Next gen reversible USB system released

Next gen reversible USB system released

Summary: The USB 3.0 Promoter Group has announced the release of its next generation USB Type-C specification, delivering a reversible cable and connector system to the market almost two years after Apple did the same with its proprietary Lightning cable.

TOPICS: Emerging Tech

Almost two years after Apple released its proprietary reversible Lightning data transfer bus and power cable, the USB 3.0 Promoter Group, has revealed the details of its own new reversible high-speed cable and connector system.

The group today released its new USB Type-C specification, defining the next generation of USB connector for implementers and developers.

It said that the new configuration establishes a cable and connector system tailored for the sleek profiles of mobile device designs, yet remaining robust enough for laptops.

With the openings for the new connector measuring 8.4mm by 2.6mm, it is not far from the size of the current micro USB 2.0 Type-B connectors — which are found on most non-Apple smartphones.

The new cable and connector supports USB 3.1 "SuperSpeed" 10 Gbps data transference and USB power delivery of up to 100 watts, according to the group, which is comprised of HP, Intel, Microsoft, Renesas Electronics, STMicroelectronics, and Texas Instruments.

USB image 2
Image: USB 3.0 Promoter Group

The most noticeable development in the new configuration for many users will likely be the reversibility of the plug, allowing it to be used in any orientation, just like Apple's Lighting cables.

According to the USB 3.0 Promoter Group, which first announced it was developing the next generation of USB connectors in December last year, the new specification allows for a durability of 10,000 cycles, and power delivery capacity of 3A for standard cables and 5Afor connectors.

While the USB Type-C plug and receptacle will not directly mate with existing USB plugs and receptacles, Type-C specification defines passive new-to-existing cables and adapters to allow for the use of the new connector with existing products. 

The USB standard was first developed in the mid-1990s, defining cables, connectors and communications protocols for the system.

Now, after various iterations of the theme, USB 3.0 Promoter Group chairman Brad Saunders of Intel claims that industry stakeholders with interests in a number of technology sectors have been interested in the new USB development.

"Interest in the USB Type-C connector has not only been global, but cross-industry as well," said Saunders. "Representatives from the PC, mobile, automotive and IoT industries have been knocking down our door anticipating this new standard. This specification is the culmination of an extensive, cooperative effort among industry leaders to standardize the next generation USB connector as a long-lasting, robust solution."

USB Implementers Forum president and COO Jeff Ravencraft said that the organisation was working to establish certification and compliance testing so that, "consumers can have the same confidence in the next generation of certified USB technology".

Topic: Emerging Tech


Leon covers enterprise technology and start-ups from ZDNet's Sydney newsroom.

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  • What will be the reaction of Apple?

    The main question is how Apple will react. Will it use this connector in its Mac lines only, or also in the iPad and iPhone? The question is especially important in Europe, as the European Union is imposing a universal connector + charger for all smartphones by 2017 (in order to reduce waste). Chances are pretty big that this new connector will be the chosen solution. If Apple would stick to its lightning connector it may be banned form the EU market.
    • I hope Apple Switches

      But I doubt it will happen. As much as I like Apple they are quite a stubborn company. Additionally, switching to a new connector (again) would burn customers with lightening cables and accessories and would rob Apple of its unique position of having the best third party exclusive accessory ecosystem. I don't know how they could get around the EU mandate though.

      However, this new connector solves the problems that Apple set out to solve with Lightening, including having a reversible connector and being able to deliver more power (particularly for iPads) so we'll see what happens.
      • Apple could switch iOS devices to this connector

        and still have proprietary 3rd party devices. And when other phone/phablet/tablet makers put the charge port up top or on the side of a device, that pretty much rules that device out for using something designed for iPhone.
        • There's two things

          Firstly would it perform better than the lightning port in general phone applications? Charging, syncing, video, audio? Apple designed their connector for their device to do this, if this general purpose one isn't better, then there's no point in them changing.

          Second, there's the reputation - sure apple won't want to loose their ability to charge £15 for a 1m cable (?!?!?) but they also won't want all their docks and existing other pherials to become redundant again - their consumer base did not take kindly to having their default connector changed two years ago, even though the analog 30pin connector was seriously out of date.
      • Lightning connector

        Well, Lightning isn't just USB data and power: It's a bus.

        That means that they can pass different types of data depending on configuration. (It's also why honest-to-God lightning cables are more expensive).
  • That is one of my pet peeves about the current USB.

    First, the lack of reversibility at both ends of the cable (COMBINED with the stamping of the USB logo on a BLACK rubber plug housing, especially mini and micro, that cannot be seen easily in dim light; when I plug in my phone to charge it overnight, I use the flashlight app to make sure the plug is turned the right way before plugging it in).

