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One for all

  Rutronik

The latest USB Type-C was presented by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) in 2014. It is already being used in some smartphones, tablets and laptops, but has not yet fully established itself. So connector and device manufacturers are faced with the question of whether, and when, they ought to commit to the new type.

There are a number of good reasons for the USB Type-C. In addition to its greater user-friendliness thanks to its symmetrical shape, it scores primarily by higher power transmission than its predecessors. (see box)

In order to attain the possible 100W, all the components must conform to the USB Power Delivery (PD) specification. It includes an electronically marked cable (with built-in chip) which detects how much current the connected devices can withstand. The standard also stipulates which end is the source and which the receiver. If the source is delivering 100W, for example, but the receiver can only take 4.5W, the built-in chip must adapt the current rating accordingly so that the receiver is not damaged. The USB Power Delivery specification was first drafted in May 2015. Version 1.2 followed in March 2016. For the cable manufacturers this means the need to make the appropriate adjustments. Consumers must pay attention to which cables they are buying and using. USB-IF provides a remedy: It checks the products and then assigns a unique certification number (TID).

 

USB 3.1

The USB Type-C plug also permits the use of second-generation USB 3.1. It is often referred to as USB 3.1 Type-C. The term should be used with caution, however, as it might arouse false expectations among consumers: They would automatically assume the new Type-C plug has the same transfer speeds as the latest USB 3.1. In fact, the two are independent of each other: The various plug types differ in design. The specification does, however, detail the technology required to detect and run connected devices. This includes the processor and the PCB as well as the plug. To be able to utilize all the benefits of second-generation USB 3.1, the processor and PCB must actuate all the plug's pins. If they do not, due to the backward compatibility the data transfer rate will be reduced down to the level of the weakest link in the chain.

 

Wait for Apple

Despite these benefits, there is still some reluctance to use the USB Type-C plug. However, device and plug manufacturers need to observe the market closely so as not to get left behind. Apple has at least already fitted the latest MacBook with the new USB type. As soon as the iPhone also has the new plug type, the route to success will be clear. Samsung has already introduced their new Galaxy 8 with the USB Type-C.

USB-C is being additionally boosted by the sustained trend toward mobile computing. This is because the new type replaces VGA, DVI, HDMI and MHL in a single plug, so enabling devices to have just one port for video, audio and power, and meaning they can be made more compact. This also means that other sectors ought to be thinking about using USB-C too: If carmakers fit the port on their vehicles, for example, customers will be able to charge their tablets while on the road, or play music from the device.

 

... or be a pioneer

Device manufacturers already looking to position themselves as pioneers need to consider a number of points first. For example, most smartphones are only configured for USB 2.0 or 3.0, and do not support USB PD! And extra care must be taken to make sure customers receive the right cable. Because the necessary due diligence cannot simply be replaced by a non-electronically marked cable with no chip.

Some manufacturers are already offering USB Type-C connectors. JAE, for example, one of the parties involved in standardizing the specification, has developed the DX07 series. It is fully compatible with the USB Type-C specification, and so offers all its benefits. The highly integrated, high-pole connectors are targeted primarily at smartphones. The DX07 slim plug variant offers even smaller dimensions. All the products in the series feature outstanding EMI/EMC characteristics, mechanical strength, and durable locking mechanisms.

 

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