A new USB connector is coming. And, yes, that is a cue to start groaning, because it means allllllll your old USB stuff will have to be either slapped with an adapter or replaced over the next few years. But USB Type-C will be worth it for the problems it solves and the engineering issues that it addresses. Here’s five reasons why.
1. It’s Reversible.
We’ve all done this, and we all hate it. We go to try to plug in a USB cable, and the connector doesn’t fit. So we flip it around, and the connector still doesn’t fit. So we flip it around again, and suddenly, the cable slides right in like it’s no big thing. Type-C does away with that annoyance; it’s a “symmetrical” cable, so it doesn’t matter what angle you take it at. Imagine that: A connector that actually just fits into the slot and you don’t even have to think about it!
2. It’s Tiny.
USB Type-C is intended to replace both the full-size USB connector and micro-USB, the thin slot connector that’s on pretty much every tablet and phone not manufactured by Apple. This means that future computers will be smaller and thinner because, well, they don’t have to try and fit so many ports onto the side of a computer. So this will help lead to thinner and more power-sipping computers. It also means you’ll have fewer problems connecting.
3. It Universalizes A Lot.
To this point, plugging your phone into other USB materials has been something of a chore. True, it helps that you have a built-in converter that ships with every phone (at least if it’s not from Apple), but have you ever tried to plug a USB stick into your phone? It’s one of the most irritating things you will ever try to do. This will essentially flatten out the ecosystem of USB products; anything with a standard Type-C port can at least be physically connected to another object with one. Whether it works is another matter, but hey, that’s a software issue.
4. It’s All USB 3.1
USB 3.x is actually a great standard because, currently, it’s got a lot of speed; up to 10 GB a second, in fact. But a lot of computers and other tools still use USB 2.0 or even, in some cases, 1.0, so you’re never sure what you’re going to get with both data transfer and the power bus. At least they’re backwards compatible. That said, it’ll be nice to get faster speeds as a standard. We’ve got constant demands to upload and download more and more data between devices, and sometimes wireless transfers and cloud computing won’t cut it.
5. It’s Coming Soon, But Not Right Away
Essentially, the USB Implementers Forum, or “the people who are in charge of this port”, are confident that they’ve got everything locked in. But they’re still working some aspects of it, so we’re not going to see any actual products until next year. But at least we know that it’s on the way, and that it’ll be available.
Dan Seitz is an obsessive nerd living in New England. He lives in the Boston area with a fiancee, a dog, a cat, and far too many objects with processors.