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

August 12, 2014

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.

Comments

  • abazigal

    So you are completely leaving its adoption entirely up to the hardware manufacturers, who have no financial incentive to adopt this new standard? I can’t see this going well, unless the move is mandated by law or something. To put things in perspective, I think it would likely take a vertically integrated OEM like Apple to rapidly migrate everyone over to a new standard and make sure that they stick to it.

    • Jonathan

      The European Union has already made a law that means all phones must be able to be charged by USB. I’m sure they will soon make manufacturers use this new standard on all phones.

      • abazigal

        Ooh…bummer for Apple then. Any word on how Apple is being affected by said ruling? I can’t see Apple changing their lightning cables to comply with this ruling, however onerous the penalties may be.

        • http://geekinkuwait.blogspot.com/ Abhishek Kumar

          Apple provides a Lightning to MicroUSB adapter in EU.

  • David Alexander Harrison

    Shouldn’t they concentrate on fixing the *MASSIVE* firmware-level vulnerability recently discovered in USB before worrying about a better plug?

    • Nathan Powell

      That has to do with the chips and software the plug uses the foundation only regulates the hardware really

    • t1oracle

      There is no massive firmware-level vulnerability. All you have to do is cut the data line for the firmware EEPROM. Most USB devices will have already done this.

  • AndroidBrian

    I hope they plug in no matter what side is facing up and down.

    • Nathan Powell

      Did you not read the article?

      • Nathan Borup

        ??

      • sluflyer06

        Your comment makes no sense. Brians comment however makes total sense.

        • http://geekinkuwait.blogspot.com/ Abhishek Kumar

          His comment does make sense. The original OP edited his comment.

          • AndroidBrian

            Don’t lie Kumar…

      • Jean Cédric Huet

        Did you?

      • AndroidBrian

        No. I don’t know how to readed.

    • Elliot Derhay

      You want it put on your current phone?

      • AndroidBrian

        I would actually. But I’ll settle for my future phone.

    • http://geekinkuwait.blogspot.com/ Abhishek Kumar

      Have the courtesy to mention it is an edit.

      • AndroidBrian

        Edit? What are you talking about? Weird

        • http://geekinkuwait.blogspot.com/ Abhishek Kumar

          You are calling me a weirdo just because I tell the truth? Mistakes happen by everyone so you can just admit it instead of making false accusations against me and Nathan.

          • AndroidBrian

            I didn’t call you a weirdo. Accusations? What am I accusing you of?

          • AndroidBrian

            Lol. I’m just messing w/ u Kumar.

  • http://galaxynote3tips.blogspot.com/ Martens Nkem

    Like seriously guys, it’s not that hard to plug in the normal USB cable that we have now…But all the same this is welcomed

    • abazigal

      Doesn’t mean it can’t be made even easier.

    • Rennat

      Yes it isn’t that hard but working at BestBuy I see so many 1+ year old phones that have broken usb ports. If you aren’t familiar with what I am talking about it is when you have to jiggle the connections around, and then hold it right where it’s at for any power or data to be transferred to/from your device. There is an obvious design flaw with microUSB Type B connections. Hoping they fix this in the newer USB 3.1 type C connectors.

      • http://galaxynote3tips.blogspot.com/ Martens Nkem

        That sounds more like a problem with the usb cable rather than the port. it basically happens with just about any connector cable. Wear and tear from use is bound to happen. I have to replace the cable of my 2 month old ipod nano with the lightening connector. so i don’t think this redesign would make it any better. As for the usb ports breaking unless it comes off i guess the cable should be the suspect here.

        • mike

          I agree, people complain about broken ports, but I find it’s usually a cable issue. My GNEX is 2.5 years old and I find it difficult to charge… with certain cables. I have to get it charging then ever so carefully put the phone down without moving the cable too much. The connector pins no longer protrude from the cable plug part, making it tricky to get just the right connection with the port on the phone. When I try a new cable my phone charges like I just bought it.
          I AM looking forward to these new 3.1 connectors though.

    • sluflyer06

      Its not hard but its also annoying to orient correctly due to how small microusb is.

