What the USB4 standard means to average consumers

Jun 20, 2019 in 08:30 AM | Posted By Janelle W.
What the USB4 standard means to average consumers

So remember when Apple dropped the 30-pin cable and made everyone using iOS get Lightning chargers for their next iPhone? All those car chargers you paid dearly for, the backup charger at the office, the dock station next to your bed to charge and listen to iTunes – all worthless.

For that matter, remember way back when, when you got a new mobile phone (or a free phone every two years)? The charger for your old phone didn’t work with the new one. There was no standardization at all, and every company had proprietary connectors that wouldn’t work on any other device.

With the adoption of USB standards, many of those issues went away. If you were an Apple user, the Lightning charger connected to your Mac/chargers using a USB-A connector. Android devices (and pretty much any other non-Apple product) used USB micro-B connectors and again – could connect to chargers using any standard USB-A port. With USB-A ports as a standard, they all played nicely together.

Well, welcome to USB4 and the newest and possibly biggest leap forward in computing standardization. The USB Implementers Forum plans to release specs in mid-2019. Most in the industry expect full adoption in 2021, with devices on the market in 2020.

https://usb.org/sites/default/files/2019-03/USB_PG_USB4_DevUpdate_Announcement_FINAL_20190226.pdf

USB4 is (or will be):

  • Based on Thunderbolt technology which Intel originally created and has made available royalty-free industry wide.
  • Uses USB Type-C cables/connectors – small, sturdy and multi-directional, there is no more flipping it twice to get it to go in.
  • Offers up to 40 Gbps operation over 40 Gbps certified cables. Doubles USB 3.0 (and its later iteration) speeds.
  • Is backwards compatible to USB 3.2, USB 2.0 and Thunderbolt 3.

So what does all of this mean to consumers?

Eventually, those USB-A chargers will go away. Power strips with built in USB-A ports, wall-mounted USB outlets, your car’s USB-A port and the car charger plugged into your cigarette lighter – all will need to become USB-C ports.

BUT here is the thing. You can put a USB-C adapter into the USB-A slot. With an adapter, it will still charge your phone, play your music, and charge whichever internal battery device you need.

You can still use USB flash drives to boot your system, record your music, and share with clients as promotional swag. They might not to it as fast as a native USB-C connection, but they will still work fine and as fast as most consumers want or need them to.

So just like when Apple went to Lightning, everyone will have to reset. But it won’t be overnight and it will make for faster data transfer, faster charging and further standardization in computing.