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Upcoming USB Type-C connector won't have "right" and "wrong" sides

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December 6, 2013

Existing USB Cables (pictured) are officially on their way to obsolescence (Photo: Shutter...

Existing USB Cables (pictured) are officially on their way to obsolescence (Photo: Shutterstock)

Tired of trying to plug in a USB cable, only to discover that you have to flip it over? Well, it looks like that design could be going the way of the 5.25-inch floppy disk. Earlier this week, the USB 3.0 Promoter Group announced the development of the new USB Type-C connector, which will work in any plug orientation or cable direction.

Type-C is designed around existing USB 2.0 and 3.1 technologies, but will be smaller – about the size of a present-day USB 2.0 Micro-B plug. This will allow for its use with increasingly smaller and thinner devices.

The new connector and its accompanying cable will also support scalable power charging. One thing that won't be supported, however, are existing USB ports. An adapter will be required for devices still incorporating that "old" technology.

Industry review of the Type-C specification is scheduled to take place in the first quarter of 2014, with publication of a final specification expected in the middle of the year.

The USB 3.0 Promoter Group, should you be wondering, consists of Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft, Renesas Electronics and Texas Instruments.

Source: USB 3.0 Promoter Group via Dvice

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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18 Comments

How does it aline the connection so that the polarity is the same on both ends?

Slowburn
6th December, 2013 @ 08:33 pm PST

@ slowburn

It will be done with slight of hand and dark magic.

One theory speculates it will be only smoke and mirrors yet many are skeptical.

However it is done, there will be no Apple propriety involved which can only be good news for humanity.

Australian
7th December, 2013 @ 12:09 am PST

Sticking the usb in the wrong way causes more time lost than usb2 vs usb3! If your first try is wrong, you will doubt that it's wrong. Try again, reverse, and try again. Sooner or later it will go in and you will forget to mark it with a magic marker.

Type C is a huge improvement!

Threesixty
7th December, 2013 @ 01:54 am PST

This is great! It's **about time**!

mooseman
7th December, 2013 @ 12:08 pm PST

@Slowburn

Seven pins doing the work of four, maybe. It would have the additional advantage of making for a more secure connection by redundancy.

I hope the new design will also do away with the unsupported plastic tongue in the socket that is all to easy to break---and being on the socket side, causes much more grief when it breaks than it would on the plug side. I had an expensive 500GB external drive ruined this way, and could barely even rescue the data by jiggling the broken bit back in for one last connection. Not to mention several unusable sockets on various other pieces of hardware.

@Australian

If you don't even understand the question, the best way not to make oneself look like an idiot is to make lame fun of it. It totally works.

Freederick
7th December, 2013 @ 05:13 pm PST

Oh Great, so now i'm going either by adapters for all my current devices are get new connectors. I thought Apple changing was bad.

Brent274
8th December, 2013 @ 10:01 pm PST

@ Freederick

I'm so pleased the fun police arrived, I was about to have fun. Oh no, wait, I already did! And you just added to it - thank you my online friend!

I could justify myself by explaining my completely relevant qualifications to not only understand the question but to explain it. However, where is the fun in that?

Alas I must apologise, clearly I offended your sensibilities. I dare not breathe humor in the comments section because to some, it totally doesn't work.

Ah bugger it - most people not only get a joke, they like a laugh - apology revoked!

Australian
9th December, 2013 @ 03:09 am PST

Lovely but, really, could they just have done a better job of signifying which side was which? A color-code or obvious embossing on one side of the connector or the other, on the metal or the lead-in insulation would have done the trick. Let's try lo-tech before resorting to high, shall we?

Loving It All
9th December, 2013 @ 08:10 am PST

Now you're talking. In one revamp, Type C could usher in three advantages: It would...

1. Replace Type A and Type B with a single type, much as FireWire, HDMI, and Ethernet) have long done.

2. Replace three sizes of Type B-standard, mini, and micro--with one size.

3. Make "up" or "down" irrelevant, so you can more easily connect the plug without looking.

Paul Stregevsky
9th December, 2013 @ 09:05 am PST

Maybe they could go to 8 pins which would give them redundancy for all 4 connections. If this goes through, (and it probably will with the heavy hitters in the USB 3.0 Promoter Group), I would like 1% of the converter/adapter market... It will be huge.

