It's 2022, so why is USB-C still so damn complicated?

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

MacBook Air, USB, Follow @plugged

If you have two similar-looking USB-C to C cables, chances are that you might not be able to tell anything about their capabilities by just looking at them. The USB-C standard can handle a lot of things: charging, data transfer, and audio and video streaming. But not all USB-C cables are made alike.

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

When I bought my M1-powered MacBook Air, I was excited about carrying only one charger to juice up all my gadgets. I put the stock USB-C Apple charger in my bag, and expected it to charge my laptop, phones, power bank, and earbuds.

My colleague Napier has beautifully captured how the USB-C standard has changed the gadget life. But the simplicity ends with having a USB-C port.

Global Tech News Daily

Choosing the right cable and knowing what kind of port you really have is another ball game.

As such, given the complexity of USB standards, you might have to buy a lot of different cables to do everything you want to with your devices. Plus, you have to know if the USB-C port on your device supports all that. Because there’s no mandate for a USB cable/port to do all the things mentioned above.

Global Tech News Daily

USB-IF (USB-Implementers Forum) is an organization that looks at standardizing USB for hardware manufacturers worldwide. We talked to them about how they maintain labels, and why companies don’t really care about putting them on their products.

The complexity of USB-C

USB-C is confusing, because for each capability — power, data, and video — there’s a specification you need to know. You can’t just pick up any USB cable and expect it to do all these things.

So how the heck would you identify a cable or a device’s USB capabilities correctly? There are two parts to that story. First, you can look at your cable’s packaging or the cable itself to see if there are any USB-IF approved logos, that’s the way the overseeing body wants things to be.

However, not everyone in the industry follows this convention, and just wants to include different specs for data, power, and display in the device’s spec sheet.

Before we talk about the clash between these two ideologies, I want to talk about the mindfuckery the is the array of data and charging standards within the USB-C standard itself, and why you’d probably need a degree just to identify cables correctly.


Data is probably the most complex standard given how it’s named (or numbered). USB-IF has recommended logos and labels for three versions: USB 2.0, USB 3.2 (which also includes the old USB 3.1 standard), and the new USB 4.0 standard.

But since most companies don’t care about following them, you’ll still see discrepancies, like USB 3.1 listed in new products’ specifications — when ideally it should be USB 3.2. Then there are other complexities.

For instance, the theoretical data communication speed of USB 2.0 is 480Mbits/sec (60 Mbytes/sec). However, with USB 2.0, data can only flow in one direction, so you’ll actually get maximum transfer speeds of 30Mbytes/sec.

When someone mentions USB 3.2 (or 3.1) on the datasheet without additional information, it could mean transfer speeds ranging anywhere from 5Gbits/sec to 20Gbits/sec. Take a look at the table below for more info. Don’t worry if you can’t remember it. No one can.

MacBook Air, USB, Follow @plugged
Yeah, good luck remembering this shit

Jeffrey Ravencraft, the President and COO of USB-IF, said even he doesn’t remember all these figures by heart.

The organization is trying to solve all this complexity with the new USB4 standard, which has only two marked data speeds: 20Gbits/sec and 40Gbits/sec.

But there aren’t many USB4 supported cables or devices around yet. Plus, it’s the only protocol to be exclusively compatible with a USB-C connector.

The big idea is that by bundling the goodness of one connector and all legacy standards, USB 4 is going to get you blazing-fast data speeds, great charging capabilities, and audio and video streaming to boot.

But the implementation and execution are not that simple. We’ll talk about that in a bit.


USB-IF publishes specifications for the USB-PD (Power Delivery) charging standard, used by the likes of Apple, Google, and Samsung for their devices. This specification outlines the power limits and design elements for charging, guiding companies to design devices in a way they’d safely implement fast charging capabilities.

The logo is pretty simple (as you can see in the screenshot below), it’s just the artwork with a maximum power transfer number in watts. But you might not have come across it before on compatible devices, chargers, and cables that promise quick charging.

MacBook Air, USB, Follow @plugged
This is a very simple logo, but you’ll hardly find it on product packaging.

You have to remember that not every device manufacturer follows this standard, because they might want to implement their own thing. There are a lot of other quick charging standards: Qualcomm Quick Charging, Oppo SuperVooc charging, OnePlus Warp charging, and Vivo Flash charging in the world of smartphones, for example.

Some of them use proprietary cables that look like any other USB-C cable; the average consumer might not be able to tell the difference. So if you used a ‘mismatched’ cable with a charger, your device will charge, but at a much lower speed than marketed. Bummer.

