then to unplug and carry the laptop to other work environments or into the living room or outside.
Farhad Manjoo (SF)
Isn’t it magical? The first time I tried this set-up I felt free!!
magicisnotreal (earth)
When I read sci fi back in the late 70's and early 80's I never imagined I'd be one of the people who didn't want any of this garbage in their life. Those books also described people like Bezos and Musk behaving with impunity as they do IRL. Yet more and more we are forced to have it or have to accept being locked out of this or that thing we had previously had. I was recently told my grocery store membership card that has always gotten me the sale prices was being phased out in favor of digital coupons via smart phone. So even entering my home phone number will no longer get me the discounts. All of this technical progress is in fact socially regressive.
TDD (Florida)
@magicisnotreal And the trend to require one to log on to this or that using your Facebook or LinkdIn profile creates the beast that so many then complain of. I do not have any social media accounts and have decided that anything hat requires them is not worth pursuing.
magicisnotreal (earth)
@TDD It may not be "worth" it but it was taken from you because you have standards where those standards should have no effect. It's like PBS where you have to sign up to watch video so they can sell you even though we all pay our taxes that in part fund it. Those videos should be in the clear.
Steve (Arlington MA)
"USB-C’s kingdom is sure to be vast and its reign will be long." Tongue in cheek? One thing we've learned over the past several decades is that technological churn is the rule. There is no long reign, only temporary popularity until something better comes along, which it inevitably will. Then we'll all be "USB-who?"
Edward Allen (Spokane Valley)
@Steve the USB-A connector has been around for over two decades, and will be around for another decade or two. Kingdoms have risen and fallen in that amount of time.
There are still points of confusion, as not all usb-c cables (or ports) are created equally. Some support thunderbolt, some don't. Some are capable of fast charging, some are not. Some have higher data throughput than others. And they all look exactly the same.
Richard (Nashville)
I agree with the comments that this is a step forward on the plug standardization. I also agree that the cable composition should be standardized. I like USB-C so far (Macbook Pro and iPads) but I also like the design of the MagSafe magnetic charger for the Macbook. It's easy to use and there is zero stress on the cable. Cheers.
Farhad Manjoo (SF)
MagSafe is great, but the fantastic thing about the new MacBooks is they can be charged by MagSafe or USB C. There’s a proprietary cable — but the generic one works just as well in a pinch.
Carlotta (Orange Beach)
@Farhad Manjoo Donald Trump when he was President, reportedly promised Putin we would not move NATO weaponry next to his border provocatively as it is posited- Obama and Biden have done.
PlainsEdge (Denver, Colorado)
Could someone explain how Lightning is different from USB-C? The article didn't explain that.
Nick (Arlington)
@PlainsEdge lightning can't transport nearly as much data as USB-C can, so it can't do things like send video streams to monitors. I don't think it can transport as much power as USB-C either so it couldn't be used to charge a laptop.
Apnaqua (Brooklyn, NY)
@PlainsEdge Lightning is a proprietary patented Apple product. What is means is that whenever a 3rd party company wants to produce a Lightning cable, or a port, they have to pay license fees to Apple. USB is an open standard first invented by Intel, and developed further by an open collaboration of tech companies which are members of USB Implemeners Forum (Apple is a member too). Nobody has to pay license fees to copy, produce hardware or use the protocol (a method of communication), but they have to adhere to the published standard to be called USB, which enforces interoperability.
Edward Allen (Spokane Valley)
@PlainsEdge Apple collects licensing on Lightning. Also, it's slow and only for iphones.
Johann Pablo (Long Beach, CA)
I can't help but feel that in our rush to herald the Next Big Universal Thing™, we may very well displacing other technologies that were already on their way toward something like universality. Take the microUSB, for instance, which was the universal charger cable in my home until several companies decided I needed to have a USB-C which now results in long hunts for the right cable when I need to charge any of my devices. I personally don't care which we use, but I support the EU's universality mandate. Enough with the planned obsolescence masquerading as innovation.
Dave (Charleston, SC)
Great piece. We’ve had universal wall sockets since the 1880’s, so I’ve long wondered why our tech “geniuses” could not agree on a universal tech-device connector. Maybe we’re finally getting there … maybe we’re finally as smart as the tech visionaries of trhe 1880’s.