    And second, the fact that power-only cables LOOK the same as power-plus-data cables. On more than one occasion I was about to call tech support for my GPS when the laptop could not detect it plugged in by the cable, until I realized I was using the car charger cable, not a data cable.

    But the black-on-black labeling has been a tradition in the electronics industry, as far back as VCR units, where you have to reach between the unit and the wall, under indoor light, and plug a cable into the correct socked marked with raised black plastic. Too many of the engineers are probably accustomed to a rack mounting system with accessibility to the rear of the rack, rather than a consumer situation with cables run through a hole into a bookcase or other table that is difficult to move.
    • I've seen white icons on black cables

      We've had quite an assortment of USB micro cables in our house, and quite a few of them have had a white, clearly visible icon on one side; it just depends on the manufacturer. Of course, then you have some manufacturers deciding one way is "up" and gets the white icon, while others decide the *other* way is "up" and mark *that* side ... yes, a reversable plug is soreley needed, and should've come out a long time ago!
      • Reversibility

        Whoever designed the original USB-A connector should be punched.

        It was both non-reversible and horizontally symmetrical, a horrible combination. Even old D-style serial and parallel connectors were superior because at least you could see or feel which way they were supposed to go without having to turn your entire computer around.
  • Still no match for Thunderbolt....

    USB 3.0 performance although acceptable is light years behind Thunderbolt.
    • What does that even mean?

      They are designed for two different things.
    • This article isn't even about T-bolt vs USB 3 performance.

      This is about the USB consortium finally catching up to Apple in terms of an easy-to-use connector that happens to be a little larger but able to transfer more power. It only mentioned that the connector supports USB 3.1's speed.
  • Maybe This Time

    In hardware oriented trade publications similar announcements have been made several times. I really hope it makes it this time. It seems to have better backing than previous ones.
  • ummm

    "...just like Apple's Lighting cables."

    First, they're Lightning cables, not Lighting cables.
    Second, stop talking about Apple already. Why the hell is how many years ago it happened relevant?
    Third, they're not Apple's Lightning cables, they're Intel's Lightning cables; Apple has f*** all to do with it.
    • You're confusing Thunderbolt aka Light Peak

      with Lightning. Thunderbolt was Intel's light peak, which Apple actually did help to develop. Lightning was a completely internal Apple project to make a reversible connector for phones, tablets, and other devices.
    • Um, wow

      Talk about ignorance!
      1) It was a typo.
      2) It is relevant because the USB Promotor Group is doing this partially in response to the Lightning cable, as well as the fact that it addresses the never-ending argument bout Apple innovation.
      3) And here's the big one: they are NOT Intel's Lightning cables. Intel has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH IT!. Perhaps you were so blinded by the spittle flying from the corners of your mouth as you typed in abject anti-Apple rage, that you thought you read "Thunderbolt" (which also, BTW, has an Apple pedigree) which did come from Intel. Lightning, whoever, DID NOT.

        ..since it runs primarily on Intel machines.
        • Um what?!?

          Neither USB nor Lightning have are in any way, shape, or form, exclusive to Intel. Lightning isn't even a computer port standard, and there are no machines using Intel processors that support it!
          • Where have you been?

            Every Apple computer with the lightning connector has an Intel processor.
      • Aside from the visual design and the OS...

        ...Thunderbolt and Lightning are the only uniquely Apple things left in their hardware. Once Apple switched to Intel CPUs they finished the transition to being just an expensive PC clone company. Before that Apple had adopted the PCI bus, USB, IDE then SATA and other technologies not invented, even partially, by Apple or uniquely used by their computers.

        Hacking the little endian PCI bus into Apple's big endian PowerPC hardware architecture must have been a bit of an adventure.

        Apple's former love of Firewire and delay in adopting USB was at least partly due to Firewire Not Being From Intel. And then they totally bollixed their first implementation of Firewire 800 so bad it couldn't operate at top speed. The last time Apple had allowed such a bad hardware defect out was in the x100 NuBus PowerMacs where the SCSI controller speed was crippled, then only partially fixed in the 110Mhz versions. 'Course Apple never fixed either defect and offered properly functioning replacements. Apple users just had to live with the problems or use one of the small number of expansion slots for a good SCSI controller or FW800 card.
  • Just what we (don't) need - yet more....

    advances in the planned obsolescence area.... Where do these guys eat breakfast, anyway???? Now all products that want to be "legacy compatible" will have to include BOTH connector genres, at the ultimate expense of the user..... It's like "die VGA" all over again......