New USB plug coming: Good news, bad news

Summary:This new USB Type-C connector will "enable thinner and sleeker product designs, enhance usability and provide a growth path for performance enhancements for future versions of USB."

A new USB plug is coming and the impact is a bit of a mixed bag. The good news is that the new USB plug will be reversible so you won't have to fiddle around with it like you do today. The bad news is that the new USB won't be compatible with existing connectors.

apple lightning
The next-gen USB cable will be reversible and sounds similar to Apple's Lightning connector in some ways. Credit: Apple

Cue up the extra ports and time to phase out existing hardware.

According to the USB 3.0 Promoter Group, an organization that proposes standards and thinks about things like USB ports, work on USB 3.1 has begun. This new USB Type-C connector will "enable thinner and sleeker product designs, enhance usability and provide a growth path for performance enhancements for future versions of USB."

That phrase is a fancy way to say it will break free from existing designs. Today USB 3 and USB 2 have the same ports. The improvements will include:

  • A new design that'll be smaller---much like a micro-USB;
  • The cable will be reversible and easier to plug in;
  • Power charging will be easier;
  • And the design will scale better for performance improvements.

In many ways, the new USB design will be similar to Apple's Lightning connector.

The bad news in this break the following:

  • USB chargers are going to need adapters to continue to work with the new cable;
  • There will be a hodge podge of ports for the foreseeable future;
  • Products with this new USB won't surface until late 2014 since the spec will be open for industry review in the first quarter with a final version in the middle of the year.

Topics: Hardware

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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