David (Kentucky)
@Dave The difference being that there has been essentially no change in the electrical power system since 1880. Computer science, on the other hand, has been evolving almost daily for the past 30 years or so. No one would want to be stuck with the connectors used in 1995, or 2010, they simply wouldn’t carry the load imposed by today’s miracle electronics.
Marty S (Area 51)
We don’t have universal wall sockets, because other countries’ sockets are very different from the ones in the USA. People that travel and see other parts of the “universe” need a wall socket adaptor.
M (Rochester)
@Dave My European travel plug adapter disagrees.
The best thing about this whole thing is the EU cracking down on the arrogance of Apple in its never ending quest to wring more money out of the consumer while dissembling about the benefits accruing to that same consumer all the while getting fleeced a little bit at a time. In this case Apple was able to upend the convenience of having laptops produced with multiple ports by displacing all but this usb-c port and reducing the number to one or two, thereby spawning a whole new revenue stream - docks, dongles, etc. - costing the consumer an arm and a leg to to make the ginned down laptops useful with peripherals. Meanwhile the price of the laptop did not reduce in kind. Here’s hoping that the EU continues the beat down of Apple and the others in favor of the consumer. So meanwhile Manjo, enjoy those usb-c ports while others are amused watching the Apple guys squirm.
Kohl (Ohio)
10, years from now we will still be using USB-C because no one is going to try and create a better option now.
Edward Allen (Spokane Valley)
@Kohl What a fascinating, and wrong, point. The standards body that oversees USB is continuously improving it, much to the frustration of people trying to figure out exactly which version of USB a particular product supports. Just this year they've doubled the speed of USBC without changing the physical cables just changing the spec, or rather adding an optional mode to the spec.
Kohl (Ohio)
@Edward Allen That group could also be called a "cartel", just like the Nation Association of Realtors. That group can easily block new cable technology being adopted by companies.
Edward Allen (Spokane Valley)
@Kohl If you had your way every car would be a different width and required different roads.
Jen (Earth)
What if one invents a better format than USB-C? How can they sell the better format in the beginning since it is not allowed by the law? How can we innovate then?
Edward Allen (Spokane Valley)
@Jen Nothing is stopping innovation at all. I'm not sure why you would think that standardizing the size of a plug would hanper innovation anymore than standardizing the size of a railroad track. The only people in the industry pushing back on the USB c standard is apple, and that is because they collect licensing fees for every device that uses a lightning connector, at every lightning cord. Lightning is slower, less reliable, and less compatible. If the industry didn't like standards, then the industry wouldn't work together to create them.
Kohl (Ohio)
@Edward Allen Those companies are more than happy to insist USB-C be used because they won't have to modify designs and can continue to produce goods at economies of scale. If a different entity comes up with a better technology, the USB-C folks will never admit there is a better technology out there.
Paul Bertorelli (Sarasota)
A pox on Apple for their lousy, no-apparent-advantage Lightning connector. Not only is it lousy, it wears out and stops working. (Two iPhones have suffered this.) On a recent motorcycle tour, I had to carry two Lightnings for the iPhone, a USB-C for one helmet communicator and a USB-micro for the other, plus a C for one of the GoPros and a micro for the other. Better than it was, but not there yet.
TL (Bethlehem, PA)
I hope USB-C does become a single standard. I have a drawer full of cables because the standard has kept changing ... or being rejected by Apple, because Apple has to have its Lightning or whatever multi-pin connector worked for its products. Imagine if I needed a different plug and socket for appliances. (And yes, I know the North American standard isn't the same as the Euro or Japanese ones, but one thing at a time. At least it's stayed the same for decades.)
Chuck (Indiana)
@TL Now imagine a drawer with 12 of the same cable that can plug in to anything, but only one works to connect your PC to the monitor (DP compatible) and only one works to charge your laptop faster than 30W, and only one works to send audio from your phone to your speakers, and only one works to transfer files to your portable drive any faster than a trickle... This is the world we're choosing. All USB-C cables have different compatibility, even though they fit the same ports. There are currently 9 Standards for USB-C cables, and more on the way (and many cheap Amazon ones are probably not even built to a standard)
Edward Allen (Spokane Valley)
@TL and don't forget the Apple devices that stop reading the Apple chip which allows the lightning port to indicate that it's been officially licensed by Apple.
