Devices > Emerging Devices Blog

The Wireless Phone is Still Wired

by Ken Hyers | 7月 22, 2021

Practically all handsets sold globally now use a USB type connector to connect the phone to a charger and for wired data transfer.  While USB Type-C is the most modern standard, slightly more than half of all phones sold worldwide today use an older or proprietary USB standard.

USB-Types

USB Type-C offers the most benefits to smartphone users, allowing for faster charging, higher-speed data transfers, and the ability to use the device to power another device.  But the standards body has done the technology no favors by repeatedly renaming previous versions of the USB Type-C standard. USB Type-C cable makers are also culpable, rarely labelling their products to identify which version it supports.  This has real and sometimes harmful implications for consumers, as it is possible to use the wrong USB Type-C cable on their device, which can cause it to charge improperly, damage or destroy the device, or worse.  To avoid these possibilities, consumers are advised to only purchase the specific Type-C cable recommended for their device, from their device manufacturer. Buying aftermarket cables can be a dangerous crapshoot.

There are also wired connectivity solutions that allow a smartphone to display content on a larger screen, such as a TV or PC monitor.  These solutions were first offered more than a decade ago, and include HDMI, MHL and DisplayPort.  However, these solutions have be largely eclipsed by wireless connectivity solutions that allow users to cast their content directly to a larger display without using fiddly wires, adapters and connectors.  Today both HDMI and DisplayPort connection penetration are in single digits of handsets sold globally, while MHL is effectively non-existent on phones sold today.

One wired connection that is slowly disappearing are 3.5MM audio ports.  These allow a wired headphone to be connected directly to a phone and allow the headphone to act as an antenna for things like FM radio.  The explosive popularity of Bluetooth headsets is the main reason that these 3.5MM ports are slowly going away in smartphones.  Fully 1/3rd of all smartphones sold globally this year will not have a 3.5MM port and the proportion will continue to steadily shrink over the next few years.

While the smartphone has largely gone wireless, there remains a place for wired connectivity.  It’s most important role remains charging, even as wireless charging gains ground.  USB Type-C is a dynamic and ever improving technology, and despite teething problems offers substantial advantages.  The smartphone charger cord may be the single most used wire that any consumer interacts with on any given day.

Clients of our Device Technologies service can access the report Global Smartphone Wired Connectivity Forecast: 2008 to 2026 here.
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