When USB Type-C first showed up in smartphones like the OnePlus 2, it was originally thought of as nothing more than a reversible cable, and another reason to go out and buy new cables. Since it has now reached mainstream devices, such as Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7, the HTC 10 and LG’s G5, the Type-C connector is becoming more common. Type-C was never envisioned as just another way to get people to buy more cables, and in fact unifies a number of different standards into one connector, cleaning things up and making it much easier to connect one device to another. During IFA 2016 in Berlin, HDMI Licensing, the firm that manages the HDMI standard, has announced the HDMI Alternate Mode which will allow a single USB Type-C to HDMI cable to be used in the near future.
To be clear, this new Alternate Mode will support the HDMI 1.4b standard, which includes 4K, 3D and the Audio Return Channel, which means that the output from a future compatible Type-C device will be able to send audio along the same cable. It will also allow for the HDMI Ethernet Channel, and Consumer Electronic Control (CEC) features, which makes it easy to, well, control things that are connected via HDMI. All of these features and standard can allow users to effectively use their smartphone as a step top box. HDMI Licensing says that this new Alternate Mode will be available to all HDMI Adopters right away. USB Type-C is a connector that already carriers VGA, DisplayPort and HDMI signals, which is why there are small adapters readily available right now, but this new mode will allow manufacturers and HDMI Adopters to produce a single cable.
It’s not often all that sexy to be talking about new features heading to as-yet unreleased cables, but if we think about it, these standard are really quite important. After all, if WiFi wasn’t standardized, those trips to Starbucks to get that screenplay finished just wouldn’t be the same for everyone. As USB Type-C starts to become more and more common, with 2017 likely to be the year the majority of big releases ship with it by default, it’s good to know that the standard will genuinely help, rather than hinder.