back to article Ankers away! USB-C cables recalled over freakin' fried phone fears

Peripherals builder Anker has issued a recall after researchers found that one of its USB-C cables could potentially cause serious damage to connected hardware. Researcher Nathan K found that the Anker PowerLine USB-C cables (model A8185011) used an improper method of identifying themselves, presenting as a device. This, in …

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Shocking

I'll get my coat.

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Pint

The Drake Equation requires another term...

The Drake Equation needs to account for such bumbling idiots destroying not the entire civilizations (Drake's "L"), but just damaging all their inter-planetary communications kit with badly design charging cables.

Let's call the new term: "Wanker".

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USB C is too bloody complicated!

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yep

I have a Lumia 950XL. Two chargers with captive USB-C, a wireless charging pad and just a single USB-C cable that came with the phone.

I have no idea which cable I should buy so I can safely charge my phone when out and about.

Crazy situation.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: yep

Then use Qi. More places are providing access for this. Might be slower but it sure looks safer.

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USB C is too bloody complicated!

i was recently phone hunting just as USB-C cwas coming in, it struck me a bit like a apple cable, you better carry your own around. I travel around a bit and being able to turn up and plug a mini USB2cable in is fine, everyone has them and the voltages are low enough your phone should be safe if it is shonky probably just wont work. Not sure I would trust a random USB-C cable handed to me

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This USB-C thing...

...I'm starting to get the feeling USB-C cables are not just cables and that actually a lot can go wrong.

Maybe the consortium wasn't so smart on that. Is it really worth it just to have them fit in either way up?

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Headmaster

Re: This USB-C thing...

I think that part of the problem (only a part) is public expectations. Quite apart from examples of incompetance amongst the producers these same producers know that the average punter will be very resistant to paying much more for a USB type C cable than they pay for your common-or-garden USB 2 cables. The fact that USB C cables have to be produced to a much higher standard and will in the nature of things cost more is not something the average member of the Great Techno-Ignorant Unwashed wants to hear.

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Re: This USB-C thing...

No, it's manufacturers trying to be smart and create differentiation between their cable and some other cable.

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Anonymous Coward

it's a design error

An electrical specification which allows multiple, software-controlled supply voltages, but does not require connected devices to tolerate the highest available voltage.

What could possibly go wrong?

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Apple control freaks

Aren't looking so bad now, after bad cables and lack of resistors killed the first gen Google Pixel laptops with USB-C, and now dodgy USB-C cables are causing further issues.

Not really defending them as it is obviously a trade of one bad thing for another, but those who pose it as "evil Apple versus freedom" have been overlooking the other side of the equation...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Apple control freaks

I am sure that there will be a Class Action Lawsuit filed against Apple (coz they have the money) when someone uses one of these cables to charge their 12in Macbook (their only device that takes USB-C on sale at the moment) and fries the Macbook. I am also sure that there are hacks just waiting to spread this (And any other bad news for the Fruity Company) around the world in a second.

After all every thing that is evil is done by Apple isn't it (apart from Windows 10 that is)?

I am not being serious guys/gals but you never know now do you?

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Re: Apple control freaks

Hopefully USB-C for power on Apple laptops won't go any further and they'll quietly drop USB-C and keep Magsafe on new models.

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Re: Apple control freaks

I'd have no problem with USB-C for power if they'd just add a damned second port, as Google and almost everybody else does. Otherwise the cabling costs are absurd as soon as you want to be able to plug in an external monitor and absolutely any other accessory, while charging. The USB-C passthrough is the first thing to go as soon as you buy anything but an absurdly-priced monitor connector and most hubs either can't pass on power or else can't pass on video.

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Re: Apple control freaks

Well the ideal would be monitors that can be either powered by or provide power to the attached devices. If you have a desktop it would be plugged in and provide power via USB-C to your monitor that would not need to be plugged into the wall. If you have a laptop it would be plugged in and draw power via USB-C from your monitor that would be plugged into the wall.

Since USB-C is pretty new and hardly anyone is using it to connect to monitors, it will probably take a few years for this to become a reality.

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Re: Apple control freaks @DougS

Apple has had their share of power supply / USB-C cable recall programs.

The differenct between Apple's control freakery vs others is that the consumers pay 5 times more.

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Stupid spec

Should never have allowed anything other than 5 volts delivered down a USB cable. Any kit requiring something else should be responsible for providing step-up/down.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Stupid spec

Layering USB *and* thunderbolt *and* displayport *and* multi-voltage power on the same connector is not actually a great idea.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Stupid spec

For a great overview of the level of complexity generated:

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/usb-31-usb-type-c-refresher,news-51106.html

"These logos and stamps can be used together, too. For example, if you see that a given port is stamped with a little "SS" before it, followed by a 10, enclosed in a battery, with a DisplayPort logo next to it, you're looking at a port capable of 10 Gb/s of data throughput with USB Power Delivery, and DisplayPort as an alternate mode."

Plus it's also possible to route thunderbolt and MHL through the same connector.

Even the cables themselves have different capabilities: 100W power, 65W power, or no power; 5Gbps or 10Gbps data; three different versions of thunderbolt.

