USB Type-C is a new form of USB port that aims to be the be-all and end-all of ports.
Illustration by Alyssa Vandegrift
It supports power, data, video, audio and Thunderbolt — truly making Type-C the one port you need for typical use.
USB Type-C has been popping up in more places throughout the past few years. It was first available in 2015 with the Google Chromebook Pixel and the 2015 Macbook. My first Type-C equipped device was the Nexus 6P, a smartphone that lasted me a year before moving to another Type-C equipped phone with the Pixel 2 XL.
Like Apple’s Lightning connector for the iPhone, Type-C is a reversible connector, meaning you can plug in the cable upside down and it still works. For me, that meant I didn’t have to fumble around in the dark anymore trying to figure out which way my charger went in.
Both of my Type-C equipped phones have just used the port for file transfer, audio and power; however, other companies aside from Google, such as Samsung, have made docking stations that are able to turn your phone into an Android desktop.
Most Android phone manufacturers have been quick to adopt the Type-C standard on their phones, and many laptops have limited the amount of ports needed through Type-C, including Macbooks from Apple.
One company not so quick to adopt the standard, though, is Microsoft. Many people were expecting to get Type-C on the new Surface Pro 6, however, Microsoft confirmed it will have the same port layout as previous Surface Pro devices. This includes one USB type-A port, a Mini DisplayPort, a 3.5 mm audio jack and the Surface connector.
Of all devices, the Surface Pro is one device that could really take advantage of a Type-C port. With Type-C being able to handle video for a secondary display, it would eliminate the need for a Mini DisplayPort connection that most people don’t even have cables or adapters for anyway.
It could also eliminate the USB Type-A port, though it would probably be better staying around for devices such as flash drives or mice that still use Type-A.
Type-C would also give Surface Pro devices more capabilities through Thunderbolt 3. This could include high-speed external storage, networking over ethernet or even an external graphics card dock to turn a Surface Pro into a full gaming PC.
With Type-C becoming such a ubiquitous port across different types of devices, it would also allow people to easily access their phone’s files with one cable instead of using adapters.
Rumors have been circulating that Apple has been thinking about using Type-C instead of Lightning in some future iPhones, though this hasn’t been implemented yet. It would make sense though, considering the majority of Macbooks now have only Type-C ports, making transfers between iOS and MacOS much simpler.
In the end, it will take time before Type-C takes the majority share of port space on devices, but I believe it will happen eventually. When and if Apple moves over to Type-C with the iPhone, the remaining manufacturers that haven’t moved over, such as Microsoft, will likely move over, similarly to the notch on the iPhone X.