The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) — the group that maintains the USB standard across its many varied incarnations — has introduced new, official logos for companies to use to brand their USB-C cables and packaging to go with its USB4 and 240W power standards. The goal is a noble one, aiming to help ease the confusion about the different types of USB-C cables (which can differ widely in things like charging and data transfer speeds) when you’re buying one.
Naturally, the USB-IF, in its... unique wisdom, has chosen to simplify things the only way it knows how: a slew of new logos that will soon adorn packaging for cables and chargers to help indicate to customers what charging and data speeds their devices support. Because nothing says “simple” like a chart of seven new logos for charging and data specifications.
The new branding is meant to tie in with the recent USB Power Delivery (USB PD) 3.1 specification that was announced earlier this year, which (confusingly) is part of the USB Type-C Release 2.1 specification, and offers devices that can charge with up to 240W of power — assuming you have the right cable and charger. Given that the aforementioned mess of numbers and specification releases is an even less consumer-friendly nightmare, the new logos (which clearly state the supported maximum speed and charging for a USB4-certified device) are definitely better than nothing.
But the new logos also help show just how confusing the USB-C standard still is. There are separate logos for supporting 40Gbps data transfer speeds, as well as slower 20Gbps speeds, and two tiers of power specs too: 240W and 60W. More maddening is that the standards aren’t tied together: You might get a cable that supports 40Gbps data transfers but slower charging. You might get a fast-charging 240W cable that’s bad for transferring files. You can get both (with the USB-IF offering a combined logo to indicate when hardware support both fast charging and data speeds), but it’s still putting the onus on manufacturers to actually use the branding and customers to figure it all out.
Compared with the pricier, but simpler Thunderbolt 4 — which just has one type of cable that does all the things in the specification — and it’s hard not to feel like the rest of the USB-C world is still a bit of a mess. Some of that is due to how rapidly USB-C standards have changed in the past few years as technology has gotten better, hardware has improved, and devices need faster data and charging support. But there’s still a long way to go before USB-C achieves its plug-and-play potential — if it ever does.