Aug 10, 2023


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Almost every time I go back to Lebanon and try to use my Pixel phone with the auxiliary cable in my car, I curse under my breath because I realize I forgot to pack the Pixel’s special 3.5mm USB-C adapter and there’s a slim chance I’ll find a replacement. This is only one of countless examples of how USB-C has gone wrong as a universal cable standard.

But despite how messy USB-C is, I can’t help but notice how much it’s simplified my digital life, especially when it comes to charging. My story with phones started with my dad’s Ericsson SH888 in 1998 and I’ve seen all kinds of weird and confusing proprietary charging ports. Believe it or not, DC ports were a welcome improvement when they started showing up on phones, not to mention mini-USB and micro-USB.

By the time USB-C (or USB Type-C) became official, I’d gone from storing and carrying dozens of proprietary cables for each gadget to just needing one or two cables for everything. Now I can’t imagine going back to the more convoluted charging solutions of yore.

At my desk and in the living room, I have two multiport chargers with USB Power Delivery, which allow me to charge all of my frequently used devices. My Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel Watch, Nothing Ear 2 and Pixel Buds Pro, Pixel Tablet, iPad Air 4, Kindle Scribe and Paperwhite, and even my aging Pixelbook all charge over the same charger and cables. Most of the secondary phones I use for testing purposes also use USB-C, so I don’t have to ask myself any questions when I want to plug something in.

Even my more niche gadgets like the Insta360 X3 or AirFly Pro Bluetooth transmitter/receiver fill up over USB-C. My two portable batteries also take USB-C input. All I need are some good USB-C cables to get everything charged.

This streamlined simplicity is even more important on the go. Whether I’m traveling for fun or work or I’m visiting my family back in Lebanon, I don’t have to worry about multiple cable types. A pouch with a good wall charger and USB-C cables is always ready to go in any backpack. And no matter what new products I happen to be testing, odds are I have everything I need to charge them on the go in that pouch. No more lugging unnecessary tech and spending twenty minutes in the airport’s security line, unpacking and repacking it all.

I even bought a small USB-C charging puck for my Pixel Watch and my Apple Watch so I don’t need to carry a separate long cable for them. I couldn’t achieve anywhere near this versatile setup if manufacturers hadn’t agreed on a single charging port.

There’s nothing extraordinary about this so far. However, things went to the next level when I started explicitly looking for homebound electronics with USB-C charging. It all began with a simple Baseus USB-C desk lamp and, once I noticed how practical it was to not worry about a special charger or cable, it quickly spread to some other items around the house. My Xiaomi mini vacuum, Bob & Brad Q2 massage gun, and white-label lint shaver all charge over USB-C.

I can’t tell you how awesome it is to keep these around my apartment knowing I can fill them up with any cable, instead of digging in random boxes, cabinets, and shelves to find that one proprietary charger that works with them. I just have to keep in mind that the massage gun only charges over A-to-C cables (not C-to-C) for some reason.

USB-C has also found its way to some of my smart home products. The Sensibo Elements air monitor and Google Chromecast, for example, take USB-C input. So instead of dedicating a separate plug to them, I’ve bought a big power strip with a few powerful built-in USB-C ports. A couple of good USB-C cables run to the Elements and Chromecast, saving me from plugging another charger or adapter. Who would say “no” to a less messy TV cabinet?

Now that most of the tech and electronics in my life have moved to a unified charging standard, it’s easy to spot the outliers. The iPhone 12 Pro Max that I use to keep abreast of what’s happening on the other side of the mobile divide is stuck on Apple’s Lightning port, not USB-C. The same goes for my iMac’s Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad. Each time I want to charge one of these, I have to reach for the single Lightning cable I keep in my drawer. The iPhone 15 is supposed to move to USB-C, though, so things should improve soon.

The other straggler in my setup is my mirrorless Olympus camera, which is stuck in the standalone battery charger era. I love the removable battery, don’t get me wrong, but I just wish there were a built-in USB-C port to fill it up. However, I’m not ready to pony up for an upgrade, so this will have to do for the next year or more.

And finally, some of the electronics and smart home products around my home are still using DC chargers or micro-USB. Namely, my husband’s laptop and shaver, our electric toothbrushes, and my smart thermometer’s hub. Again, none of these are due for an upgrade soon, but USB-C will surely be one of the requirements when it’s time to do it.

I’m aware that USB-C hasn’t turned out to be the one standard to unite them all, especially for data transmission, audio, and video, but when it comes to charging, it has certainly simplified things in my digital and electronic life.