Praise USB: Reversible Plugs Are Coming


Next year will bring a solution to arguably the greatest annoyance in modern technology hardware. Yes, it’s true: the next generation of USB plugs will work either way up.

The news comes from the USB 3.0 Promoter Group, made up of major computing firms such as HP, Intel and Microsoft. It’s announced that work has begun on a new form of connector, USB Type-C, following on from the existing rectangular Type-A and square(ish) Type-B.

Type-C will be the a rectangular shape, but smaller than existing Type-A connectors. It will be roughly the size of a micro-B plug as currently used for some cellphones and devices such as the Kindle.

The most notable change is that “users will no longer need to be concerned with plug orientation/cable direction”, meaning an end to the charade of trying to get the darn thing in. Existing official advice tells users to make sure the USB logo is uppermost, which is not much use when the port is vertical or, more to the point, when you’re reaching under a desk or behind a computer.

The switch to a new connector type is a complete break from existing USB technologies. All future enhancements to the USB standard itself (meaning the way data transfer works) will be designed for Type-C connectors.

The new cable will support scalable power charging (meaning it could carry up to 100 watts safely.) The new plug design itself will also be scalable, meaning that it will be possible to make larger cables with larger plugs/sockets but in the same shape and with no need to rethink the internal engineering.

The new design will of course be incompatible with existing sockets, so there’ll also be a standard for adaptor plugs and cables.

According to the USB 3.0 Promoter Group, the changes will be open for review for the next few months, with a final standard and specifications confirmed in mid-2014. The first products using the new connector type aren’t expected until late next year.

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14 Responses to Praise USB: Reversible Plugs Are Coming

  1. OPEN END ALWAYS GOES “UP”. The non-open end has the plastic visible through the two little latch-holes, and the “open” side is the one you can see through the holes. “Up” is relative to the computer, so if it’s a desktop, everything is on its side when looking at the back of the tower – “up” is towards the large space inside the computer case. Micro-USB (for cell phones) is the same way, but the logo on the plug decides which part is “up”.

    Learn this, and you’ll never have trouble with a USB plug again. :P

    • Open end goes up…it’s not always obvious if its dark and you can’t see the plug too well. Also a lot of USB ports are vertical not horizontal so that won’t work

    • That’s not always true even when the ports are not on their side. Both my desktop and laptop have ports that are installed UPSIDE DOWN. And obviously I can’t correct my laptop but I also cannot correct the desktop as the cards only fit in a certain way.

      And what about public computers at a library or work computers or working on a friends computer… You’re never going to escape the problem with current cables.

  2. Type-A plug connect to the computer.
    Type-B plug connect to the peripheral.

    Which does a Type-C connect to? (Or are they saying they’re putting Type-C on both end of the cable?)

  3. A lot of people laughed and criticized Apple for introducing the reversible lightning connector on the iPhone 5. Who’s laughing now?

  4. what this really means is that they are going to make all of your old usb cords obsolete so you have to buy a whole new set

    • or if you read it wou wills ee theyare going to release adaptors for old usb cords?

      “The new design will of course be incompatible with existing sockets, so there’ll also be a standard for adaptor plugs and cables.”

  5. I never realized people have a problem with this. Apparently for many this is complicated rocket science. >.> I’ve never had a problem with it.

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