There are about 20 plug socket types being used around the world today, but only one really matters for modern devices: USB-A. And USB is truly a worldwide standard. Practically all the devices I might carry around – phone, tablet, watch, camera — can be powered directly via USB cable. My next laptop will be powered by USB. Even my Philips electric toothbrush can plug into a USB socket.
It’ll be several years until we can expect to see USB-A and USB-C sockets in the same places that we see plug sockets, which means I’ll still have to carry around charger bricks and plug adaptors when I travel abroad, but if you’ve flown on a plane or stayed in a modern(ish) hotel in the last couple of years, you’ll have spotted USB sockets.
This is a wonderful thing, the peace dividend of the smartphone wars. If I was staying in a hotel or friend’s house in practically any country, I could be sure of borrowing a charger cable or adaptor. Just think of all the waste and pointless peripherals avoided. Other dividends include the widespread usage of 4G/LTE and wifi standards, and soon enough we’ll be able to add wireless charging.
I’m curious to see if and when USB-C replaces USB-A as the socket type of choice. There’s a lot to like about USB-C in terms of reversibility (no getting the plug upside-down), increased power output, and size. But given the typical cycles of replacing infrastructure in hotels, airports, cars, planes, etc., I imagine it’ll be another decade before that really happens.