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Pint

Re: Stupid spec

Tromos "...kit...responsible for providing step-up/down."

Yes, but...

Example: 15 volts at 2 amps is 30 watts.

Your concept, stick with 5 volts in the cable. But then 30 watts requires 6 amps. Now the thin cables and small connectors can't take the triple current.

It's impractical to reach higher power without higher voltage.

The spec, being written by dozens of smart engineers, is unlikely to be seriously wrong.

More likely that somebody at Anker, or the unknown OEM behind the brand name, screwed up.

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That's customer service...

...from a cable supplier, no less.

This is why I use Anker as my Go-To supplier of cables. They make a quality product and they stand behind it.

'Nuff said.

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Re: That's customer service...

Totally agree. Refund and a free cable (when they fix it). In this day and age that's pretty good and also refreshingly honest.

I've used anker for loads of stuff and on the couple of times I've contacted them theyve been top notch with customer service.

It's thumbs up for anker and thumbs down for USB C (for now)

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Re: That's customer service...

I ended up buying two dodgy mice in a row from Anker (the scroll wheel died after about a week on each), which was pretty annoying and doesn't say great things about their testing, but their customer service were really proactive, and hooked me up with a third mouse from a separate batch ASAP.

So yeah, another thumbs up for Anker's support staff, their products might only be 'OK', but their support is top notch.

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Re: That's customer service...

Yeah. I'm a fan of Anker. They seem to have gone that extra step from "generic cable seller" to a "brand". Sure, they have a few misses with quality, but then every company does from time to time.

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Bonkers!

Anyone who thinks that USB-C is a good idea simply does not get the plot. It has always been a recipe for disaster when the specification was first announced, If these were not tech thingys but in the electronics or power industry they would never have been certified as safe. The current ratings alone on the connectors are simply outrageous given the pitiful contact size. The more that is out there the greater the risk and it is only a matter of time before we start seeing fires and all sorts as the connectors start to wear.

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FAIL

Re: Bonkers!

This story and your comment made me go and look at USB-C specs. Apparently the ports can be sink, source or both, and the power delivery is intended to supply up to 100W, 20V @ 5A.

That seems to be a recipe for disaster. The USB-C ecosystem does appear to have some mechanisms to mitigate things going wrong but I wouldn't bank my life or my equipment on that.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bonkers!

You seem to have lost the plot. I trust USB consortium more than some retired bedroom "expert"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bonkers!

Having tested a lot of USB kit, I do not trust the USB consortium to design something that is reasonable to manufacture in a way that is safe and compliant with EU regulations.

I've also seen a lot of things coming from major manufacturers that are clearly quite dangerous in the real world - as they rely on installers and users not doing certain things that they currently do most of the time.

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Re: Bonkers!

... as they rely on installers and users not doing certain things that they currently do most of the time

And that time honoured "use only the power supply and cable supplied" in the instructions.

Elsewhere, I've suggested on a manufacturer's forum that their choice of micro-USB connector but running at 9V is "not the best idea" for a router which is a static device. But apparently it's safe, and their answer to the inevitable "it's not working" when plugged in with a different (5V only) supply will be "are you using OUR supply ?".

So what's the point of "standards" when very quickly we are departing to a "yes it's USB, but it's not the right one of dozens of different USBs" world of confusion. The moment you have to look at, and decipher, one of many tiny illegible symbols on a cable to determine if it's the "right USB-C cable/supply/whatever" is the time the people responsible for it have failed.

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Wow, corporate brainwashing at its finest, not one comment asking whether companies should be held accountable if their cables fry an expensive £600 device, a cable, btw, designed to fit that device. USB C needs to be killed, we're back at the point where you can only plug your device into the cable that comes with it and daren't connect any others just in case.

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Mustard Mitt, browsing for a new phone with all the latest goodies on it.... yet I tend to steer clear of anything with USB-C. Why? I've got dozens of MicroUSB cables in the house, cars, at work - most of which I paid decent money for decent quality (after literally getting burned by a Poundland flat cable I bought in an emergency). Really not interested in the "upgrade" if it saves the 50% chance that I have to spend one more second turning the cable over.

For phones, it offers very little else than a reversible connector. And now, chance of destruction as a bonus feature.

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Anonymous Coward

Mustard Mitt

Is that speech-to-text for "must admit"?

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My concern really is, if Anker, who are one of the better manufacturers out there, can't get this right, how many others have got this wrong?

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Boffin

Education please!

Why is the cable identifying itself as anything other than "USB-C compliant"?

Any information beyond that should be between the things connected by the cable...?

(Answer is very likely an over-engineered "cable" but it would be nice to know in what way!)

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MOH

There's an Anker watt joke in there somewhere, but I'm too lazy

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WTF?

What other names do ANKER sell under?

Given that many products come off the same production lines in China, with only a label being different, WHAT OTHER CABLES ARE DEFECTIVE?

P.S. Samsung USB C cables are crap - they use HARD PLASTIC sheathing that invariably cracks and then the internal cables break.

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