Those New USB Cables can Torch Your Gear
Every few years a new standard has to emerge to keep everyone thinking there is something new and better they simply Must have. Serial and parallel communications gave way to USB 1.0 a long time ago. USB 2.0 replaced that and USB 3, while theoretically much faster than its predecessor, has yet to achieve widespread acceptance. Sure, you can find USB 3 connectors on some devices (Like Android phones) but more often than not, the other end of the cable is USB 2.0, as most equipment (like laptops and desktops) have only USB 2.0 ports.
The latest foray into a new connector to confuse the issue is the USB-C – which is still USB 3.0, but a fancy new (actually superior) connector. These are in use in some newer gadgets already and the design is an improvement over the older connectors – but there have been serious problems with some of the cables.
The new cords are capable of supplying a lot more current (power) than their predecessors, which is fine if the device its connected to can supply that amount of current. If it cannot, the cable is supposed to throttle down to the available current.
In other words, these new-fangled cables are supposed to be smart enough to determine the type of device you are using and supply the appropriate current based on the limitations of your gear. If the cable is not too bright, it will suck all the juice your device has available and then some – frying every gadget connected to the cable. Doesn’t sound too “smart’, does it?
There are essentially two varieties of USB-C cables: Certified and Non-Certified. The USB Implementers Forum is issuing a seal of approval for safe USB-C cords. These can be safely used without turning your laptop into a doorstop and your smartphone into a paperweight all at the same time. Only cables certified Safe will have the appropriate seal affixed. Unfortunately at this time, online resellers do not have the option of displaying this seal, so if you want certified Safe cables you need to shop for them at a brick-and-mortar store where you can make an informed buying decision.
If you use an iPhone, you’re safe. Apple has full control over the standards and will make sure your iDevice is safely connected.