The thing we’re clear about is this: operating systems have to tell us more about USB-C cables and their capabilities to connect us to our devices. Although it is true that the USB-C standard is always sold as the best port. However, this is considered universal because of the shape of the port, but not because of its capabilities. We say this because the USB-C port and cable can vary widely.

A USB-C cable is hard to distinguish from another. Some experts say there are also very few visible signs of what a USB-C cable can do: Can it charge, transfer data, audio or video?

We think this could be improved. This software can also play an important role in helping to identify the characteristics of a USB-C cable. Fortunately, Google is showing off a new way forward thanks to a new trick and we’ll talk about it next.

A New Feature Found in ChromeOS: The Ones You Need USB-C Cables

via Unsplash

Last week Google announced a new feature in ChromeOS 102 that will help identify unsupported USB-C cables.

It will work as follows:

  • If you’re using a Chromebook, you’ll see a popup if you connect a USB-C cable that isn’t compatible with your displays or has a slower data transfer speed than your device.
  • The feature will be available for Chromebooks with 11th or 12th generation Intel Core CPUs equipped with USB4 or Thunderbolt capability. More support for other devices is expected soon.
  • This is the current set of warnings it gives: “The cable may not support display,” “The cable may not support UBS4/Thunderbolt,” and “Your device supports a higher data rate than your cable.”
  • Note that this only addresses the silent failure issue. And there are times when you plug in a USB-C cable and your device won’t work as it’s supposed to. Although, there is no way to tell if the USB cable is the culprit. The new Chrome OS feature hints slightly at the possible error.
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Lack of information at the system level

Are Google, Microsoft, and Apple working on similar features for Android, Windows, Mac, and iOS?

Microsoft has a page that helps troubleshoot cabling issues USB-C, but the notification in Windows 10 and Windows 11 is generic and always says there is an “error” in the USB cable.

At the moment, nothing is known about Apple and Google.

In fact, the USB-C Power Delivery specification indicates that the system can obtain the following information:

  • Cable device version.
  • USB cable compatible version.
  • currency capacity.
  • Maximum data transfer speed.

The Linux kernel also features provision for a USB-C class API to define various features of supported devices and cables.

These fields can help the operating system display information about the cable’s performance and compatibility with other devices. But these features are not available now.

The gap in the OS messages is still there

Benson Leung, a Google engineer, points out a Chrome OS feature hole in OS-wide messages about USB-C cables.

USB-IF, the organization that maintains the USB standard, has tried to make cables easier to identify with logos. Despite this, many manufacturers do not show any kind of indication on the packaging or devices.

So it’s hard to know if an alternate USB-C cable will support certain data speeds or displays. This would be different if operating systems could display information about these cables through popups or applications. We think this will definitely be easier for everyone. Especially when choosing cables with certain specifications in a store or online.


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