Photokina 2014 highlights

Pictures emerge of new USB standard connectors

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April 2, 2014

USB 3.1 Type C – the next generation USB cable

USB 3.1 Type C – the next generation USB cable

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Rejoice! The boffins in charge of USB standards appear to have settled on a design for the much-anticipated USB 3.1 Type C connector. For starters, there’s no “right way up” – that alone will trigger a sigh of relief from many of us. Both ends of the cable will be the same, it’ll make an audible "click" when it’s connected, it’s about the same size as a current micro-USB connector, and it can handle device charging as well as 10 Gbps data transfer rates.

The Type C is intended to eventually replace all existing connectors and scale into the future – it’s capable of carrying data rates beyond USB 3.1. Of course, in the first instance it will simply mean there’s one more type of USB cable to worry about, and most people will need to use adapters from their myriad other systems to connect older devices with. (relevant XKCD)

USB 3.1 Type C – the next generation USB port

The above renderings of the new connector are still subject to change, but they provide a pretty good picture of what to expect. The symmetrical Type C prong will measure 8.3 x 2.5 mm, visually about half the size of a standard USB port today but slightly larger than a micro USB like you find in many mobile phones. Thus, it will be slightly smaller than Apple’s Thunderbolt connectors, and it’ll handle data at about the same rate, and in case we need to say it again, there’s no such thing as wrong way up when you're plugging it in!

The first Type C devices will begin hitting the market later this year.

About the Author
Loz Blain Loz has been one of Gizmag's most versatile contributors since 2007. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he has since covered everything from medical and military technology to aeronautics, music gear and historical artefacts. Since 2010 he's branched out into photography, video and audio production, and he remains the only Gizmag contributor willing to put his name to a sex toy review. A singer by night, he's often on the road with his a cappella band Suade.   All articles by Loz Blain
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9 Comments

I don't know about other people, but the whole no “right way up” is a wonderful idea. The first time I had a chance to play with Thunderbolt it really biased me.

Even to this day I'm so glad the other work phone is a jellybean with 8 day standby, because the thought of plugging in the micro USB every night in dim light is really daunting.

Nairda
3rd April, 2014 @ 01:07 am PDT

It is the standard USB plug that is annoying. Why does it have two square holes on each side? So easy to try and put it in the wrong way up. I suggest using a marker pen as a guide on the upper face.

windykites1
3rd April, 2014 @ 03:31 am PDT

Rejoice? Sure, I will rejoice in about 5 years when all my old stuff has been upgraded and I already have 7 or 8 of the new cables. Of course, by then, the new stuff will have USB 4.2b connectors :-(

piperTom
3rd April, 2014 @ 07:13 am PDT

And with 6 days Apple will have a new diffrent Lightning 4.

Druid
3rd April, 2014 @ 08:14 am PDT

I certainly hope they are more durable than the current micro USB plugs. I seem to go through at least one cord a year for charging my phone. The retention just stops working after a while, and it no longer makes solid contact.

tyme2par4
3rd April, 2014 @ 09:31 am PDT

#INTEL, I am still waiting for your silicon photonics cable/devices.

http://www.gizmag.com/first-silicon-based-optical-data-connection/15888/

You announced this years ago that you had lab ready devices.... are you really going to let the USB standard reign supreme? Please move up your 2Q14 and 3Q14 plans as 10Gbps seems trivial when you've got 50Gbps cables also.

Cyberxbx
3rd April, 2014 @ 10:18 am PDT

Gloom. Doom. Much like the Apple "no right side up" cords, these puppies will undoubtedly be VERY expensive.

Bryan P
3rd April, 2014 @ 02:04 pm PDT

Bryan - Expensive? You mean like the ones I bought on eBay for £1 each?

I think you may have confused Lightning with Thunderbolt, which is a completely different beast.

Synchro
3rd April, 2014 @ 11:03 pm PDT

I already see a huge mistake with this. It has the same error that ALL of those smaller USB connectors have which is that it has too little length (front to back). It is not that big an issue that it is smaller in width and height, it is that front to back it is too short causing it to wobble too much in use.

Notice that the older larger rectangular connector has a pretty long front to rear proportion. The larger ones may have the problem of it being one sided but they are far more stable when connected. Even those do wobble somewhat causing eventual damage to both the plug and the socket but they are far more resistant to it than the smaller ones.

The problem of the smaller ones getting damaged more often than the larger ones OBVIOUSLY comes from this excessive wobbliness and the much faster wear of these connectors is something that many, many people have noticed and mentioned (even here in this thread some other postings mention this) but few people mention the why this happens because not that many people recognize it.

It is interesting to see this designed by engineers and yet to see how so many of them have failed completely to provide a solution to this other problem. This is what I call glorified draftmen engineering cause these are guys that are very good drawing with a 3D program but lack a whole lot of capacity of using judgement in engineering and problem solving skills.

This opportunity of redesigning the USB connector was a golden one to also correct this other problem but they failed to use it and now this is about to be released solving one issue but creating a bigger one that is already causing many people to have to buy many of these cables too often, something that they are sick and tired of.

You can see this problem even in the new Apple IPhone connectors which are very badly prone to this damage. My nieces have both IPhones and IPads with this newer connector and the cables get damaged very often because of this. You can tell easily how wobbly the connection is right there when you connect the cable. When you touch it about you can easily feel how unstable it is. Apple failed also to correct this problem in its new connector design. In the same way with the new USB connectors this other people tried to fix the one side issue but failed to address the instability issue altogether.

I am amazed how these engineers fail so badly at solving a simple problem like this. There are many possible solutions to it but to get there you have to first recognize it as a problem and then start to think on how to solve it, when you think a long those lines and put intention on doing so solutions little by little present almost by themselves.

One possible solution is just to make the connector much longer front to back as I mentioned early in the post. That alone would probably provide far more stability to the connectors. The mistake was to scale the whole thing together ignoring the fact that when you scale things down the laws of physics do not always scale the same.

This principle is well known in microprocessor scale devices such as MEMS devices but it is also known in manufacturing things like radio control airplanes and in many other things. They are not built in exactly the same way that real airplanes are not only cause they do not have to support lifeforms inside but also because at smaller scales the structural strength of materials do not scale exactly the same, it scales SIMILARLY in many things but not the same and not always.

In this case I think that is the mistake made. Notice that although the connector has been scaled down the cable remains about the same size which means that it will pull from side to side and up and down with the SAME physical force (which is pretty though in everyday use) exerted on the larger connector BUT now that same large physical force exerted on a much smaller connector and no compensation has been provided for it causing this problem in many if not all existing small USB connectors.

If you make the connector longer front to back it may help a helluva lot to compensate for this size change. Yes, I understand that it will take slightly more space inside the device case but it will not be that terribly much more space and I think that it is a necessary evil (a good compromise) in order to fix this problem affordably. If the connector is made much longer front to back it will wobble far less prolonging the life of the plug and socket much more and providing a more reliable connection through the effective life of the connector.

By the way this simple solution could be retrofitted to this design as a future revision to the specification cause in a new revision it may be possible to increase the depth of the connector plug and socket and still leave it backwards compatible with the existing shorter socket and plug connectors devices that people already have.

This issue needs to be addressed by manufacturers ASAP. It has been ignored for too long already.

David Guzman
8th April, 2014 @ 05:21 pm PDT
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