      • http://galaxynote3tips.blogspot.com/ Martens Nkem

        it’s kinda hard but i have finally figured it out..Just follow these simple steps

        1. Pick up the microUSB cable
        2. Look at the phone microUSB port
        3. Align the microUSB cable correctly
        4. Now plug it in
        5. And put your phone down to charge
        Holding your phone while it is charging is one of the ways of breaking it
        if the cable doesn’t charge the phone or it doesn’t charge until you hold it in a certain way, replace the cable

        • sluflyer06

          Now do that in pitch black room without scratching or marring the chassis around the port over time ;). There is simply no logical argument against a non directional USB standard with the same jack on both ends.

          • http://galaxynote3tips.blogspot.com/ Martens Nkem

            making your phone’s backlight come on would help
            OR
            learn the blind tip
            1. feel for the port with your finger tip
            2. feel for the protruding pins at the back of the microUSB cable so you know which side is up or down
            3. move the microUSB close to your finger tip placed at where the port is
            4. now you have succeeded in plugging in your microUSB cable into your phone

            And please please guys stop ebing in a hurry and forceful with this simple task

            and this notion that have am applesque cable would make everything alright is really misguided.

          • sluflyer06

            Or outsmart the entire situation and never charge via USB :). My Nexus 5 and 7 have only ever been charged via wireless.

          • AndroidBrian

            I don’t like charging my device wirelessly. I usually need to use my phone when I’m charging. Using ur phone while its charging on its charging pad is uncomfortable.

          • Serge Cebrian

            using the phone while connected via cable is the best way to break the cable…
            ask all the iphone 5 /5s users…. their crappy reversible cables just die ..

            well at least the nexus 5 cable is stronger …
            what i hope is that at least this usb 3.1 standard comes with a stronger cable …

        • AndroidBrian

          Nobody is saying its so difficult we need a step by step tutorial. It’s just annoying. Its kind of weird your defending it so much.

    • AndroidBrian

      You obviously don’t own a Sony Xperia tablet.

      • http://galaxynote3tips.blogspot.com/ Martens Nkem

        sorry, but come on taking off the cover isn’t that hard

        • AndroidBrian

          Huh? I implied plugging in the micro USB was annoying. Not finding it, or uncovering it.. Blike I said. Obviously you don’t own a Xperia zTablet

    • GJV

      It’s not hard, but it’s a pain in the rear in the dark, or when you can’t actually look down at your phone. This is a long overdue improvement.

  • Nathan Powell

    “one cable will work with countless devices”… Except Apple products

    • DDT

      Apple and their consumers got their own reversible cable two years ago, why they should care about what is happening outside ?

      • http://geekinkuwait.blogspot.com/ Abhishek Kumar

        reversible and proprietary*

      • mjolnirxz

        that only works with a grand total of…3 models of electronics. While USB will be used with everything else. Unless apple consumers dont have a need for anything other than their ipad iphone and ipod. too bad their macs and macbooks dont use the lightning connector either…

        • Chris

          And it’s not even practical to use the same cable for iPhone and iPad because of amp restrictions…

          • DDT

            What the heck you android guys are talking about ?

          • shantanu

            You need not worry…..and also you won’t understand…You be happy with your apple products….!

          • Brad B

            USB has nothing to do with Android. They are talking about Apple not being compatible with USB. Android is an operating system and I can run Android on my toaster.

          • Ruari Bush

            I’m not sure the iot has reached as far as toasters yet. Give it a few years

        • DDT

          You meant a grand total of 3 most popular pieces of electronics on the planet ?

          • http://skyledavis.blogspot.com/ S. Kyle Davis

            None of this matters. Apple will release a 3.1 to Lightning connector, and all will be right in the world. This about convenience for things other than just iPads and iPhones. This is about convenience of peripherals, USB sticks, etc., etc. Macs will get a 3.1 connector as well. Enough Apple-bating, people.

          • Lindle

            Apple will just benefit from this being able to sell more overpriced cables

          • michael centeno

            shittiest pieces on the planet. troll

    • nilbud

      The EU has passed a law that there should only be one charging standard and it will be USB 3.1 so if apple want to sell their products in the EU they will have to adopt it.

