Game Changers of Connectivity
For most computers and portable devices, USB is the leading connector type. Before USB, users had to connect devices with a specific cable to a unique port. Another cord usually supplied power. The effect was many different ports at the back of the computer. When USB arrived, it streamlined how we connect to tech. Over its 21-year history, there have been 10 different USB plug types. Of these, manufacturers still produce eight of them. Of those, four are the most common, and you’re about to get the rundown.
The USB-IF introduced this often-taken-for-granted tech in 1996. We use the Type-A plug—perhaps the most well known—almost wholly for downstream connections (that is, from a power outlet or a computer tower). We use the Type-B plug mostly for upstream ones (that is, to a device like a printer). Both appeared on the scene around the same time.
Many folks are well aware of the Mini- and Micro-B types that phone, tablet and digital-camera manufacturers use for their products. Almost all of our personal tech goods have gotten smaller over time. In that sense, they needed smaller ports to perform their sync and change functions. The Mini-B plug reduced its size. Even it has taken a back seat to the Micro-B type. All Android phones use the USB Micro-B plug, which means it is very popular given how many people use that platform.
In the spec upgrade to USB 3.0 and 3.1, the USB-IF changed up quite a few things with its plugs. Backward compatibility with older versions is largely one way. Excluding the Type-A plug, the Type-B plug added a half-square to the top of its house-like shape. The Micro-B connector added five extra pins on its side to meet the new power/data specs. For both, users can plug in a USB 2.0 plug to a USB 3.0 or 3.1 port, but not vice-versa. And both advanced specs shade the plugs blue.
The Type-C plug is the newest addition to the family. Since 2014, the connector has offered even more capability and a smaller size. We expect 2017 to be the year the plug takes a more active role in how we connect. Its simplicity is what draws us in. For one, the plug can be inserted either way. No need for 540° turns to connect anymore, a phenomenon that many of us are well aware of. Keep in mind, though — the plug is just the plug. It is not the speed or amount of data that can pass through the cable. Type-C connectors are available under the USB 2.0 spec, too.
The Bottom Line
It may be a few years before all our devices feature the USB-C port. After all, it’s hard to make a break with what’s familiar. So, even if the USB-IF decides to phase out Type-A, -B, and -micro-B plugs, it won’t be soon. Check out the Manhattan selection. Our cables meet or exceed USB standards and come with a lifetime warranty.