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Business News/ Mint-lounge / Features/  USB Type-C: What it means for Android phones
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USB Type-C: What it means for Android phones

The new USB standard will bring big improvements. But, we must wait for the next Android version to fully utilize all the Type-C capabilities

USB Type-C is faster than the commonly used USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 standards.Premium
USB Type-C is faster than the commonly used USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 standards.

Apple first introduced this new USB standard in the MacBook laptop launched in April this year. Called USB Type-C, it is faster than the commonly used USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 standards that personal computers, laptops and smartphones all use this at the moment. The two advantages that it offers are faster data transfer speeds and also quicker charging capabilities.

This new standard will soon make its way to smartphones as well. And that is a good thing. The OnePlus 2 smartphone, which will be available next month, will be the first Android phone to feature this new USB connection.

USB (Universal Serial Bus) is a cross platform technology that allows users to connect two devices, such as a smartphone with a PC, to either transfer data to or fro, or to charge the connected device. Developed in the early 1990s, USB is not the trademark of any one company.

USB Type-C vs your old USB port

The primary difference between the old and the new standard is the design of the port, and subsequently the cable itself. There is no “this side up" requirement with Type-C, because both its ends have a reversible connector of same size and you can plug it in any which way.

In USB 2.0 and 3.0, there were two Types of connectors–Type A and Type B. The former is bigger and has a rectangular shaped connector which is plugged into laptops, desktops, game consoles. The other end of the same cable that plugs into smaller devices such as portable hard drives, cameras and smartphones is called Type B connectors. These are commonly known as micro or mini USB, because they are much smaller in size.

USB Type-C: A genuine improvement

The main advantage of USB type C is that it is compatible with USB 3.1 specifications—it uses more efficient data encoding which enables it to transfer content either way at speeds of up to 10Gbps. This is two times more than what USB 3.0 can manage. USB Type-C is also backward compatible, which means that it will work with all existing USB 2.0 and 3.0 devices, albeit with slower speeds.

USB Type-C also allows faster electricity transfer, which means that devices such as phones will charge faster. Most USB 3.0 chargers still provide 2.1Amp power. But with an output of 5Amp, USB Type-C can charge smartphones two or three times quicker than at present.

It also allows two-way power transfer. Simply put, USB Type-C compatible phones can potentially also be used to charge another phone or a tablet. At present, this is not possible.

Current scenario

USB Type-C is available on the Apple Macbook and will soon be available with the One Plus 2 Android smartphone. At the moment, OnePlus 2 users won’t be able to access all its features, such as reverse-charging right away, because of restrictions in the current Android Lollipop operating system. However, the full potential will be unleashed with the next Android variant, codenamed M, which will add built-in support for all Type-C features.

At the I/O conference in June, Google had confirmed that it is working with device manufactures to bring USB C on more Android M devices. Google also showed how the new operating system will present an on-screen list of options for users, such as whether you want to charge your device or charge your laptop with your phone or vice versa.

As of now, no manufacturer apart from OnePlus has announced a phone based on USB C. But given the benefits of the new technology, we expect it to roll out in high-end smartphones by the end of this year.

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Abhijit Ahaskar
Abhijit writes on tech policy, gaming, security, AI, robotics, electronics and startups. He has been in the media industry for over 12 years.
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Published: 30 Jul 2015, 05:08 PM IST
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