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USB Type-C: Amid the promises and confusion

Posted: 20 Aug 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Cypress Semiconductor? USB Type C? smartphone? laptop? connector?

Some chip companies that include Cypress Semiconductor, Texas Instruments, NXP Semiconductors and Lattice Semiconductor have had a busy summer churning out their USB Type-C chips, an accelerated product launch that virtually ends an era of scarcity for USB Type C.

Some vendors have chosen this week's Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco to strutt their stuff.

Clearly, USB Type C loaded with new features offers lots of promises to system vendors. But for consumers? Not so fast, said industry analysts. It may bring potential confusions, they cautioned.

USB Type-C

Where Type C is used

The two most prominent USB Type-C system designs still are Apple's 12in MacBook (which has one USB Type-C connector) and the Google Chrome Pixel notebook (with two Type-C ports), according to Brian O'Rourke, senior principal analyst at IHS Technology. "Additional Type-C products include Nokia N1 tablet, LaCie external hard disk drive and a SanDisk USB Type C thumb drive."

USB Type-C applications

USB Type-C applications. (Source: Lattice)

The USB Type-C end-product landscape is quickly evolving and expanding, however.

For example, ASUS' ZenPad S 8.0 Z580CA, comes with a USB Type-C connector. Expectations are also running high for Google's next-generation Nexus smartphones with Type-C. A 5.2in model manufactured by LG and a 5.7in phone made by Huawei are both rumoured to sport Type-C ports.

Michael Inouye, principal analyst at ABI Research, agreed that smartphones in particular will drive USB Type C, "since these devices typically have one port and there is high motivation to move towards a universal solution like USB Type-C."

As the auto industry moves towards tighter integration with consumer mobile devices, Inouye expects Type-C to "afford them a more elegant solution to achieve their goals."

Inouye also believes docking stations will be a key to the USB Type-C market, allowing consumers to "simply connect one cable to the dock instead of multiple cables." With Type C, there's no need to plug a power cable into the wall while using a USB cable, then adding another cable for video out.

3 basic categories

Aside from being a reversible connector, USB Type C's advantages are many. Asked to break down USB Type C, IHS analyst O'Rourke described three basic categories: (1) USB 3.1 does data only. It is effectively the next-generation USB spec, offering 10Gb/s data throughput, (2) USB Power Delivery (2.0) offers up to 100W for charging, and (3) USB Alternate modes offer DisplayPort and/or SuperMHL over a Type C cable and connector.

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