B. Lawrence (USA)
Great title. I don’t like Meryl Streep.
Thierry La Jambe (Paris)
@B. Lawrence I like Meryl Streep just fine, but I don’t like her acting. There are so many better choices…but man, are we off topic! Cheers!
Daedalus (Rochester NY)
Everything old is new again, everything under the sun. Original USB had one great attraction: Only 4 wires! After years of non-standard standards like RS-232 (anywhere between 2 wires and 15, depending on the application) it seemed like a breath of fresh air. What's that? You want to use it for video? Jeez Louise. So how many wires are in a USB-C v3.2 cable? There are 17. They're going to be quite fine, and yet current will be pumped through them at surprisingly high rates. Chances are that this will turn out to be a technology living on the hairy edge. Expect lots of complaints of sub-standard cables from the dollar stores and dodgy internet outlets. Help desks will be dealing with people stringing cable and hubs together between floors of a building. And let's remember all those others: SCSI, SCART, and DVI in all it's "support all the previous standards plus the new" variants.
TomG (DC)
@Daedalus Sub-standard cables have always been a problem, nothing new under the sun indeed.
Chuck (Indiana)
@Daedalus Don't worry, USB4 is on the way, and it will use USB-C too, so that there's no confusion! Just remember to throw away all your USB2, USB2.1, USB3.0, USB3.1, USB3.2, USB-PD, and Thunderbolt4 cables so you don't get confused.
Kenneth Brady (Staten Island)
I've just gone through the familiar process, repeated every ~5 years, of purchasing adapters so that my older tech can still communicate with my newer tech. USB-C is indeed an improvement - it's symmetric design alone is the feature worth 1000 dongles. But have no doubt. In ~5 years, we will have USB-D. Tech engineers just can't help themselves, and the tech entrepreneurs require built-in obsolescence.
AZDave (Tempe, AZ)
Sort of universal - there are different kinds of USB-C cables based on power and data transfer speed requirements. It can be hard to tell them apart as there are virtually no visually distinguishing features. The ones for power delivery use a heavier gauge of wire.
d ascher (Boston, ma)
no mention of USB-C adapters so we don't have to toss out all our old cables?
Observer (New York)
so it turns out that pure competition results in chaos, that then requires regulation
Joe Fineman (Bellevue)
Chaos ultimately would give way to one company controlling everything, and it would be a battle between one market force demanding simplicity and one demanding complexity. Would the cost of complexity be it's downfall? In my experience, it never is...
Nick (California)
Interestingly, pretty much everyone except Apple already does use USB-C.
mcsandberg (Denver, CO)
There is a problem with USB-C. For the first time, two devices with this plug might not work together. One device could have Thunderbolt 3 or 4 and the other USB 2.
Ron T. (Colorado)
One thing Farhad did not mention about some of the earlier USB cables/connectors, mini- and micro-USBs in particular, is that they had small internal parts that bent and jammed, sometimes turning the act of 'simply plugging it in' into an art form of 'micro' contortions. Since the advent of USB-C, I've never had that problem. A far superior design. I'm glad he did not go into the details and capabilities of the various USB standards (1.0, 1.1, 2.0, 2.0 revised, 3.0, 3.1) beyond the physical nature of the cables and connectors - I could envision minds exploding nationwide if he had done so ...
Ithaca Reader (Ithaca)
It’s unfortunate that the USB-X cable never caught on. Aside from electricity, USB-X cables were designed to also transmit light and carry air and water, all simultaneously. They could have replaced plumbing as well as ventilation and heating conduits in homes and offices, and powered cellphones too. What a tragedy!
Ned Merrill (In The Biswanger’s Pool)
A new version of Bluetooth is coming soon that will take care of all those things. Of course you will need to download an app for that.
Ithaca Reader (Ithaca)
@Ned Merrill The biggest problem with the USB-X cable was that it is 3 inches in diameter and required a plumber’s wrench in order to attach it to your cellphone or home water heater, so a bluetooth replacement sounds like a great idea!
