The next generation of USB devices will finally offer a reversible connector design, according to the USB Promoter Group who made the announcement in a press release on 3 December.
According to the group, which is responsible for finalising specifications for new USB standards and to assist manufacturers with product transitions, the USB 3.1 Type C standard will be a complete redesign of both the port and how power is delivered to devices.
Key characteristics of the USB Type C connector and cable solution include:
- An entirely new design tailored to work well with emerging product designs.
- New smaller size similar in size to the existing USB 2.0 Micro B connector.
- Usability enhancements – users will no longer need to be concerned with plug orientation and cable direction, making it easier to plug in.
- The Type C connector and cable will support scalable power charging.
- Scalability – the connector design will scale for future USB bus performance.
- 10Gb/s – this is the new connection speed that devices will communicate at, superseding USB 3.0 peak performance.
The new standard will bump up the voltage delivered to devices and will allow for scalable power delivery. This means that the port will only deliver as much power as is needed to devices, allowing manufacturers to build devices with lower power requirements. Because it also scales up, this means that more devices may be able to use USB ports for charging internal batteries, opening up the possibility of charging devices like cameras that have a non user-serviceable battery.
“While USB technology is well established as the favored 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 Brad Saunders, USB 3.0 Promoter Group Chairman. “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.”
“Intel is excited to see the development of the new thin Type – C connector as it will enable an entirely new super thin class of devices from phones to tablets, to 2-in-1s, to laptops to desktops and a multitude of other more specific usage devices,” said Alex Peleg, Vice President, Platform Engineering Group. “This new industry standards-based thin connector delivering data, power and video is the only connector one will need across all devices.”
There is one issue with the new standard and that is one of compatibility. The new plug will be designed so that no existing USB devices will be able to work with it. Although female USB 2.0 Micro-B connectors are rare enough on devices like laptops or desktops, this means that consumers with older devices will have to look at purchasing hub converters and possibly even new drive housings.
Although the standard is technically backwards-compatible in terms of device signalling and communication allowing manufacturers to use existing hardware designs, the connector is the only barrier to consumer adoption. You won’t have to worry about it for now, though – the standard will be peer-reviewed by manufacturers in early 2014 with the standard set for final documentation and release in 2h 2014. Devices supporting the standard as well as new cables and peripherals will only be seen towards the end of 2014.