      • thereasoner

        Apple already produces a USB adapter for their devices that conforms to EU laws, they’ll just do the same for the new standard.

        • nilbud

          No.

  • John-Phillip Saayman

    So not even my USB 3 is that useful anymore. Well probably when I get my next phone we might be getting this.

  • YuuriAyano

    I hope 2015 Android phones would make use of this new standard!

  • M3D1T8R

    About time. The then new lightning connector on the Iphone 5 was the _one_ thing I like about it when I played around with one when it was released. Of course it’s proprietary, typical Apple, but the design was nice and it plugged in and unplugged easily and smooth. Unlike a lot of micro USB Devices, which as has been mentioned, tend to have the connectors break. (Has happened to 2 of my old phones). Can’t wait too see this on new phones.

  • bakakun028

    I’ve always wanted a universal universal service bus connector

  • s2weden2000

    That’s right!

  • crutchcorn

    It’s nice to see improvements to USB

  • Brad B

    Yet, even though it is reversible I will still find the 5th dimension where the up and down never works but the third spin goes in.

  • Joemance

    I have to say that I’m not 100% in love with the fact that they stuck with the design of having a little tab inside of the device’s port. While I’ve never broken/bent the tab inside any of my devices, I know people who have, and have rendered their device useless. I think especially with a device such as a phone, which is being plugged in while people are half-asleep in the dark, that a more resilient option could have been reached. If the tab on a lightning cable breaks, and you can manage to get it out, then you’ve got a phone that should still work. If the same were to happen with the tab in a class C device, then the phone would be rendered useless. I’d rather buy a new cable than a new phone, and I hope I’m wrong in my assessment of its fragility.

  • http://galaxynote3tips.blogspot.com/ Martens Nkem

    I just had a good look at this and from what i can see, this solution is no where as good as the Apple lightening connector. With that pin tab still in it, it could and would still get broken some time. Apple’s idea of totally removing the pin tab is the right way to go

  • Android Developer

    Which type is the one that Galaxy Note 3 uses?

    • http://galaxynote3tips.blogspot.com/ Martens Nkem

      it uses a combo port, which has a microUSB 2 port and a microUSB 3 port . it’s the type USB 3.1 micro B

      • Android Developer

        So the new standard is compatible with this one or not?
        Also, is it possible to use the new standard’s cables with other micro-usb devices ?
        They said that compatibility is the only weakness , so this seems to ruin everything… just like the iphone 5 vs all the previous models…

        • http://galaxynote3tips.blogspot.com/ Martens Nkem

          it’s basically the same thing with the new iphone connector..u need to buy a new phone plus cable or a new adapter/connector

  • Da Fuq

    The title reads “universal Universal Serial Bus” :D

  • arcwindz

    Nice! I’ll wait for this to be implemented on phones before changing my current one

  • Duncan_J

    I like the idea, but you know its going to be a pain during the (most likely next decade) transition phase. Adapters here we come. I’m glad I didn;t update my case with my last PC upgrade. Now I can wait (5 years?) to be able to get one.

    Bring it on I’m ready to buy all the things.

  • nilbud

    I think if they made the cables straight instead of curved like that it would be better.

  • jjredfish

    Sigh. Another poor copy of something Apple did better years before…

    • Lindle

      Except that this will be far more widespread being used in everything. Think of it like the mobile OS. iOS might have been better AT FIRST but fact that anyone can make an Android phone made it’s adoption far far wider.

      • jjredfish

        iOS is still better, overall. But yes, you are right that this connector will be used in far more gadgets by people/companies who accept the free/commodity/lowest common denominator solutions (like Android) instead of making something of their own (like their own non-fragmented operating system, fine-tunned for their particular hardware and vice-versa) that is better/different. People talk about Apple not being “innovative”, but they are far less likely to use the same old off-the-shelf stuff that is being used by everyone else.

        The design of this connector is worse than Lightning because it has that tab in the middle making it more complex and likely to break.

  • Otaku Faisal

    it just look a like thunderbolt