back to article Lightning strikes USB bosses: Next-gen jacks will be REVERSIBLE

USB is to get a new, smaller connector that, like Apple’s proprietary Lightning jack, will be reversible. Designed to support both USB 3.1 and USB 2.0, the new connector, dubbed "Type C", will be the same size as an existing micro USB 2.0 plug. That’s big improvement over existing USB 3.0 micro "Franken-connector" jacks which …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great USB changes again. At least my dock connector was around for 10 years and now Lightning is much improved and hopefully will be with us for another 10 years.

    Makes a bit of a mockery with the EU trying to say everyone must standardise on micro USB chargers - the Apple way of supplying a USB charger and USB to device cable is better still than chargers with fixed plugs. My Apple USB charger can change (almost) anything with a USB cable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Odd that...

      ..My USB cable in my fag lighter in the car can my phone, SatNav and my tablet and I can pull it out and charge the same devices from my laptop and then crazily, I can plug the SAME cable into my usb charger at home.

      Oh and it cost £2.

    2. DryBones
      Holmes

      Calm down...

      You don't have to change your connector cable until you change your phone. At that time it will likely come with the right cable, probably not the outlet-USB adapter as those are understood already.

      And no, reversible is not innovative and novel, it's obvious but previously judged unnecessary. Shows what they get for thinking people might stop and flip the plug over if it doesn't want to go in...

      1. Lottie

        Re: Calm down...

        Shows what they get for thinking people might stop and flip the plug over if it doesn't want to go in...

        It's to stop the "flip it over" problem that USB connectors seem to magic upon themselves - Cable won't go in - Flip it over - won't go in - flip it over - goes in.

        1. Nigel 11

          Re: Calm down...

          It's to stop the "flip it over" problem that USB connectors seem to magic upon themselves - Cable won't go in - Flip it over - won't go in - flip it over - goes in.

          A USB connector is a Fermion not a Boson. You have to rotate it 720 degrees before it's back in the state it started in.

          (A corollary of his is that no two USB memory sticks can ever have the same internal state :-)

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. James Minney
          Holmes

          NSS Re: Flip and try again

          Until USB, it was pretty easy to work out which way round to try plugging it in, so you didn't have to keep flipping it and retrying.

          "Reversible USB" is creating a workaround for the problem as is, instead of fixing the problem. Make the plug feel asymmetric in the hand, and make the socket look more visually asymmetric. Why, back in the day we used to connect our computers using a chisel to carve out lettering on stone, worked alright for generations, don't see why everyone suddenly wants to change it! (wait, er, . . . )

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: NSS Flip and try again

            >Make the plug feel asymmetric in the hand, and make the socket look more visually asymmetric.

            The current microUSB is asymmetric, but its so small that it is not easy to spot immediately. Even if you do, you then have to inspect the orientation of the port you want to plug it into....

            Making the plug orientation reversible is the sensible thing to do, and - without knowing the details of its implementation - it might be essential too, since the cable direction is also reversible.

            I'd venture to suggest that for someone with poor sight an arthritis, the old 'big Nokia' power connector is easier to use than microUSB.

            Chisels? Oh, we used to dream of chisels!

            1. handle

              "500 - 850mAH"

              Oh dear AC - you seem to have caught Quirky Spotter Disease.

              1. Dave 126 Silver badge
                Facepalm

                Re: "500 - 850mAH"

                Whoops! Thanks Handle, I did of course mean 'mA', and that H was in error!

            2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: NSS Flip and try again

              The regular USB-B plug is also supposed to have the USB logo on the top side.

              Except Microsoft who put it on the bottom so they can have their logo on the top.

            3. DiViDeD Silver badge

              Re: NSS Flip and try again

              Heavens! Once again Samsung has triumphed with a truly non obvious innovation that nobody else could possibly think of.

              More seriously, there's either a Samsung logo or a USB symbol on the upper side of the plug. If you can see your phone display and the printing on the plug, it's the right way up. And I guarantee it was cheaper and easier than designing a whole new plug. Not exactly rocket science, and of course will not work if using what appears to be the standard 'close eyes and thrust' method of plugging a cable in.

