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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