With the introduction of the iPhone 15 models, it has once again become clear that behind every USB-C port, electronics determine what can be done with this standard port. Apple has finally equipped all of its devices with a USB-C port. This port can be used for charging internal batteries and data transfer of photos and videos, among other things. However, the speed at which this happens varies by iPhone model; the internal electronics determine the speed at which files can be transferred.
It is very important to know what you are working with. Any connection between two devices with USB-C ports consists of three main parts. There is only one standard: the shape of the ports and what signals run across the various pins in those ports.
In the picture above, you can see very well that all the pins are cross-mirrored. No matter how you connect the small USB-C connector, the signals will always arrive correctly. Again, the underlying electronics play an important role, automatically detecting how the connector is connected.
The iPhone 15 has a maximum data transfer of USB2 (480 Mbit/sec) and you can also use the same cable to charge the iPhone. So you do not need to buy an expensive Thunderbolt cable of more than 35 Euro for your phone because you only use the black, red and purple coloured pins.
Only the iPhone 15 Pro and Max models have a fast 10 Gbit USB-C port built in that uses all pins: A1 through A12 and B1 through B12. Several tests have also shown that you can also connect SSD drives and memory cards to these models of phones to have your images written directly to these media. So you don’t necessarily have to go for the most expensive model with 1 TB of built-in memory, but always keep in mind what all you want to store on your phone. After all, full memory can make your phone more responsive.
In the video below, you can see how easy it is to connect an external SSD drive to the iPhone 15 Pro. Without the SSD drive connected, it is not possible to film on the iPhone 15 Pro in ProRes422 and Log. When the SSD drive is connected, however, this is possible. This is an easy way to expand the functionality of your iPhone and you don’t necessarily have to opt for a more expensive iPhone 15 model. It is just to be hoped that Apple will not change this in future firmware updates.
In addition to the developments surrounding the iPhone 15 models, a new USB-C standard for SSD drives has been introduced to the market: USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 with multi-lane operation. The developments around the internal SSD drives of laptop and desktop computer are not standing still. Customers want faster SSD drives and for that new types have been developed that can transport all the data in parallel through multiple channels to the memory chips and that also applies to external SSD drives.
The internal SSD drive of my MacBook Pro 16 inch can read and write data at a speed around 2500 MB/sec. A Samsung T3 SSD drive connected via a USB-C cable reaches a maximum of 450 MB/sec, the Samsung T5 SSD drives slightly exceed that at 540 MB/sec and my Samsung T7 drive can reach a maximum of 1050 MB/sec.
Recently, Samsung introduced a T9 model that uses a USB-C port with USB3.2 Gen 2×2. This drive can read and write over 2000 MB/sec with two data lanes. But, as I wrote earlier, a connection consists of three major components. These drives have a USB-C port with USB3.2 Gen 2×2, the included USB-C cable will no doubt also be USB3.2 Gen 2×2 capable. But, the port in the computer must also handle USB3.2 Gen 2×2, and that’s where the story bogs down. This is because not all ports in laptop and desktop computers support the new USB3.2 Gen 2×2 standard, and as a result, you cannot take full advantage of these drives. The speed remains stuck at that of a single lane, equivalent to 1050 MB/sec.
Apple made the choice not to go with USB3.2 Gen 2×2 but with the USB4 standard, which starts through the same port with a data rate of 20 Gbit/sec to even 40 Gbit/sec. Translated back to connected SSD drives with a USB4 port, that amounts to speeds of over 2000 MB/sec and 4000 MB/sec. Again, for the same type of connectors, we are faced with a new cables (are you still following?), the USB20 and USB40 cables.
Earlier I wrote in this blog post that Intel has introduced the new Thunderbolt 5 generation. With the same port, but with new electronics, new data transfer protocols and again a new cable: the Thunderbolt lightning with a 5 underneath. Thunderbolt 5 reaches speeds of up to 80 Gbit/sec.
Thus, Intel recently released the Thunderbolt 5 standard:
Back to the start for a moment. Do you have to start investing in all this expensive hardware and cables already? No, most devices still work with a USB-C port that can handle up to 10 GBit/sec, such as the brand new iPhone 15 Pro and Max models. Nor are the various SSD drives from Kingston and Samsung any faster. 40 Gbit speeds are nice, but not really necessary. After all, with 4K or 8K video files, you can keep working just fine with these fast SSD drives.
Only if you are going to bundle data, such as a connection between your laptop and an external hub; a data divider between your computer and various connected devices, then you need a Thunderbolt 3 or 4 Cable to transport all that data fast enough. The hub then neatly distributes that data between your monitor, the various connected USB hard drives and SSD drives. The era of Thunderbolt 5 has begun, but people still need to develop all the hardware to take advantage of these speeds. Patience can save you a lot of money and for those who want to use one cable for everything there is a choice you can make:
This is a teardown video made with the most expensive 1.8 Meters Thunderbolt cable sold by Apple. Here you can see it is not a standard cable with only a bundle of wires.