The universal USB connector we’ve been waiting for is almost here

August 12, 2014
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usb 3.1 type-c

The group overseeing the development of USB standards released the technical specifications for the USB 3.1 Type-C connector, which will eventually replace the various types of USB connectors on the market.

The first details about USB Type-C were released in December 2013, while in April, we saw the first render of the new connector. Back then, the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) promised that the standard would be finalized by the middle of the year. Now the documentation seems to be finalized (or very close to finalization) and is available for download here.

usb 3 1 reversible cable

One connector to rule them all

As soon as the standard is complete, manufacturers throughout the electronics industry will be able to use the new connector for their designs, and eventually abandon the many variations of Type-A and Type-B connectors currently available.

Update: it’s official. Key characteristics, as per the press release:

  • Entirely new design 
  • Tailored for emerging product designs 
  • Robust enough for laptops and tablets; slim enough for mobile phones 
  • Similar to size of USB 2.0 Micro-B 
  • Usability enhancements 
  • Reversible plug orientation and cable direction 
  • Supports scalable power charging 
  • Future scalability 
  • Designed to support future USB performance needs 
  • Mechanical specs: 
  • Receptacle opening: ~8.4mm x ~2.6mm 
  • Durability: 10,000 cycles 
  • Improved EMI- and RFI-mitigation features 
  • Power delivery capacity: 3A for standard cables and 5A for connectors
usb 3 1 port

Smaller sizes will allow for even thinner ultrabooks

The move to USB 3.1 Type-C will bring multiple benefits to users – first off, Type-C connectors are universal, meaning that they will replace the larger Type-A USB plugs we all know from our computers, but also the microUSB and miniUSB Type-B variations at the other end of the cable. USB 3.1 Type-C cables will feature the same type of plug at both ends and they will be reversible, so they will fit in regardless of the way you plug them. Once the standard becomes widely used, one cable will work with countless devices, from laptops, to smartphones, to cameras, to hard-disks, to printers.

Type-C connectors are the same size as the standard Type-B microUSB connector used on most Android smartphones. The small size will allow for slimmer  designs on devices like laptops. And because Type-C cables can deliver up to 100W, they could even be used for powering laptops and other devices.

The big caveat with Type-C is that it’s not backwards-compatible, meaning that you will need adapters to use Type-C connectors with current devices.

Now that the standard is finalized, the ball is in the manufacturers’ court. Surely, it will be years until the current Type-A and Type-B variants are phased out. But the good news is we’ll finally get the universal, powerful connectors we’ve been waiting for.

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