Explaining the relationship between Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C
Read on for a much needed sorting out of the marriage of Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C port. This new port should allow for the fastest possible connections while supporting both Thunderbolt and USB!

Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C: How do they relate?

Just when you thought that Thunderbolt 2 was the latest and greatest, here comes Thunderbolt 3, happily married to the USB-C port!

Provideo Coalition blog by Allan Tepper At NAB in April 2015 I was told —off the record— that the next generation of Thunderbolt (after Thunderbolt 2) would be yet one more signal that would become available over the new USB-C port in future devices. The new USB-C port was previously released in several devices earlier in 2015 from several manufacturers (without any mention of Thunderbolt 3), including the new 12" MacBook (without any suffix) from Apple, all 2015 Android Nexus phones from Google, and the 2015 version of the Chromebook Pixel from Google. At the beginning of November at the Hewlett Packard media event in New York, I actually got to see the first products to include this marriage, in the form of Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C, so I am delighted to share this information with you now. Ahead I’ll review what that means, together with backward compatibility with prior Thunderbolt versions, and what the has in common with the Lightning port.

In this article:

In this article, you'll see:
  • Executive summary about Thunderbolt 1 and 2
  • Executive summary about the Lightning port
  • Executive summary about USB-C
  • USB-C on iPhone?
  • The recent marriage of Thunderbolt 3 with USB-C
  • Backward compatibility: Thunderbolt 3 to prior Thunderbolt devices
  • HP ZBook Dock with Thunderbolt 3

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Executive summary about USB-C

USB C USB Type-C is a specification for a reversible-plug connector for USB devices and USB cabling. USB-C shares the reversibility feature with the Lightning port covered above, meaning that it can be inserted with either side facing up. USB-C was published by the USB Implementers Forum. As stated in the opening paragraph of this article, the USB-C port was previously released in several devices earlier in 2015 from several manufacturers (without any mention of Thunderbolt 3), including the new 12" MacBook (without any suffix) from Apple, all 2015 Android Nexus phones from Google, and the 2015 version of the Chromebook Pixel from Google.

USB-C on iPhone?

Considering that USB-C is used on the new 12" Macbook (without any suffix), many people predicted that the 2015-released iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus would use USB-C instead of Lightning, but that prediction did not materialize. It could certainly materialize in 2016 with the expected announcement of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, which are extrapolated model numbers of yet unannounced products.

The recent marriage of Thunderbolt 3 with USB-C

As indicated in the introductory paragraph in this article, at NAB 2015 I was told —off the record— that the next generation of Thunderbolt (after Thunderbolt 2) would be yet one more signal that would become available over the new USB-C port in future devices. The new USB-C port was previously released in several devices earlier in 2015 from several manufacturers (without mention of Thunderbolt 3), including the new 12" MacBook (without any suffix) from Apple, all 2015 Android Nexus phones from Google, and the 2015 version of the Chromebook Pixel from Google. At the beginning of November at the Hewlett Packard media event in New York, I actually got to see the first products to debut this marriage, in the form of Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C, so I am delighted to share this information with you now...[Go to the full article]
ThunderboltUsb-cVideo storage

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