The ideology clash that is harmful for consumers

Now that we’ve gone through the labyrinth of version numbers, it’s easy to understand why USB-IF is promoting simple logos that would display data power and speed.

Ravencraft said that as per its conventions, the organization wants to make it easy for common people to understand USB standards.

My brother is a trucker living in midwest Ohio. He doesn’t understand gadgetry and he doesn’t care. That’s the consumer we are aiming to educate with our new logo schemes.

It seems simple enough, right? Just include these damn logos in your product packaging. But who will enforce this?

The reality is USB-IF is just an advising organization; it’s good for manufacturers to be a part of it, but not a necessity for them to make USB-powered products. The body isn’t in any position to force hardware brands to use their logos on USB devices and peripherals.

Organizations can become for a nominal annual fee of $5,000. One of the biggest benefits of joining is that you might have a say in the next big standard change.

Apart from maintaining standards, USB-IF certifies cables and peripherals. For members, it’s free, and non-members can get their products through approved labs. When it comes to cables, all companies have to send their products to recognized labs to get certified before branding their devices as USB-IF approved.

The biggest problem here is that as a company you can implement USB stuff without getting this certification, because the spec of the standard is open.

And even if you get the certification, you’re not forced to use the logo. There’s also , but not many people might be going visit that every time before buying a product.

Martin Worth, director of innovation and product development at hardware accessories maker Belkin, said, “USB-C supported peripherals have certainly increased. But having one connector doesn’t mean cables are similar.”

He said his advice to consumers would be to buy USB-IF certified cables. However, like I just talked about, figuring out exactly which cable to buy is still difficult. An average user has no simple way of telling what that device or cable they’re going to buy is capable of.

MacBook Air, USB, Follow @plugged
Belkin said it uses USB-IF approved logos on all its packaging.

If you’re pulling your hair out by now, I don’t blame you. But things might get better.

What does the future look like?

With the new USB 4 standard, USB-IF has been trying to roll a lot of things into one standard. For instance, it just uses USB-C connectors, it’s backward compatible — that means it’ll work with devices having USB 2.0 and USB 3.2 ports — and it also includes standards like Thunderbolt 3.0.

“It’s important to note that while USB 4 has been around for a few years, it was only last year when we started seeing gadgets supporting that,” Worth said. So it’ll take a few more years to see a large chunk of the peripherals and gadget industry switching to that standard.

The prospect of USB 4 looks great. It’s like a supercable that does all the things. The problem of logo vs. specification still stands, though. And all USB 4 cables might not have all capabilities that are listed under the standard. So good luck going through various cable specifications with a magnifying glass.

MacBook Air, USB, Follow @plugged
USB-IF hopes that this logo scheme becomes a norm for product labeling.

Despite all this, USB-IF is sticking with its logo-first methodology.

Ravencraft said that in the end, they want to have five types of cables that display two important things: data transfer rate and maximum power it can carry.

So as per current specification there will be five types of USB-C to C cables: USB 2.0 (480 Mbits/sec), 5Gbits/sec, 10Gbits/sec, 20Gbits/sec, and 40Gbits/sec. All of these cables will also have markings indicating their power rating.

This sounds great in theory, but how does the organization plan to execute this? Well, for starters, it has included a mandatory clause of USB-C labeling for future products that go through USB-IF certification.

However, since you don’t really need the organization’s approval to make USB stuff, we will end up with a lot of unmarked cables. That doesn’t sound good.

The ports are unified but you still need different cables for different devices. My keyboard has usb-c port but doesnt work when plugged to usb-c computer for example. I can’t see any benefit but confusion since it is now impossible to know which cable does what.

— Burak Tamt*rk #StopErdogan (@buraktamturk)

You mean USB-C with USB 2.0 speeds or USB-C with USB 3.1 Gen 1? Or USB-C that supports USB 3.1 Gen? Or maybe the Thunderbolt 4 USB-C? USB-C that supports video signal or USB-C that’s for power only?…

— Alex @ Geek’s Table (@geekstable)

These tweets above capture my frustration with USB-C perfectly. Yes, it’s a port that works and makes things slightly easy. But it also puts a lot of pressure on the user to educate themselves and dodge all marketing bullshit to get the product they deserve. It should be much simpler than that.

