USB group designing slim, orientation-independent connector


— 11:30 AM on December 4, 2013

If I had a nickel for every time I plugged in USB connector the wrong way, well, I'd have a lot of nickels. I seem to get the orientation wrong well over half the time. That shouldn't be a problem with the next-gen USB connector, though. The USB 3.0 Promoter Group is working on a new physical interface that will, ahem, go both ways.

According to the USB group's press release, the upcoming Type-C connector will be similar in size to the existing Micro-B jack. However, it will trade Micro-B's hexagonal shape for something with orientation-independent symmetry. The Type-C connector won't work with current USB ports, of course, but passive adapters will bridge the gap. At least in an electrical sense, it doesn't look like the new connector will break compatibility.

The new connector will be added as a supplement to the USB 3.1 specification. The initial connector spec is slated to be ready for review in the first quarter of 2014, and the final revision is expected by the middle of next year. Interestingly, the USB 3.0 Promoter Group says the Type-C interface "will scale for future USB bus performance," suggesting the plug will support higher speeds than what's available with USB 3.1. That standard offers 10Gbps of bandwidth—double the top speed of USB 3.0.

The Gen3 USB spec has its own variant of the Micro-B connector, so it will be nice to standardize on a single mini plug. I expect we'll see a lot of the Type-C jacks on slimmer devices like smartphones, tablets, and ultraportables. Larger desktops may be slower to adopt the new connector type, but I hope they do. The convenience of an orientation-independent USB plug would be nice to have on any system, regardless of the size.

   
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