Market Insight

USB Type-C footprint expands across market segments

December 13, 2017

Noman Akhtar Noman Akhtar Analyst, Smart Cities
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Following is information and insight from IHS Markit about USB Type-C interface technology. 

Highlights

  • USB Type-C (USB-C) is by far the most advanced wired interface technology available, helping to modernize many consumer electronic product segments.
  • Simultaneous transfer of data, video, along with fast-speed charging capabilities through a universal port, is leading the growth of USB-C connectors used in smartphones, laptops and even automobiles.
  • The number of devices having at least one USB-C port is forecast to increase at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 70 percent, growing from 300 million devices in 2016 to just under five billion devices in 2021.
  • One unique feature of the USB-C connector is its simultaneous support of USB Power Delivery, performance (data transfer) and various video and audio interfaces through Alternate-Mode (Alt-Mode) protocols.
  • The Alternate Mode includes both the wired audio-video interface and the wired-data interface. High Definition Multimedia Interface Alternate Mode (HDMI Alt-Mode) and the DisplayPort Alt-Mode are the most popular form of wired-video Alternate Modes. Whereas, the high bandwidth data or performance interface includes USB 3.0, USB 3.1, USB 3.2 and Thunderbolt Alt-Mode.
  • The top five device markets adopting USB-C connectors in 2017, in terms of unit shipments, were mobile phones, mobile PCs, flash drives, media tablets and docking stations.

Our analysis

The USB Type-C 2.5 x 8.3 millimeter connector with 24 pins is relatively larger than the conventional micro USB Type-A (2.5 millimeter x 7.5 millimeter) connector used by smartphone makers. However, the USB-C connector is double-sided and reversible. A full-featured USB-C connector not only supports a high-data transfer rate, but also enables lighter and thinner designs.

The total market, in terms of revenue attributed to USB-C connectors (including both basic and the full-featured versions), is forecast to grow at a five-year CAGR of 30 percent, reaching almost $1.2 billion in 2021. The wireless and computing (PC) segments currently driving the USB Type C adoption will continue to be the largest product segments through 2021.

The wireless segment, including mobile phones, media tablets and their accessories, is expected to remain the largest adopter of USB-C for the next five years, followed by the computing, consumer electronics and automobiles segments.

DisplayPort Alt-Mode is forecast to remain the most popular USB-C Alt-Mode interface used by device makers. The number of devices adopting DisplayPort Alt-Mode is expected to rise from 15 million units in 2016 to 1 billion units in 2021, registering a five-year CAGR of 129 percent.

While HDMI in its native form is expected to be the most popular wired interface technology used to transfer video, the HDMI Alt-Mode is not expected to make its way into the consumer electronic segment until the middle of 2018, with early adoption in digital-still cameras and video cameras.

Thunderbolt is the fastest data interface technology, with the latest version reaching up to 40 gigabits per second (Gb/s). Thunderbolt in the Alt-Mode format is expected to remain a niche market, focused mainly on the computing segment.

The use of digital-audio over USB-C connector, instead of analog-audio over a conventional 3.5 millimeter audio jack, in smartphones and laptops will allow the devices to be much slimmer and lighter. The USB Audio over USB-C market is expected to reach only 2 percent of the total addressable market considering all the four product segments.

Power Delivery seemed to have initially faced challenges, but it is expected to outdo DisplayPort Alt-Mode in 2021, with a five-year CAGR of 128 percent.

The current hindrance affecting the growth of USB-C adoption is the additional cost of semiconductor content, compared to an interface integrated circuit (IC) needed for a traditional USB Type-A or USB Type-B port. The global market for semiconductor ICs used in the USB-C solution is forecast to expand at a CAGR of 107 percent in next five years, reaching $3 billion and providing significant growth opportunities for semiconductor manufacturers.

Consumer Electronics Intelligence Service

The IHS Markit Consumer Electronics Intelligence Service provides dynamic coverage of the global consumer electronics industry, offering up-to-date market data, forecasts and insights for home entertainment devices (e.g., games consoles, set-top boxes and TVs), mobile devices (e.g., smartphones and tablets), gaming devices, home appliances (e.g., air conditioners and washing machines).

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