News Related


Best free Linux firewalls of 2022

The best free Linux firewalls make it simple and easy to manage firewall security on your Linux computers and networks. And although Linux has a firewall built right into the ... Read more »

Warzone Operation Monarch skins: all the monstrous cosmetics

Warzone’s Operation Monarch skins are here, allowing players to show off their love of the big movie monsters King Kong, Godzilla, and Mechagodzilla. Call of Duty: Warzone is no stranger ... Read more »

Elon Musk: Twitter deal is on hold

Elon Musk announced in a tweet that his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter is on hold, due to a report about spam accounts on the social network being fewer ... Read more »

Horizon Zero Dawn on PS1 doesn't look half bad

Horizon Zero Dawn has been thrown back to the low-polygon world of the original PlayStation, in a fan demake that reimagines Aloy’s post-apocalyptic adventuring in the graphical style of the ... Read more »

‘Dead Space' remake release date: EA sets January 2023 launch for the return of survival horror series return

From “Dead Space 3” gameplay trailer | Photo credit: EA via Dead Space / YouTube screenshot Motive Studios conducted the latest livestream event for the “Dead Space” remake to provide ... Read more »

Blizzard thinks it's fixed Overwatch 2's long queues

In a developer blog, the Overwatch 2 developers have offered up some stats that suggest that their recent tweaks to support have helped even out the game’s queue problems. In ... Read more »

Ryzen 7000 CPU leak shows AMD taking boost speeds to new heights

AMD’s Zen 4 processors – expected to be Ryzen 7000 models – are due later in 2022, and we’ve just caught another glimpse of what could be one of the ... Read more »

‘Starfield' and ‘Redfall' release dates are moved to 2023, Bethesda announces delay ahead of summer event

From the trailer of “Starfield” | Photo credit: Bethesda Softworks / YouTube screenshot Bethesda’s “Starfield” and Arkane’s “Redfall” are arguably one of the most anticipated video games this year. However, ... Read more »

Pixel 6a specs: Google will use a different in-display fingerprint sensor from the Pixel 6 series

Google Pixel 6a | Photo credit: Made by Google / YouTube screenshot The in-display fingerprint sensor on the standard Pixel 6 and high-end Pixel 6 Pro caused quite a stir ... Read more »

(LEAD) Samsung considers raising chip prices by 20 pct: report

(ATTN: ADDS more details from 4th para, photo) SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — Samsung Electronics Co. is considering raising chipmaking prices by up to 20 percent, a news report said ... Read more »

The Google Pixel 6a might fix the Pixel 6's most annoying flaw

If you have a Google Pixel 6 or a Pixel 6 Pro then outside of the many bugs – which have mostly now been fixed – you might be most ... Read more »

Samsung considers raising chip prices by 20 pct: report

SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — Samsung Electronics Co. is considering raising chipmaking prices by up to 20 percent, a news report said Friday. Bloomberg reported the South Korean chipmaker is ... Read more »

Dune Part 2 hires superstar actor for its lead villain role

Dune Part 2 has reportedly hired superstar actor Christopher Walken to play the movie’s key villain. According to multiple outlets, including Deadline, Variety, and The Hollywood Reporter, Walken has been ... Read more »

Medicox to raise 4 bln won via stock sale

SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — Medicox Co.on Friday announced that it will sell stocks to raise 4 billion won (US$3.1 million). The proceeds from the stock offering will be used ... Read more »

Pixel Watch release date: Google confirms first smartwatch after months of leaks

Google Pixel Watch | Photo credit: Made by Google / YouTube screenshot It was not much of a surprise when Google unveiled the Pixel Watch at the opening of the ... Read more »

This is how new Indian privacy law will have 'negative impact on people's privacy'

In April, the Indian government dropped a hard pill to swallow for VPN services and their users. According to India’s new data retention law, security software firms will be forced ... Read more »

Build a website for just $1.99 with Zyro's exclusive new deal

As far as cheap website builder plans go, this deal from Zyro might just take the crown. In an exclusive offer to TechRadar readers, you can sign up for Zyro’s ... Read more »

SD Biotechnologies to raise 35.2 bln won via stock sale

SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — SD Biotechnologies Co. on Friday announced that it will sell stocks to raise 35.2 billion won(US$27.4 million). The proceeds from the stock offering will be ... Read more »

(LEAD) Lotte Chemical Q1 net tanks on high oil costs, slowing demand

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES with more info; ADDS photo) SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — Lotte Chemical Corp., the petrochemical unit of South Korean conglomerate Lotte Group, said Friday its ... Read more »

KEPCO Plant Service & Engineering Q1 net income down 52.7 pct to 20.8 bln won

SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — KEPCO Plant Service & Engineering Co. on Friday reported its first-quarter net profit of 20.8 billion won (US$16.2 million), down 52.7 percent from a year ... Read more »

Coway Q1 net income up 7.3 pct to 135 bln won

SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — Coway Co. on Friday reported its first-quarter net profit of 135 billion won (US$105.1 million), up 7.3 percent from a year earlier. The company said ... Read more »