Stoof (Wisconsin)
@Ithaca Reader You can achieve all this with a very simple hack. Since water carries electricity quite well, run both your USB cables and an extension cord with the end wires cut and stripped through your house or office water pipes. It's a little trouble, but you'll be shocked at the results.
Mike_Drop (Louisville)
Why would the government mandate a specific cable for electronics? When the need for a change arises, who changes the law to allow a new design? It’s like making a law for one type of brakes for all cars. Or one design for all jeans. Imagine everyone walking around in Uniqlo Ultra Stretch Skinny Fit Color jeans. No thanks. Nonsense.
ben (IL)
@Mike_Drop there does not look like there is much need for a change yet, although i really do get your point, if i remember right, there was some faa rule about aircraft lights needing to be in watts, rather then lumens and it made it hard to switch to led's, but i never checked that "factoid" it would be better if they made the law have a narrow scope and say they needed switch over from lighting or other speicalised cable to usb c, but not mandate usb c(tangent thought, could a phone only use wifi and induction charging, meaning no wite) or have an exception if the company could submit a reason for wanting to use a different wire then usb-c, other then cost or maintaining their hold
Daedalus (Rochester NY)
@Mike_Drop Because it's the EU. It's what they do. Sometimes it's even for the best. Sometimes.
Jomo (San Diego)
@Mike_Drop: Who changes the rule? The regulators do, when prompted to do so by industry groups. Like when we changed to digital TV a few years ago. The same system that mandated our two-prong wall socket shape, then later added a ground plug. It's just simpler for everyone to have a central coordinating entity, which doesn't preclude coming up with an improved version and selling it to the regulators.
Phil Zaleon (Greensboro, NC)
The title of this article wins my vote for humor and appropriateness! Anything that brings a smile to my pre-coffee self in a world of dismal news is deemed welcome. As to the cable connection itself, I have long recognized that progress (and economics) produce never ending change… like it or not. :)
Mark (Alaska)
We Finally Have One Cable to Rule Them All? After more than 40 years in the tech industry supporting multi-vendor solutions, I can absolutely positively tell you and anyone else there is not now nor will there be One Cable to Rule Them All. As evidence, my 30x12 Pelican case (toolbox?) stuffed to the brim with equipment-specific wires and connectors and adaptors that invariably landed me directly in the Suspicious Dude line at the TSA as I made my way to my next client in far-flung Alaska should serve, but for additional confirmation, schedule a tour of your local data center. Take along a kid to explain what is what.
TomG (DC)
@Mark How true! But we are talking personal tech, with low power and data transfer speed requirements. USB-C has a good chance here to rule them all. In the data center? No way.
Jill (NJ)
I really liked the magnetized connections on my old Apple products. Can we do that for all?
G (Maine)
USB-C cables are one of the least secure connection points that I have ever used. Video flickers and charging blips are acceptable but data transfer devices will be redesigned. The USB-C slot will also be much harder to weatherize than the lightning or micro-USB ones that are in use today. One muddy rain puddle will take out front and rear bike lights and your GPS. I can’t wait!
Paul Stanyer (Milton Keynes)
When I had a big rewire July year, I got my sparky to install two pairs of USB-C outlets alongside the usual ones.
Bill Brasky (USA)
Look at the evolution of Apple power cables over the years (remember the large, bulky connectors?). And now tell me that government mandated standardization won’t inhibit innovation.
TomG (DC)
@Bill Brasky Standardization makes life easier and standards change as technology evolves. Yes, there will be fewer innovative ways to make money on cable incompatibility, so what. The trick is to standardize in way that leaves enough room for innovation and the EU rule strikes a good balance. It would have been nice if the industry agreed on a standard on their own but they did not and the situation has become seriously annoying.
Bill Brasky (USA)
@TomG of course your point is valid. however, standardization misapplied would mean standardizing on beta max &/or mp3 and countless other technologies that were quickly overtaken by better ideas.
Concerned (CT)
Don't hold your breath for Apple to go USB-C for iPhones. There's so much more money to be made by selling their proprietary lightning cables, which are more expensive and more fragile, by far, than their USB-C counterparts. (My daughter has gone through three of them on her last iPhone alone.) Only the EU's government intervention, undertaken for the good of the environment and of consumers, made that happen. The US's misguided worship of the so-called "free" market will prevent that from happening here, and Apple will most certainly not make that move voluntarily.