Maverick62
9th December, 2013 @ 10:43 am PST

This is a solution in search of a problem. And by doing so, will destroy an already entrenched USB market! If you were to take a look at everything that fits into a USB socket, you would be amazed.

If this gets implemented, everybody's investment from cameras, tablets, memory sticks, external HDs, monitors, phones...you name it, it will all be obsolete. This single task will result in *BILLIONS* of dollars thrown out the window...An occurance, the likes of which were not seen since the great Apple SCSI purge! (which only affected less than 1% of the computing public)

Think about it...server farms that use UBS stick for diagnostic booting....*BOOM* gone!

Bloggers with USB Microphones...*BOOM* gone!

Ubiquitous charging.. *BOOM* gone!

All because some idiots can't figure out how to plug in a USB...so it's come down to make everybody suffer for the want of a few? Do we all now have to cowtow to the lowest common denomenator? What ever happened to people learning, doing better, making something of themselves? I mean, how hard is it to identify which side of a plug is up? A bottle of white-out to mark a dot is far cheaper than this fiasco!

Ed
9th December, 2013 @ 10:44 am PST

Apple is gonna sue.

Sue the entire world..............

Zain Hoosen
9th December, 2013 @ 03:09 pm PST

Making an invertable connector is simple. Either put contacts on both sides of the plug or both sides of the socket. Whichever way it is, invert the polarity of the pins on one side from the polarity on the other. If the connection needs to carry more power, use pins on both sides of the plug and socket.

The problem from the start with USB ports is no product usability design people were involved. (If they were, any of their ease of use suggestions got vetoed by the engineering people.)

Had they been, the Type A sockets wouldn't have bare metal edges to catch things and the sockets and plugs would be shaped to guide the plugs in easily when oriented correctly, and to make it bleedin obvious when upside down.

As designed they're difficult to insert unless aligned precisely and give no tactile feedback when attempting to insert upside down. One can spend quite a bit of time fiddling behind a computer, trying the cable both directions until it finally goes in.

Had the engineers who designed USB done some testing with the ports on the back side of a computer (or mockup case) and attempting to insert the plugs without being able to see anything - they might have altered the design.

Another big problem with USB ports is they're almost always too bleeping close together, and how so many things that plug in are fatter than the end of a USB cable.

There's a top side and a bottom side to the Type A port, so why are so many front mounted USB ports upside down? Even on the side of the CRT iMacs the ports were upside down.

It's the same kind of always testing under ideal conditions mess that resulted in the antenna gap on the original iPhone 4 being placed precisely where anyone who is right handed and *not* an iPhone engineer places their small fingertip when holding an iPhone 4. Of course the people designing the phone know things like bridging the ends of the antenna with a fingertip will short it and reduce the range - so they never did that.

Making non-engineer-proof hardware must involve testing with people who aren't engineers - and not giving the testers any instructions about how to hold the gizmo or how to plug the cord into the socket. Sit back and take notes about what causes problems due to what people who haven't been involved in the project do with it.

Gregg Eshelman
9th December, 2013 @ 09:54 pm PST

@Gregg Eshelman

Hear Hear! Well said.

Also could throw in button bristling & baffling remote controls for most TVs, DVDs DVRs etc and barely visible labels on common electrical appliances such as steam irons and rice cookers to name some.

No dumb user input in the testing lab.

Biggles
11th December, 2013 @ 01:57 am PST

wow great, this might save me about 100 x 0,5 second of my time.

How about a the time I waste of having the wrong usb cable with me?

PLEASE NOT ANOTHER USB standard. 1 standard was enough!

Joost de Nijs
11th December, 2013 @ 07:11 am PST

*All* cables should be designed like this. In addition they should have a positive click when seated properly and have integrated strain relief. It's just obvious. Anyone clinging to legacy designs must still be pining for floppy disks and PS/2 connectors. There will be adapter cables and adapters for the tradition as there are for existing USB standards.

Jon Shurtleff
12th December, 2013 @ 02:28 am PST

Ummm, the USB charger cable that came with my Galaxy phone has its cable entry offset to one side of the plug. Took me all of 1 second to work it out. With the port on the phone dead centre in the bottom of the handset it's an easy connect even in the dark.

Bill Mulger
22nd December, 2013 @ 09:47 pm PST

And next month boys & girls we'll have quad cables followed shortly by wireless cables.

noteugene
9th February, 2014 @ 07:05 pm PST
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