              Ye Gods I despair of my race sometimes.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >Makes a bit of a mockery with the EU trying to say everyone must standardise on micro USB chargers

      Not quite - people have already benefited from that standardisation, since for the last few years it has been much easier to find a charger for my phone; it's the same for many of my friends phones, as it is for some of my other gadgets.

      This ubiquity has so far made up for the microUSB connector not being perfect.

      However, the compatibility is already broken- I can't use the USB3 cable for my external HDD to charge my phone, for example. The Samsung Note 3 has a microUSB3 socket, and it just looks wrong.

      > My Apple USB charger can change (almost) anything with a USB cable.

      That's true of most wall plugs shipped with phones these days, though some, annoyingly, only throw 500 - 850mAH. Indeed, some phones don't ship with a wall plug at all.

    4. jib
      FAIL

      "Lightning is much improved" if you mean it is smaller and reversable yes,but it is still using USB 2 a 12 year old connection technology!

      Why o why not use USB 3 which is 10x faster and has been out since 2008 :(

      1. JLV Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        double fail

        >USB 3 which is 10x faster and has been out since 2008

        And, after checking Wikipedia @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacBook_Pro, I happily confirm my mid-2011 17" MacBookPro is still using USB 2.0 on all ports. Though it did ship with a shiny Thunderbolt.

        Txs, Apple*

        * I otherwise rather like that laptop. YMMV.

  2. jubtastic1

    Any details on how the orientaion is handled?

    Does this mean it's not going to be hard wired end to end like a lightning cable? or are we looking at really tiny connector pins?

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
      IT Angle

      Re: Any details on how the orientaion is handled?

      Wohoa there! We don't want no nitty-gritty technical details; this is a tech site. Oh, wait...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Any details on how the orientaion is handled?

        Given the specification doesn't exist yet, any detailed technical information beyond what has already been published would be mere speculation

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Any details on how the orientaion is handled?

          Yep!

          The USB Type-C specification is targeted for industry review during the first quarter of 2014 and a final specification is expected to be published by the middle of 2014. Further information regarding the specification and plans for pre-release industry reviews will be provided via the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) website at

          http://www.usb.org/developers/USB-Futures.pdf.

          - http://www.usb.org/press/USB-IF_Press_Releases/Type-C_PR_20131203_Final.pdf

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Any details on how the orientaion is handled?

      >Does this mean it's not going to be hard wired end to end like a lightning cable?

      If I had to guess, I'd venture that any 'cleverness' will be built into the controllers built into the devices, rather than the cable. This guess is based on the idea that both the 'host' and the connected device are using the same port.

      However, this guess might be wrong, because of the desire to use adaptors for backwards compatibility.

      Just speculation.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Any details on how the orientaion is handled?

        "If I had to guess, I'd venture that any 'cleverness' will be built into the controllers built into the devices,"

        That's what I think too. A bit like switches and routers auto-configuring for straight through for cat5 cross-over cables like wot they've done for years.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Any details on how the orientaion is handled?

      "Any details on how the orientaion is handled?"

      Delicately... we don't want to show any prejudice and offend it or make it feel otherwise uncomfortable!

  3. Matt_payne666

    Ok... a new connector, its not the end of the world! Lets look at the current state of things... my laptop has a plethora of USB2/3 connections on it... I run/charge a selection of devices - phones, hard drives, printers, glasses, game pads....

    My usb2 cable wont fit in my mini USB devices

    My mini USB cable wont fit in my micro USB devices...

    My mini usb2 cables wont fit in my mini USB 3 devices...

    My mini USB 3 cables wont fit in my USB 2 devices....

    My USB2- apple 30pin wont fit in any of my USB devices!

    So... my laptop bag contains... USB2 a-b, usb2 - mini usb2, usb3 - mini usb3, USB-apple 30pin...