CJ CGV remains in red in Q1

SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — CJ CGV Co. on Friday reported its first-quarter net loss of 111.4 billion won (US$86.8 million), remaining in the red compared with a year ago. ... Read more »

ConvertKit email marketing software review

Looking for the best email marketing services for your business? Maryland-based ConvertKit offers an easy-to-use email marketing platform with a visual designer for building automated strategies. It does a little ... Read more »

(LEAD) Korea Electric Power reports record loss in Q1 over high fuel prices

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead to add more details; ADDS more info throughout, photo) SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s state power firm Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) on Friday ... Read more »

Lotte Chemical Q1 net profit down 78.3 pct to 116.6 bln won

SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — Lotte Chemical Corp. on Friday reported its first-quarter net income of 116.6 billion won (US$90.8 million), down 78.3 percent from a year earlier. Operating income ... Read more »

This platform could make you really feel the VR burn

What’s virtual reality without a little real-life sweat? Kat VR is releasing an omnidirectional gaming treadmill for people who want to play virtual reality games while also getting their cardio ... Read more »

(LEAD) LG Uplus' Q1 net down 15.2 pct from decreased handset-related margins

(ATTN: RECASTS with more details; CHANGES headline; ADDS photo) SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — LG Uplus Corp., South Korea’s third-largest mobile carrier, said its first-quarter net profit slumped 15.2 percent ... Read more »

Google's Android 13 Beta for TV adds a cool feature - but you can't try it yet

In the aftermath of I/O 2022, Google is quietly rolling out Android 13 Beta 2 for TV which brings new features and quality-of-life (QoL) changes. Be aware that the new ... Read more »

Korea Electric Power shifts to loss in Q1

SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — Korea Electric Power Corp. on Friday reported its first-quarter net loss of 5.92 trillion won (US$4.6 billion), turning from a profit of 112.4 billion won ... Read more »

HMM Q1 net spikes on high shipping rates

SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s leading container shipper HMM Co. said Friday its first quarter earnings rose nearly 20-fold from a year earlier amid high freight rates. Net ... Read more »

Scientists grow cress seeds in moon dust collected by NASA, potentially paving the way for space-grown food

Scientists say they have overcome one of the biggest barriers to deep space travel – by growing food in dust from the moon. Researchers nurtured cress in surface soil, or ... Read more »

Apple releases macOS Monterey beta update, but we're waiting for WWDC

Apple seeded its latest macOS Monterey 12.4 Release Candidate to the developers channel for testing purposes, likely the last release ahead of WWDC 2022 on June 6. Registered developers with ... Read more »

S. Korea, Japan in close consultation over Gimpo-Haneda flight service resumption

SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — South Korea and Japan have had close consultations on the reopening of an air route between Seoul’s Gimpo and Tokyo’s Haneda airports after more than ... Read more »

Samsung holds first-ever 6G forum to discuss next-gen communications tech

By Woo Jae-yeon SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — Samsung Electronics Co. on Friday held its first 6G forum with experts from academia and industry to discuss the future of communications ... Read more »

LG Uplus Q1 net income down 15.2 pct to 170.4 bln won

SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — LG Uplus Corp. on Friday reported its first-quarter net profit of 170.4 billion won (US$132.2 million), down 15.2 percent from a year earlier. Operating profit ... Read more »

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs Honor Magic 4 Pro: can Honor beat the Android champ?

The Honor Magic 4 Pro sees the former budget sub-brand emerging from its second-tier status and presenting a genuine flagship contender. What better way to gauge its likely success than ... Read more »

(LEAD) Samsung Life's Q1 net tumbles amid stock market volatility

(ATTN: RECASTS headline; ADDS info throughout) SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — Samsung Life Insurance Co., South Korea’s top life insurer, on Friday reported its first-quarter net profit plunged 72.9 percent ... Read more »

(LEAD) NCSOFT Q1 net more than doubles on robust sales from latest 'Lineage' entry

(ATTN: RECASTS with more details; CHANGES headline; ADDS photo) SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — NCSOFT Corp., a major South Korean online and mobile game developer, said Friday its first quarter ... Read more »

Samsung Life Insurance Q1 net profit down 72.9 pct. to 302.2 bln won

SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — Samsung Life Insurance Co. on Friday reported its first-quarter net profit of 302.2 billion won (US$234.5 million), down 72.9 percent from a year earlier. The ... Read more »

Tachyum unveils a monster processor that does everything

The wait is finally over and the US-startup Tachyum has now launched its Prodigy universal processor which combines the functionality of a CPU, GPU and TPU in a single processor. ... Read more »