‘Mandatory’ USB-C: makes sense?


Now that the EU has made USB-C connections mandatory on the next generation of smartphones and related devices, you may wonder if this makes sense.

At first glance, it all sounds fine and dandy: as of fall 2024, all smartphones, tablets and cameras sold in the EU must be equipped with USB-C. This, to prevent a proliferation of environmentally unfriendly and later no longer usable charging adapters. Point is only that this has been a bit of a fallacy for quite a few years anyway. Most phone chargers (and chargers of other mobile devices) have been equipped with a USB-A connector for ages. And you can plug in any adapter cable you need.

One USB-C cable is not the other…

Furthermore – possibly much to the annoyance of users – there are huge differences in USB-C cables. There is a category optimized for fast charging and a category for fast data transfer. Many fast-charging cables have a maximum transfer speed equal to that of USB 2. Slow, in other words. Cables that are fast in both areas are usually relatively expensive. Officially, there should also be a security chip in fast charging cables to prevent overloading. In the case of cheap Chinese cables this chip is usually not present or simply replaced by an under-dimensioned resistor. Because of the high charging currents that modern USB-C fast chargers can deliver, this creates a fire hazard.

Different fast charging protocols

Because A-brand manufacturers – rightly – don’t want any hassle with safety, in many cases an adapter will come standard with a new device. Or at least a safe cable. And so the environmental aspect is somewhat negated. What also somewhat negates the noble intent is that there are several fast charging protocols for USB-C in use, such as this one. And fast charging is only possible if both charger and device support the same protocol. A universal charger is then an option. But – you guessed it – the cheap Chinese universal chargers are indeed cheap but often not safe at all.

Not properly developed

The idea for a universal connection was and is not very bad. But as is often the case with EU regulations, the idea was not well developed. One specific charging protocol should have been linked to it. And preferably also an EU-certified and clearly marked universal cable for both fast data transfer and safe fast charging.

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