There’s a New USB Cable – And Get Used To Seeing It


By now, the USB cable, in all its many variations, has become commonplace. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single electronic device in your house that doesn’t feature at least one port. However, finding the matching cable can be a pain – and if you find yourself fumbling through a nest of cords to find the one your smartphone plugs into, you’re not alone.
Last week, Apple created headlines when it announced that its new laptop would feature only one (yes, one) USB port, which would also double as the power input. However, Apple went a step further and bet all its chips on a new standard – the USB Type C.

Wait, “Type C?”


The USB Type A – that is, the connector you find most often on laptops and computers – has been a gold standard since its inception in the late 90s. The use of USB thumb-drives only served to make this more commonplace, as they’re handy, portable, and can generally be plugged into most any computer.
The USB Type B connector is a more square-looking plug, and is generally used for larger, power-consuming devices. You probably have one of these on your printer or scanner – it’s how the printer receives both information and power.
Next came the Mini and Micro connectors; you’ll know these as the plugs that match your smartphone or smaller electronic devices. As it turned out, smartphones started becoming so thin that USB ports simply couldn’t fit. While the Mini is still in use, the Micro is more popular, especially with newer products.

om left to right: the Micro, Mini, Type-B, Type-A female, and the classic Type-A male connector.
From left to right: the Micro, Mini, Type-B, Type-A female, and the classic Type-A male connector.

So – that brings us to the USB Type C. A few of the problems it hopes to solve:

  • Size: It’s thin, and only about a third of the size of the original Type-A connector.

  • Universal: Theoretically, once it takes off, you’ll be able to use it on any new device. Plus, both ends will be the same. No more searching for the “right” end of the cord.

  • Reversible: Speaking of the “right” end, it will also be able to plug in from either orientation. No more rotating the cord or trying to figure out if it’s upside down.

  • Power: Unlike the old connectors, Type C can either send or receive power – and in much higher wattages than the old cables. You could use the same cable to charge either your laptop or your phone.

So far, the two high-profile devices using this new connector are the Google Chromebook Pixel (released in 2013) and the upcoming Apple Macbook. Both companies are also selling USB Type-A to Type-C converters for a little over $15.
How long until the new standard takes off? Here’s hoping that it’s sooner than later – we’ve got a tangled mess of cords to sort through in the meantime.