Greg (Indiana)
The connector isn't the problem, the cable is. Lightning is a much simpler head design.
Michele (Sequim, WA)
@Concerned Apple already announced they are going USB-C in all phones.
d ascher (Boston, ma)
@Concerned You can safely bet that Apple will have a "Apple Certified" USB-C cable that they will "offer" to their customers with the implied threat that using a any other USB-C cable won't offer the same "magic" that Apple offers its amazingly compliant customer base at twice the price of "regular" USB-C cables. This model has worked so well for Apple, making them money by selling mostly to people who find any technology completely bewildering (most have not been able to deal with the three remotes problem) and are will to pay Apple's premiums just to be told what to do. Apple will then get to meet the EU standard while selling their customers a cable of a different color (with the lovely apple logo on it someplace) for twice the price. A Win-Win-Win for * the EU - reducing electronic waste * Apple's customers (who get to think they have a better cable and can continue using their equipment the same way they did on the original Mac in 1984 - using about 5% of all the "amazingness" available to them * the USB standards organization which will have - after starting developing the standard in the early 1990s - pretty much achieved their goal of a "Universal" Serial Cable - and especially, one that even Apple will use instead of developing their proprietary, "superior", technology technology. Apple, remember, even insisted (for some of its products) on a proprietary power cord - attempting to ., pn their own, of course, improve on the power cord standards.
ben (IL)
wait, does this eu law mean someone will finally make computer mice with direct usb-c, meaning no more adapter wire? these adapters have made me less supportive of usb-c because i need another part, and computer makers seemed more onboard with them then the makers of mice, keyboards, and external antennas
Dan Murphy (MA)
"...but it’s striking how many varieties of USB there have been in the years since — each new one undermining the goal of standardization." Ah, yes. As is often said, the thing about standards is that there are so many of them. Bicycles have been going thru the same pains with various standards for components like bottom brackets, disc brakes, headsets, etc.
Steve Ell (Burlington, Vermont)
This alphabet soup of cables does one thing very well - it makes me spend money on new and replacement cables all the time. In my family there are four iPhones, four iPads, a handful of cable set top boxes, roku, Apple TV, or fire devices, computers, peripherals, backup drives, and smart sockets. If someone guesses the correct number of cables I have, I will send a prize
d ascher (Boston, ma)
@Steve Ell A lot of Apple-standard devices. Amazing that all those Apple devices can even existing in the same house , let along talk to the same devices.
Adriaan (Holland)
@Steve Ell 68 cables.
M (GA)
312! Do I win? :-)
MacK (Washington DC)
USB C is a vast improvement - Apple lightning connectors are fragile and burn out or break after a few months, and the are expensive to replace, with a large royalty going to Apple. Moreover, Apple’s own cables are really poor quality and far too short. USB C also comes in many formats and lengths 3-10 feet, ½ to 3 meters. Particularly useful are right angle, 90° USB cables, which don’t protrude from wall or device. I have also installed USB-C 110v receptacles - which, although they won’t charge a laptop quickly, will keep it at 100% or charge it overnight, while eliminating the “wall wart.” (Make sure to check the dimensions of the receptacle box and reviews on reliability though.) Travelling with just 1-2 USB chargers and all USB-C cables, compact chargers for say up to 4 cables that can charge everything, laptop, table, phone is a huge gain.
A Reader (Huntsville)
I have never had to replace a lightning connector so they must not be too fragile.
justgimmesometruth (New York)
@A Reader: Nope. I just had to replace the lightning cable on my iPhone SE for exactly this reason. The replacement arrived yesterday via Amazon. This is not my first replacement. What I find is that after a time, charging becomes intermittent until it doesn't work at all. At first, I thought that the problem was with the cable, but it actually appears to be with the thin lightening connector itself. The thicker USB-C connector wouldn't have this problem, or at least I haven't had this problem so far with my USB-C devices.
David (Kentucky)
@justgimmesometruth First check for pocket lint in the phone’s connector port and use the SIM card extractor tool or a paper clip to dig it out. That has solved all of my charging issues over the years.
