New USB plug coming: Good news, bad news

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."

TOPICS: Hardware

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.

Topic: Hardware

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Wouldn't it be nice...

    ...if both *ENDS* were reversible, too?
    • ...if both ends were... would be legal in many states now!
      • Cheap Shots

        "Ron Paul 2012" !!!
  • More small plugs?

    I can't plug my phone in to charge it, to use the magnifying glass app, to see which micro plug goes in which micro hole, to plug my phone in, to charge it....

    At least it will be reversible, no more kaput micro USB sockets from trying to insert the plug the wrong way. That is until I try shoving 3.1 into the micro USB, because I couldn't see it, because my phone needs charging, to use the magnifying glass app...

    Ahh, those golden years of RCA plugs...
    • Don't forget a mirror

      If you are using a magnifying glass app, on a phone, to look at the phone, you need a mirror too. Don't forget - things get reversed in mirrors.
    • Sounds like you should see an eye doctor

      Get a pair of glasses and stop using a phone as a magnifying glass...
    • Charging with wires...

      Forget which way the wire gets plugged in, my Nokia Lumia 920 supports wireless charging. All I have to do is to place the phone on the charging plate and the phone charges. The wire is only used for changing the music actually on the phone as MS won't allow that to be done over bluetooth or wi-fi currently.
  • Plug

    If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
    • It is broke

      I have seen several devices killed because someone forced the connector in backward. Also the micro-USB is not scoopless. In other words you can you one to scoop the insides of the mate out. I have seen devices killed this way just as much as being forced backward
      • But you can't fix stupid.

        If the people "You've seen" force it...of course its broken.

        Maybe the real problem is the person jamming the square peg in a round hole?

        Copying Apple is NOT a good idea IMO.

        For some reason, many people still seem to think Apple is the benchmark.

        I do not Apple continues to move towards a market of restricted and limited options.

        I vote no and will NOT follow.

        I build all my own systems and will choose what best fits my needs.

        ~Best wishes on your choices.
        • Agreed...

          Didn't we learn, before we could even read in some cases, which block fits in which hole? Technology has moved away from the Elite, into a more mainstream society, which is where the problems have come from. I find it sad our society still struggles with the peg/hole scenario.

          I'ts hard to believe we can have an even smaller and sleeker connector than micro USB. Maybe we can get to a point where it's connectionless. How sleek a product line do you think that would spawn?
        • Indeed you can't fix stupid

          But you can fix a concept that have been proven to be broken. Like the one way USB port and plug combination. Apple with the Lightning connector proved that an connector can be reversible and work with syncing and charging. And I hate to tell you but Apple in many ways IS the benchmark... and a bit of a pioneer. It's not up to a vote or a preference BTW - and if you chose not to follow you'll get left behind.
          • "Reversible" connectors are nothing new

            And all Apple did was design one for their products.

            The real issue in the past with "reversible connectors" is the cost of the cable, and the devices at either end - more material was needed, and more precise engineering of the jacks they plug into. It also didn't help that they were custom.
          • Ya, slow down a bit there chum.

            Here we go again! Wow!

            Since when is the idea of a reversible plug Apples idea? Sure as hell isn't their invention.

            Its just a little weird how some people automatically claim Apple is the benchmark and pioneer of many things that they are not.

            Consider where Apple has made a huge portion of their money, particularly in the last decade.

            Now consider the following:

            Apple didn't invent the mp3 player

            Apple didn't invent touch screen

            Apple didn't invent the cell phone

            Apple didn't invent the smartphone

            Now I'm certainly not saying that Apple isn't a very creative company, they are. And they are probably some of the best marketers in the world. Im not saying they make bad products, in fact they make very good products and Ive owned more than one myself.

            But all this idea of making Apple sound like some kind of leader, its not exactly true. They are the leader in profitability and product marketing and perhaps customer retention and indoctrination.

            But making hordes of money and brainwashing your customers isn't exactly what most people are screaming about when they are wanting you to believe what a great innovator and leader of industry Apple is. But those people have to be forgiven for their outbursts. Its the brainwashing that does it.
        • You'll follow

          and you'll like it. If not you'll fall behind. Don't get emotional about technology, just because people are saying it's similar to apple doesn't mean it actually is. And even if it was a copy, you're making decisions like a child. I don't like apple so I'm not going to use it if they copy them. Grow up.
          new gawker
          • Yes, you got one thing right....

            "You'll follow and you'll like it. If not you'll fall behind. Don't get emotional about technology"

            Now those are good words. The bottom line is, like it or not, by anyone, its the truth.

            Its just outstanding how few people recognize that fact, or at least refuse to recognize it.

            And it applies to every major bit of tech that comes along, like it or not. So next time some moron starts squealing away about how awful Windows 8 is, just repeat the afore mentioned words of wisdom, because the truth dosnt change just because your talking about one product and not another. Once those who decide what the standard is do decide, its done. Get used to it and move on.
    • That's the problem; it IS broke

      How many different--often proprietary--USB connectors are you using now? Between my many different USB devices, I have almost as many different connectors from MicroUSB 4-pin and 6-pin (obviously wider), two different roughly square-shaped and even 4-pin/6-pin USB A connectors which work fine for charging but for some reason forget to transfer data if you plug it in wrong-end-round. The same connector at both ends would be very, VERY helpful!
      • Proprietary USB

        NONE, I make certain not to buy the non standard plugs. I won't buy the new ones either if I Unless there is a mass migration and I am forced to.
        • Sometimes you don't have a choice

          I have a dive computer that connects to a computer by USB. If it used a standard plug it would not be waterproof under depth, so it has a special connector. Which they charge through the roof for, of course, so I keep good tabs on where mine is.
          Michael Kelly
        • So what you are saying

          Is you won't try anything new unless some large standards body tells you must and takes away your choices. Well that's nice....