Finally, A USB Plug That Can Go Both Ways
December 5, 2013

Finally, A USB Plug That Can Go Both Ways

Bryan P. Carpender for - Your Universe Online

There’s big news for technophiles and gadget junkies: a new USB is on its way and – wait for it – it’s going to be reversible! Finally, no more flipping USB thumb drives and cables over while trying to plug them in, as you inevitably try to insert them upside down.

Development has begun on the USB Type-C, the next generation of the USB connector with a design that will enhance usability and enable thinner and sleeker product designs.

“The new Type-C connector furthers USB's lead in addressing customer desire for more flexibility and higher performance,” Roland Sperlich, TI Consumer and Computing Interface Product Line Manager, said in a statement. “This allows USB to increase performance and continue to deliver ease of use to several evolving product categories for years to come.”

The fact that this new plug will be reversible means that there will be no “wrong” way to plug it in, which is good news for techies frustrated by failed attempts to plug connectors into USB ports. That means no more wrestling with plug orientation and cable direction, making for a more seamless user experience.

Sharing similarities with Apple’s Lightning connector, the Type-C will be smaller and thinner and have a design tailored to meet the needs of emerging product designs and innovations.

Also, the Type-C’s design will allow scalable support for power charging and data transfer.

“While USB technology is well established as the favored choice for connecting and powering devices, we recognize the need to develop a new connector to meet evolving design trends in terms of size and usability,” said Brad Saunders, USB 3.0 Promoter Group Chairman. “The new Type-C connector will fit well with the market’s direction and affords an opportunity to lay a foundation for future versions of USB.”

There is one drawback. Being so future-focused means having to draw a proverbial line in the sand in order to innovate. That means the Type-C won’t be automatically compatible with connectors and cables currently in use.

However, don’t start bundling up your assorted cables for a trip to the electronics-recycling bin just yet. The Type-C will include a design specification for new-to-existing adapters and cables, allowing consumers to continue using their existing products.

A similar transition occurred when Apple rolled out its new Lightning connector. Some adapters were necessary to convert from 30-pin to Lightning. Sometimes, change and evolution involves a little pain, but the end result is worth it.

The timeline for the Type-C has industry review scheduled for the first quarter of 2014. If that goes off without a hitch, the final design specification should be finalized in summer 2014. This means that it wouldn’t make its debut in new devices until 2015, with integration into new devices to follow from there as the technology is adopted by manufacturers.

The tech industry seems ready for a uniform solution.

Intel is excited to see the development of the new thin Type-C connector as it will enable an entirely new super thin class of devices from phones to tablets, to 2-in-1s, to laptops to desktops and a multitude of other more specific usage devices,” said Alex Peleg, Vice President, Platform Engineering Group. “This new industry standards-based thin connector delivering data, power and video is the only connector one will need across all devices.”

The aim is to eventually make the Type-C the uniform connector you’ll need across all devices, but we have got at least a full year to make peace with the need for adapters and prepare for the transition.

In the meantime, we can imagine a sleeker, smaller world free of multiple assorted cables cluttering up our desks, countertops and devices as we await the one USB to connect them all.