DS (Georgia)
USB-C is just the shape of the plug. It doesn't specify the type of signaling or power delivery the cable supports. There will still be different cables; they'll just be harder to tell apart. Also, different devices use different power bricks. There will be less incentive for industry to innovate better cable technology because now they have an additional regulatory hurdle to cross. This regulation sounds like a good idea at first, but when you dig into the details, it isn't so great.
Pierre (England)
@DS "Innovate" how exactly? Super fast charging for the deliberately decaying but difficult to change batteries? Super fast file transfer for high definition selfie we forgot existed? Or new connector designs that do not require you to plug your phone (but consume far more energy)? The amount of resources spent to barely (if at all) improve our life might be better invested elsewhere, starting by global warming.
TomG (DC)
@DS An USB-C cable is just a bunch of insulated wires in a sleeve. We can already transmit gigabits of data per second and plenty of power for a laptop or any other personal device. For other use cases there are other options. So, how much innovation do we really need on this front and how does the physical specification of the connector limit that anyway?
skeptonomist (Tennessee)
@DS The connector has 24 pins. I suppose there could be a universal cable with 24 wires, but are there any such?
Pat Marriott (Wilmington, NC)
Good try - but I still don't understand whether one needs newer and better USB-C to USB-C cables to connect devices capable of greater and greater transfer speeds. I've been led to believe that one must buy special USB-C cables for each new generation of outboard storage for example (e.g. the sensational new Samsung T7 vs the only-slightly-less-sensational Samsung T5. They both came packed with their own "special" cables.). I suspect they're all the same, but of course the cable merchants don't want to encourage that belief. What a racket.
Chuck (Indiana)
@Pat Marriott The cables aren't the same. The connectors are. It will be incredibly frustrating and confusing.
justgimmesometruth (New York)
A universal power connector? Well, not quite, Mr. Manjoo. While iPhones may soon go to USB-C, Apple re-introduced the Magsafe connecter on high-end MacBook Pro's, going in the opposite direction. Should we grieve? No. Of course not. Magsafe is a fantastic feature, saving expensive machines from being destroyed by falls. USB-C will be the 'forever' converged standard only if all innovation stops. Innovations always start with proprietary solutions and then progress to standards. One can't always innovate within the confines of an existing standard. Having said that, I'll celebrate the USB-C connector on my iPhone when that happens.
Farhad Manjoo (SF)
The new MagSafe MacBooks can also be charged with USB C. It’s the best of both worlds.
TomG (DC)
@justgimmesometruth According to our IT department they very rarely see notebooks destroyed in a fall because of the more vulnerable USB-C power delivery. They manage a fleet of several thousand notebooks of a highly mobile workforce. I like the ingenious MagSafe connector but its advantages, and the perils of USB-C, are exaggerated.
bjmoose1 (FrostbiteFalls)
@justgimmesometruth Standards do not stifle Innovation. Think catalytic converters, safety features of all kinds of products or of techniques that have to meet certain standards. In the case of plug standardization, engineers will have to develop novel solutions for connecting devices. That's innovation. Designing new plugs for each and every device is the easy way out. And a profitable way to produce waste.
Peter (CT)
So how long before the new usb-d cable comes out, relegating all our usb-c cables to the landfill? Cables are one of those things where the markup is about 1,000%, and everybody buys a bunch of them. Which is more likely: in five years Meryl Streep will still be working, or USB-C will? I’m rooting for them both, but I’m putting my money on Meryl Streep. ( Farhad, I loved the comparison.)
Rob Brown (Keene NH)
But what about Apple profits? I mean if they can't invent and sell a new must have cable every 10 minutes the share holders will go broke.
Loup (Earth)
How about this? I never needed a USB-C cable - until I bought an Apple iPad recently. Can't charge it with the Lightning cable that so far has charged 4 phones in 10 years and is still working. And no, I'm no Apple fan - I just don't own any other device with USB-C because they all came with Mini or Micro.
Mikey (NY)
@Rob Brown They are just going to have to get by selling $20 microfiber towels and all those other overpriced doodads. Fortunately there are a lot of hipsters out there with too much money...
