The magic circle of USB wizards has finally decided to wave their wands at one of the interface’s most baffling annoyances - which way round should the cable connector be when plugging it in?
News of the long overdue advance was part of larger announcement from the USB 3.0 Promoter Group that will offer a range of improvements when compared to today’s confusion of USB connectors with different charateristics.
Due perhaps as early as late 2014, the new universal USB plug will be the Type-C connector, pictures of which have not been released but which is promised to be similar in size to today’s Micro-B connector used to charge smartphones and some tablets.
However, unlike the Micro-B, the Type-C will not have an ‘up’ or ‘down’ orientation that can confound users who have to study the plug before connecting it to a USB port and will work either way. The idea is identical to Apple’s double-sided Lightning connector, introduced in 2012.
Standardising on a single connector will also banish several current USB connectors at one stroke such as Type-A, Type-B, and the more recent Micro-B. As with Apple’s Lightning, the one downside is that older interfaces designed to receive those connectors won’t be compatible with the new design, a small price to pay some users might say.
Other advantages will include the ability to charge devices at a greater range of currents than is possible today and the potential to scale reliably for increased USB throughputs.
“While USB technology is well established as the favoured choice for connecting and powering devices, we recognize the need to develop a new connector to meet evolving design trends in terms of size and usability,” said USB 3.0 Promoter Group Chairman, Brad Saunders,
“The new Type-C connector will fit well with the market’s direction and affords an opportunity to lay a foundation for future versions of USB.”
In August the USB Promoter Group comprising a range of computer firms announced USB 3.1, which will double USB 3.0 current throughput to 10Gbps.
USB’s fundamental challenge is its surprising age, which stretches back to 1996 and the advent of version 1.0. The last big speed ramp was in 2008 when USB 3.0 appeared but it has become increasingly obvious that if it is to survive it has to function well across a range of devices and not just computers.