Amazon cracks down on bad USB-C cables that can kill your gadgets

Amazon makes buying USB-C cables safer. Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Android

Amazon makes buying USB-C cables safer. Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Android

Amazon has started cracking down on crappy USB-C cables that could damage your smart devices.

The retail giant now prohibits cables that do not comply with standard specifications laid out by USB Implementers Forum Inc. 

USB-C is great; like Apple’s Lightning standard, it’s completely reversible, and it can be significantly faster than its predecessors when based on the USB 3.1 specification. It can also deliver enough power to charge not only handheld gadgets like phones, but also notebooks.

But right now, USB-C comes with one dangerous downside.

All USB-C cables should feature a 56k ohm resistor that enables them to safely deliver power at the correct level to different kinds of devices. This prevents smaller devices from pulling more power than they can handle and frying their internals.

Unfortunately, many of the cheaper cables you’ll find on Amazon and through other retailers feature 10k ohm resistors instead, and those can’t regulate power for smaller devices safely. Some are also wired incorrectly, which makes them even more dangerous.

When Android makers started using the USB-C standard, Google engineer Benson Leung began testing all of the USB-C cables he could find on Amazon to see which ones were safe and compliant with the USB-C standard, and which ones weren’t.

A worrying number of them fell into the second category, which made them unsuitable for most smartphone and tablet users. Even the USB-C cable that ships with the OnePlus 2 was found to be dangerous, though OnePlus insists it’s safe to use with its own device.

Now Amazon is making Leung’s job easier — and protecting the rest of us in the process.

The company has started banning all USB-C cables that do not comply with the standard specifications, which should mean that all the cables you buy from Amazon in the future are completely safe to use with all USB-C devices.

“What does this mean? It means that cable manufacturers who sell poorly made or intentionally deceptive USB TypeC cables and adapters are banned from Amazon, officially,” Leung explained in a post on Google+.

“It’s really great news, but we all have to continue to be vigilant and call out any bad products we find on Amazon and other stores (both online and brick and mortar) as we find them.”

If you’ve already bought cheap USB-C cables on Amazon, you might want to check Leung’s list to see if they’re compliant and safe.