What is USB-C?

Over the past two years, a new style of USB plug has started appearing, first on upmarket phones and laptops, but now on pretty much all new models. It’s about the same size as your old phone’s charging port (microUSB) but it’s called USB Type-C. It will replace both microUSB on the phone and the traditional USB ports on your PC (called USB-A) and has many advantages.

1. Fully reversible

It goes in first time no matter how you put it in, because it has 24 identical pins on top and bottom of the plug. This will delight PC users especially, who have been frustrated by USB-A plugs for two decades.

2. Fast data connection

If you’re copying loads of big files to a USB-C flash drive or over a cable to another device, the USB-C throughput is at least ten times faster, at a minimum of 5 GB per second.

While USB plug shapes are identified using letters, the latest one being C, the actual underlying technical standard is numbered. The latest specification is USB 3.2, but it isn’t in many devices yet. Sadly, not all manufacturers have implemented all the features of USB-C equally well, so your experience may vary. For example, some laptops don’t deliver full power through all their USB-C ports.

3. Video out

Because high-resolution video is a very data-intensive stream, it didn’t work well over older USB, but the USB-C connection can deliver Ultra-high-definition (4K) video using a compatible adapter.

4. Power/charging

The new USB-C plug can deliver 20 volts at a rate of up to as much as a 100 watts. This means you can charge phones and watches faster, and power much bigger devices, including large monitors, from the USB-C port. Classic USB-A was limited to a measly 5 V.

5. Audio out

Some phones have now removed the traditional 3.5 mm headphone jack, because you can use an adapter to plug your headphones into the USB-C port. In the future, digital headphones may ship with a USB-C plug.


Apple introduced a version of USB-C called Thunderbolt on some of its PCs. It works exactly like USB-C and uses the same plug, but it can also transfer data at much higher speeds. Apple iPhones, iPads and iPods use a plug system called a Lightning connector.

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