    The nice thing with USB as a standard is the use of dumb cables... at a few quid each I can have them floating about in the bag... and I wont cry if I loose one somewhere...

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      I agree that the ubiquity of microUSB devices and cables is a very handy thing, and makes up for the current shortcomings on the microUSB design. However, microUSB3 is already only partially compatible.

      Another change will be worth it in my opinion, as long as it is the last for the foreseeable future, and it implements improvements in usability in addition to faster speeds and greater power delivery.

      Who knows, within the decade we might all be using wireless power systems, and wireless optical data transmission or some-such.

      1. Adam Foxton
        Go

        Wireless optical data transfer?

        That'd be IRDA, then. It was on more or less every smartphone I owned before 2007, and my current one too. Long may it continue.

        IRDA has a Gigabit spec too, according to Wiki!

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Wireless optical data transfer?

          Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of 'Li-Fi', which can use light in the visible spectrum. It requires so few photos that it can work in a room that appears dark to humans, and it can use light reflected off walls... though obviously it can't penetrate walls (which can be considered either an advantage or a disadvantage)

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Li-Fi

    2. Tom Wood

      Obligatory reference

      http://xkcd.com/927/

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Eh?

      I don't know what your playing at, but I never have any issues. May be my choices are considered and yours are random?

    4. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      my laptop has a plethora of USB2/3 connections on it

      Does anyone know why there has to be a special USB connector for printers? I can understand the motivation for min and micro USB variants, but what's the driving force behind "just like USB, only square"?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        " what's the driving force behind "just like USB, only square"?"

        According to Wikipedia to stop the creation of a ground loop. Do you not have access to the internet there?

        1. monkeyfish

          " what's the driving force behind "just like USB, only square"?"

          It was also intended that USB A was the host (i.e. PC) and USB B was the peripheral (i.e. printer, scanner, camera, whatever). But then USB flash drives came along and it made sense to put USB A on the peripheral so you didn't need a cable. There should never have been USB A to A cables, but not everyone followed the standard, so the standard was screwed. Plus things like digital cameras, for example, pretty much never had a B connection even though they should have, something to do with the fact it could also be the host (plugged directly into the printer)? The nice thing about USB standards is that there are so many to choose from!

      2. Boothy

        @ Kubla: Where have you been? USB has always had a square connector!

        The square one is a standard type B connector (i.e. the original Type B before we got mini and micro versions).

        The Type B is what should be used in devices such as printers, external HDs, Phones, Tablets etc.

        With the Type A being used in the Host, i.e. PC, Laptop etc. (The original Type A being the big rectangular one, i.e. pen drive connector).

        Note: Some device manufacturers do do this wrong, especially with older external 2.5 HD drives, which often use a type A in the drive, when it should be a Type B at the drive end. (Presumably done as the type B was too wide to fit in the thinner cases).

        Phones and tablets have space constraints, so use the mini/micro versions of the Type B, printers have no such space constraints, so continue to use the old square type B connectors instead. The same is true for many external HD caddies, especially with 3.5 inch drives.

        There is even an extended version of the original square type B for USB 3, with an extra plug on the side for the extra data connection. (That way you can still plug an older USB 2 square lead into the USB 3 socket, and just access slower).

        There are also micro versions of Type A, although I've rarely seen them used, as most Hosts are large enough to still fit the original Type A, such as in a Laptop, so don't really need the smaller forms. (The micro A has square edges, rather than angled edges we see in the type B connectors).

        1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Re: @ Kubla: Where have you been? USB has always had a square connector!

          I was aware that there had always been a square connector. What I didn't appreciate was that the small connectors on portable kit are also Type B. Having never seen any other devices with full-size Type B, I assumed that it was a connector specific to printers.

          I know better now. Thanks.

    5. NumptyScrub

      quote: "My mini usb2 cables wont fit in my mini USB 3 devices..."

      You don't have any mini USB3 devices, they are micro USB3. As such, put your micro USB2 cable into the larger of the 2 holes, et voila! you have a USB 2 connection to your USB3 device, and it should charge and carry data just like any other micro USB2 device.

