I’m starting to get worried about the widespread standardization on USB-C. I’m seeing failing USB-C connectors and cables left right and center lately. My phone, multiple laptops, powerbanks, they all get flaky connectors within about a year, causing all kinds of irritation and hard to troubleshoot problems.
Some anecdotal evidence:
With my phone in the car on the magnetic holder the USB-C cable now causes temporary disconnects of Android Auto when I hit a bump in the road. (sporty car)
My kids have gotten used to tying a powerbank to their phone in a particular way so the connector has some pressure because “it doesn’t work” otherwise.
My client (a large government org) has standardised all working spaces on USB-C connected docking stations and lately about 25% of workplaces have become too unreliable because the USB-C cable either doesn’t connect well on the laptop or the docking station side (cramped under the desk with a bunch of other cables).
My analysis is that the connecting part of the cable is just too small compared to the forces it has to withstand. The USB-A connector never had this problem because its ratio between connector size, cable stiffness and applied forces is a lot different.
The connection between the Framework cards and the laptop is fine because the cards are held in place firmly themselves, but we need to rethink using USB-C as the default goto connector.
@Geert_Schuring Just out of curiosity: How are the cable-connector transitions of the cables your client and kids use made? Because often it’s a broken intermittently contacting lead at places with the most bending stress, and not the connector itself.
USB-A also never carried anywhere neat the data-rates and power levels usb-c did but yeah it is physically definitely a bit more fragile.
Personally I hoped usb-c would go with a lightning like tongue on cable solution to make the cable the weak point but they didn’t. Maybe that’s patented or something or there were other reasons not to.
Completely hypothetically, what connector would you use instead?
You are right of course. I just have to conclude that my 2014 Macbook is still working flawlessly, charging with MagSafe and connecting a monitor over HDMI, while several USB-C based setups have become unreliable.
Can you recommend any? I’ve got HP, Dell, Samsung and Motora devices with connection problems.
I can’t visually detect any damage, but its easy to replicate. Just move the cable around a bit (nowhere near the connector) and the result it that the connector receives light pressure from different angles and I can see it moving around in the socket. I think the receiving end just can’t take the forces and looses its tight connection as its becomes slighty wider.
Having tried to solder my own USB cables, I think it just is because the USB C cable is far more complicated than the standard USB A cable. 4/5 cables versus 20-ish. There is just a lot more than can break.
Different shape and short about 20 pins XD. Power wise we are also lacking the pd negotiation pins.
It isn’t really but the weak part is the cable which tends to be easier to replace.
There are standard non compliant magnetic plugs for usb-c you could try those. But usb-c is here to stay so just look for stuff where the ports aren’t soldered to the board (that’s generally good, people even mess up usb-a ports).
There is also the point that not all usb-c ports are equal, some are a lot sturdier than others, while the tongue on usb-c is in the port it is quite a thick one and if made well should survive a lot of abuse.
That is plausible. OTOH, I have often seen cables of various kinds, where it was possible to identify the place of a broken lead. Keep everything still except a small length of the cable and move it in all directions, repeat a bit further, until the contact breaks (start at one end, so there is a cable end that you have tested healthy that can be moved). Often a repair was possible when I found the broken spot; cut out a few cm to either side and reconnect the ends (insert connectors, or solder and insulate) was usually successful.
The test you described above would not rule out a broken lead. To find out, you’d need to keep the plugs unmoved in a connecting position/angle and start bending the cable then.
Most problems I’ve had with it were solved with cleaning the ports with a needle (mostly for phones that are in pockets all day and can collect fluff).
Much easier to do than on Micro-USB, since the inside on the PORT side is just a flat tongue that’s hard to damage
Another thing is that the flexible metal springs that provide the pressure are all on the CABLE side, so if what you’re claiming is true and the connection gets loose because of the lack of force, you just need to replace the cable. Though carefuly about jumping to conclusions there, it might also just be the cable itself, not the connector.
Otherwise, it’s like any other connector. Some contact spray can do wonders to remove grime and oxidation on the contacts themselves.
The only issue I’ve ever had with USB-C is that it collects dirt that gets compacted and is difficult to clean. You have to scrape the bottom with something extremely thin. I use the thinnest screwdriver bit that comes in the iFixit kit and even then I’m still playing around the center piece.
When I worked in a warehouse, my phone would have intermittent connection issues every few months and I feared for breaking the port when cleaning it.
This is why I wish USB-C went with the direction of the lightning cable where the plug is just a hole with the connections around the border.
All-in-all, USB-C is the best implimentation of USB. I’m jsut glad we’ve moved on from Micro USB which was just hot garbage.
Also nowadays, I have a wireless charger at my desk at home and at work and pretty much never plug it in unless it’s for data transfer. I haven’t had a dust issue on any other device. I also don’t work in a warehouse anymore and haven’t had the issue in a couple of years.
Also, I think most of us would have our modules plugged in for the high majority of the time which would protect the connections facing the board. If you break the module it can be easily replaced and the internal connection should still be good.
While I personally don’t like USB-C connectors myself due to them looking rather flimsy… What other connector could be used?
It has huge data rates, video output, fast charging capability, a small outline and is reverseable. And it is cheap.
I have noticed issues with USB-C connections being unreliable on mobile devices over time but not so much on the laptop side. I have only had USB-C on a laptop since 2020 and that appears to be going strong. I have noticed that it seems to be the cable end that fails over the connector on the device itself. Dust covers go a long way in protecting these things. I have been using the magnetic cables for a while now on the mobile but those get dirty and seem to break more often than not. I think, with the Framework laptops having USB-C connectors that are constantly protected with teh Expansion cards, the main boards are probably fine for the life of the machine. Everything wears out and arguments can be had for the design from now until forever.
Maybe a Framework “toughbook” would put your mind at ease?