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I've been wanting to get some USB-C magnetic charging/data cables (or magnetic adapter-tips that can go on the end of a normal USB-C cable), but I hear there can be some surprisingly tricky gotchas making sure you get cables with the full power/data capabilities for anything you might want to use them for?

I'd mostly be using them for a phone in a couple different locations, and also some headphones (that can do bluetooth / wired-use-while-charging by USB-C).

Both applications that you want nice long cables for. But ideally I'd like to make sure I'm getting cables that are relatively future-proof for whatever else I might want to use them for.

So is there a good guide/cheatsheet for the different specs a cable can have, and the key terms for them?

Assuming sellers actually consistently use the key terms they should?


Also, if anyone happens to know if there are any relevant pros/cons for different styles/designs for how the magnetic connection itself works?

For example, from just an initial look, there are apparently "flat" connectors with the same two-way reversible connection as a normal USB-C, and "circular" connectors which apparently have 360-degree rotation?

And I vaguely remember hearing ages ago that the availability of magnetic connectors was kind of screwed up due to some patent-trolling, but I don't know if that's still actually relevant?

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I have not yet found an all purpose generic USB cable. There are so many variations to deal with.

  1. The power source can have different pinout and capability depending on what they are supporting from 1A to 5A+ and 3V to 20V+
  2. The device can be flexible and work with any power source or it may be rigid.
  3. The cable has to connect the right pins from USB-A (for your purpose). Most manufacturers put in the bare minimum of wires in.

I gave up on magnetic tips some years ago

  1. Absolutely everything (past and future) has to have tips, as they are hard to remove to reinsert on another device
  2. The magnet on the cable end and the tip kept attracting all this magnetic dust from everywhere.

An example of a map

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For a cable the best bet is a well know brand that has a chip in the cable connector to determine how to route the power and one that does data as well.

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Safe and compliant magnetic USB C cables currently are impossible to make.

Nathan Kolluru (aka: USBCGuy; you might have heard his name when he and Benson Leung tested quite a few early USB C cables) have measured the pogo pins in question on Twitter/X and found they are simply not capable of 12GHz 3dB required for TB3/USB4. He goes on to say on Twitter/X:

“No, because per the spec, and current technological limitations, there is no way to do a proper connector and logic board.

It might be possible some day with active electronics, and special electrooptical couplers. But I haven't seen any yet.”

The electrooptical couplers matter here because current cheap implementations expose devices to electrostatic discharge damage.

Think of it this way: if there would be a way at any cost, either Apple or Areca would have it on the market by now.

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  • My understanding is that the USB-C spec also disallows pogo pins generally, though I could be wrong on this. My understanding is that you can supply USB-PD 20V/3A DC fine over pogo pins, but there are other concerns related to the safety of said connector and the USB-PD protocol—namely with static and partial connections when using such a cable.
    – JMY1000
    Jan 8 at 5:42
  • That would be my guess as to the biggest reason why companies (e.g. Apple with their latest iteration of MagSafe) haven't gone with some variant of magnetic USB-C—not the data requirements. Apple happily shipped a USB 2.0 rated USB-C cable with their laptops as a charging cable, and it's perfectly fine. But creating a safe magnetic USB-C cable is risky and difficult, and creating one that's USB compliant is impossible—even if you forego the the physical constraints of the real world and the need to transfer any data.
    – JMY1000
    Jan 8 at 5:44

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