Andrew Cocke (New York)
Thank you for announcing the good news. I was on a rental car recently that had a USB-C port only to charge devices, and a separate USB-A port to interface with the stereo. When will car companies get the message that cars are nothing more than portable speakers with wheels. I don’t care about anything else if I can’t plug in my phone! I’m all for continuing to support USB-A for some time to come, but it can’t be either/or. Companies must support both. But one criticism: the illustration highlights a micro USB cable, not USB-C. Your illustrator may have thought, well what’s the difference, readers get the idea. This is exactly the problem. Users confuse the cables all the time. We’ve asked the industry for years to end this confusion between cables. This is the point of this article. The illustrator, the editors, should both know that what is shown in the illustration matters. The zippered seam on the ferrule is a design hallmark of micro-usb. The connector for USB-C is always seamless.
UTBG (Denver)
I just built an off grid tiny home with satellite internet, in an undisclosed location, and it has USB charging ports on nearly every receptacle. I can turn on the heat with my cell phone from 1,000 miles away, and when I arrive it's very comfortable. All the battery lights are USB connectible, and the satellite comms are always on with 12 volt DC plugs, bypassing an inverter from the solar panels. The utility grid has managed to standardize every appliance made to a few standard voltages world-wide. There is no reason that cannot occur around a single standard world-wide for USB and the 5V maximum charging voltage.
d ascher (Boston, ma)
@UTBG I was with you until the last paragraph. THere is a plethora of national plug shape standards around the world. I think the EU has managed to introduce new standards that help reduce the chaos for new construction/new devices, but they have hundreds of millions of receptacles in older construction in each country that will be around for decades and require the older plugs. In some places in Europe they even use 50MHz rather our 60MHz. In the US and Canada (where 50MHz can also be found) we use "110vac" or what most of us call "120v". In Europe and most of the rest of the world it is 220v. We think they're crazy for using that dangerous high voltage and they think we're the crazy ones for similar reasons (that I have to confess, I haven't understood). Bluetooth - wireless connections would seem to be the real future for data exchange between devices. No cable involved. No waste. Much further range than a cable. Mixing data and different power requirement on single cable seems to be a fools' errand. USB-C should just stick to data exchange and MAYBE offer power in a few instances.
Chuck (Indiana)
@UTBG Except that's completely false. USB-C supports far more than 5V and has for decades. "Fast Charging" for phones is often 9V 18W . My laptop uses USB-C at 65W 20V, but the charger can also supply 9V, 12V, and 15V. And the cables (the wires themselves) for older devices cannot support these higher powers. Universal USB-C is going to be a NIGHTMARE.
Joe Fineman (Bellevue)
Yes, but until i can control the breaker panel remotely, I'm not leaving power running to heaters or cooking equipment when I'm a thousand miles away for an extended period. Ditto the water supply. When I get to my off-grid backup location, I just have to resign myself that it will be cold for the first 30 minutes im there. I'm rugged. I can handle it.
Adrienne K (Virginia)
You're never getting me to give up my box of ethernet cables. I might not need them now, but some day....
John Neumann (Allentown)
@Adrienne K If you want good video and audio quality on Zoom calls, ethernet is a must, at least with the current state of Wi-fi.
Henry (New York)
@Adrienne K You know, if you have any coax stuff in there it's probably worth something these days at a vintage shops. I hear the hipsters can't get enough BNC terminators.
David Williams (San Diego county)
@John Neumann " If you want good video and audio quality on Zoom calls, ethernet is a must, at least with the current state of Wi-fi." False.
Larry (Sunny Florida)
As others have intimated here, what do we do with the buckets of old cables. Landfill? Send to a less -advanced third world country? Seems wasteful.
bob (ardsley, ny)
The USB-Cs are more fragile, especially in large devices like laptops. They are too easy to bend or break when putting the device down, especially if the surface is uneven or I set it down at a slight angle. I've had to buy whole new chargers for one bent USB-C.
Thomas Moore (Washington DC)
@bob Buy chargers with removable cables. Problem fixed.
bob (ardsley, ny)
@Thomas Moore Thanks. Lenovo's chargers do have an detachable section, but it's not cheap to get replacements just for that section. Still better than replacing the whole charger cable system when the pin breaks. I'll look for usbc to usbc connectors. If they have them cheap, I can use them to replace bent connectors, not the whole charger.
MacK (Washington DC)
@bob Where did you find USB-C connectors fixed to the charger? That’s unusual? Also, you have heard of right angle connectors?
