OPINION: Despite the dream of living in a wireless world, most of us spend our days dealing with cables.
Plugs and ports are a hassle but the promise of a new format released four years ago was supposed to make everything easier.
Tech companies promised USB-C would be better and ubiquitous.
The first part is true but the second has not eventuated.
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USB-C was supposed to replace the standard USB port found on most charging cables and thumb drives.
The new version is better in almost every way. It’s reversible so no more fumbling to plug it in, and it can be used to connect USB devices, power cables and screens. Also, unlike the current plugs, power will be able to flow both ways, so it can replace your power cord.
It’s also smaller and takes up less space in smartphones and laptops, which means they can be smaller, too.
But after four years and all their advantages, USB-C plugs and ports are still not that common.
The main reason is money.
It’s more expensive to have USB-C ports on devices, and in the competitive gadget market that extra cost can affect sales and profit margins.
Because we’re in the middle of a change-over period, people are still using several ports so it’s not worth paying more for the convenience of only having, for example, one charging cable for your laptop, phone and headphones.
And despite the advantages, not all manufacturers are using them to their full capacity. So you may have a cable that can charge but not transfer data.
The other hesitation for companies to commit to USB-C is that the tech world is going wireless.
There’s a steady move toward wireless headphones and now a push to wireless charging which means companies (and some users) may be reluctant to invest in USB-C if it’s only going to be around for a few years.
The slow uptake of USB-C also shows how reluctant people are to adopt new tech. One one hand it appears new gadgets and services are being rolled out every day but on the other, most people are happy to use older tech that’s “good enough”.
If every tech manufacturer adopted it on every device I don’t think many people would complain about having to buy a new cable as it’d be the only one they’d need for a long time.
Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen and we’re going to be stuck with a range of plugs and cables for a while yet.