Which type of USB connector to choose?

Latest modification: 12 September 2018

Evolution of the USB connector. Can the type-C™ standard have a chance to monopolize the market?

We take on the topic of various USB connectors. Type-C USB may not generate so many emotions as some time ago, but we decided to go back to the topic and list all the USB connector options, customer may need.

The consumer electronics industry has been announcing the end of old USB connectors for a long time, which was about to result in scraping various types of connectors and cables and replacing them all with a new standard – the type-C ™ connector. The idea was to unify the functionality of its predecessors, add new functions and eliminate the existing problem with matching the appropriate connector and port in the devices we use on a daily basis. Why everyone are talking about the type-C and how it can disrupt the consumer electronics industry?

The history of USB connector

If we’re about to predict the future, let’s come back to the past, specifically the beginning of the USB standard which was officially introduced 20 years ago. Its main role was to transfer data between the computer and the peripheral devices. Technological progress and the related evolution of computer hardware and other electronic devices have made the USB interface to come a long way in changing its structure, appearance and even its functionality, since USB has become the main way to power mobile devices. The popularity of the USB interface made it necessary to adapt this technology to newer and more demanding requirements, coming from newer generations of computer systems, the tendency to use smaller and smaller devices, and finally the need to adjust the standard to the specifics of mobile devices. These changes required constant improvement of the USB properties, providing more charging power, increased data transfer speed, and modifying the appearance of the USB connector and port itself. Speaking of USB, it is necessary to distinguish two notions: USB standard and USB connector type. Both topics require time and we have already discussed the USB standards HERE, so we will not repeat ourselves and focus on the title, i.e. the types of connectors.

USB type simply means the physical appearance of the connector and the port and thus the application in certain devices. Anyone who has at least a few different electronic devices like smartphone, tablet or a camera at, knows how big of a problem it is to find a correct USB cable for a selected device the first time.

Evolution of USB types

USB Type-C™ connector is the latest type of USB connector, which is designed to eliminate the problem of tangled cables, dedicated to various devices, and thus improve the comfort of using consumer electronics. However, before this standard was brought to life, USB was characterized by many different connectors and ports, with the type A connector still being the most popular one – flat, rectangular and most commonly found on the back of PC, older laptops and power banks. The type A connector, however, is not suitable for computer peripherals such as printers, digital cameras or external hard drives. For this purpose, the type B connector – a smaller, square, with diagonal cuts on the upper part – was used. Type A and B connectors and plugs have their equivalents in mini and micro versions. Micro equivalents have been introduced to allow the use of the USB interface in mobile devices which do not have sufficient space in the housing to use a type A or type B USB port. This number of ports and connectors has been causing many problems for many years with which impatient users struggle every day. Increasing unification and the need to gather different functionalities in one device, e.g. camera, watch and navigation within one smartphone, resulted in a revolutionary change also in the USB standard, which is the introduction of the USB Type-C

Striving for symmetry

The most important feature of the USB type-C is its universal, symmetrical shape, allowing to plug the connector any which way. Its small size, similar to type B microUB, makes it possible to use the connector on all devices: from mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets, cameras and even VR glasses, to all modern peripherals that can be connected to PC. This connector is dedicated to operate in the fastest USB 3.1 standard, at up to 10 Gbps, which allows maximum data transfer up to 950 MB/s. However, this speed will be reduced accordingly if several different devices are connected at the same time. An additional benefit is the support for the Thunderbolt 3 and DisplayPort protocol, which give the USB type C ™ the ability to increase the bandwidth to 40 Gbps, stream 4K videos and better, and supply devices with 100W power.

C™ adaptation

Despite the great expectations associated with the introduction of this type of connector, we need to remember that unification requires a lot of time and is not an easy process. Laptop and smartphone manufacturers are among the early adopters of Type-C ports in their products. However, there are still many computers on the market that support only the legacy connector types, requiring manufacturers of mass storage to create products that meet the requirements of all types of connectors and ports. An example of such a product is our ODD3 USB Flash Drive, which is based on the USB 3.0 interface with two connectors – Type A and Type-C. This product allows to transfer data between computers and laptops with a classic USB connector, and the latest ultrabooks, smartphones and tablets with a USB-Type C connector. It is perfect for transferring and migrating the data between legacy and new devices.