Willy P (in and around Puget Sound WA)
"This may strike you as a small blessing, but these aren’t times to scoff at small blessings." when Corporations Rule the World there will be NO small blessings nor Large ones for that matter for all but the Blessed Few who have ascertained How to Monetize the Citizenry for Maximum Profiteering. relax: it's merely unbridled Capitalism Weaponized un-elected Bureaucratic Rule of the Many by the very very Few. Good Luck Planet Earth.
justgimmesometruth (New York)
@Willy P: Sorry Willy, how did we get from an improvement in connectivity convergence to "unbridled Capitalism Weaponized un-elected Bureaucratic Rule of the Many by the very very Few." I must have missed a step there.
annied3 (baltimore)
@Willy P Vulture crapitalism is thriving which is why, more and more, the whole planet stinks!
Bruce B (New Mexico)
I wish there was a way to use and enjoy what technology offers and provides without cords, cables, wires, and destroying the earth.
Hal Jay Greene (Denver, CO)
Here's the thing that baffles me: hubs and cables, period. As nice as it is to see tech companies agree on a "wire" standard (whether they want to or not) it's still a "stone age" solution to the connectivity problem. The tech exists (and has for a while!) for you to buy ANYTHING (TV, printer, toaster oven), bring it home, turn it on, and have it automatically connect to your network. No setup, no downloading drivers, no configuration, no logging into or creating accounts, boom: turn it on, maybe give it a name (mom's air fryer) and awaaay we go! Why has this not happened yet?
justgimmesometruth (New York)
@Hal Jay Greene: What you describe hasn't happened yet for a good reason. In your example of the air fryer, you do suggest that some amount of configuration is needed, that is, the name of the device, "mom's air fryer". If no more configuration was required, then anyone in the world might be able to access this device from a laptop. Is that what you want? I suspect that you might want to limit access to you, or maybe to members of your family, or maybe include Aunt Mary. Somehow, in today's world, you would want to identify who has access. The point is that auto-configuration does have some limits as there are still human decisions to be made and communicated to the device. And why is everything not wireless? Why do we still have cables? Because the fastest wired connections are still faster than the fastest wireless connections. Some applications require speed.
@Hal Jay Greene And just why would I want any of the stuff connected to a network? To make life more fun for the malevolent? So called "Smart homes" and the "Smart grid" are invitations to utter disaster.
MacK (Washington DC)
@Hal Jay Greene You know the expression “that’s why we can’t have nice things…” Unfortunately, automatic network connection runs into security issues - hacking. Automatic connection has, sadly, gone the way of answering your landline telephone - scammers, grifters and thieves make it too big a risk.
FunkyIrishman (member of the Liberal majority)
I just commented on a column about climate change and the one striking by product of this optimization of one plug is the potential reduction of waste. For many years now (since the Walkman era) I have based my electronic or computer related purchases based mainly on compatibility down the road. I have seen the wars play out since we have had a choice between VHS and BETA. The manufacturers have made a HUGE amount of money with proprietary closed loops. That has in turn created a HUGE amount of waste, as we see the oceans creating islands out of that waste/plastic. We need more of streamlining our compatibility not only in electronics, but cars, manufacturing and a whole host of other sectors. We need to conserve across the board. We can start with a plug and go from here.
Tina (Germany)
Yes, now I have to throw out all my cables that would have worked for years to come... and buy new ones. How does this reduce waste? Especially since not all USB-C cables will work the same and there will still be new developments that mean people will buy new cables.
FunkyIrishman (member of the Liberal majority)
@Tina Perhaps the math escapes, but (going forward) everyone (not just you) will only have to buy 1 cable instead of multiple ones. Doesn't that exponentially save on the overall numbers? Sure it's a slight setback that you or I or anyone else might have to buy one new cable, but that is only for new products going forward. You can still use all of your cables for your OLD products for years to come. (until they break down) We have to start somewhere. Hope I clarified.
Tina (Germany)
The problem is not math. You don't truly believe that you have to buy ONE new cable and be set forever? There are already different types of USB-C today. There will be many more in the future. And then somebody will invent something totally new and we are back at the beginning. It would be great if it were that easy, but it isn't.
See also