      The reason that the micro USB3 connector is such a visual abomination is exactly because it needs to accept micro USB2 cables without modification, so the USB3 bit is tacked on to the side of a micro USB2 connection :(

      Shifting to a non-backwards compatible, reversible connector makes sense, but will obviously introduce obsolescence in all the "old" USB connections.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time for a rename s/USB/MSB/

    "multiversal serial bus" :-)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Video

    “Intel is excited to see the development of the new thin Type-C connector as it will enable

    an entirely new super thin class of devices from phones to tablets, to 2-in-1s, to laptops to

    desktops and a multitude of other more specific usage devices,” said Alex Peleg, Vice

    President, Platform Engineering Group. “This new industry standards-based thin connector

    delivering data, power and video is the only connector one will need across all devices.”

    - http://www.usb.org/press/USB-IF_Press_Releases/Type-C_PR_20131203_Final.pdf

  6. Philippe

    Couldn't have they just adopted lightning?

    Maybe there was a bit of arm twisting needed with Apple but the lightning plug pretty much does already what that thing is going to do in two years just call it USB3.1 and you're done.

    1. Flatpackhamster

      Re: Couldn't have they just adopted lightning?

      And at £25 per cable, it's a veritable BARGAIN.

      I suspect the hilarious overpricing of the Apple/Intel solution (and the fact that you'd be handing control of the world's sockets to a company famous for randomly changing stuff and then telling everyone to suck it up) is why they didn't go with lightning.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Couldn't have they just adopted lightning?

        Apple/Intel? is it possible you're thinking of Thunderbolt? Lightening is all Apple. Thunderbolt is an Intel technology, though Apple contributed the name.

        >a company famous for randomly changing stuff

        Apple stuck with FireWire for years. Their 13pin iDevice connector remained largely unchanged for years, over which period comparable devices used a variety of both proprietary and standard connectors for power and data (USB-B, miniUSB, miroUSB) - I have a drawer of old cables and adaptors that testifies to that.

        1. Simon Harris Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Couldn't have they just adopted lightning?

          The only place I see a lightning connector being useful is in my Dr Frankenstein re-animation laboratory.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: Couldn't have they just adopted lightning?

            >The only place I see a lightning connector being useful is in my Dr Frankenstein re-animation laboratory.

            What about powering your flux capacitor when you find yourself in a situation where plutonium is surprisingly hard to get hold of?

            1. Simon Harris Silver badge

              Re: Couldn't have they just adopted lightning?

              Nahhh, I'm old school! I don't hold with any of this newfangled time travel nonsense. Give me body parts, a big switch and an assistant called Igor and I'm happy.

              Oh, and one of those sparky things that go bzzzzt

              1. NumptyScrub

                Re: Couldn't have they just adopted lightning?

                quote: "Oh, and one of those sparky things that go bzzzzt"

                That's called a high voltage travelling arc (or informally a Jacob's ladder). You'll probably also want a plasma globe or 2 around the place as well to get the appropriate ambience ;)

              2. Captain DaFt

                Re: Couldn't have they just adopted lightning?

                "Give me body parts, a big switch and an assistant called Igor and I'm happy.

                Oh, and one of those sparky things that go bzzzzt"

                Ah, nice to see the old school still at play. :)

                But I prefer chromosome mash-ups to stitching together body parts, a computerized incubator chamber to hunchbacks, and, of course, the machine that goes 'bing' to sparky things.

                Also, I gave up the castle years ago. A clinic in the trendier part of town, catering to the rich and vain's need for elective surgery is much more discreet, and profitable!

  7. Mike 140
    Coat

    reliable, as always

    http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/science-technology/public-nowhere-near-ready-for-reversible-usb-2013120581747

  8. P. Lee Silver badge

    Alternatively....

    Real, optical lightning, not this copper thunderbolt stuff. Then we can add power and magnetic connectors.

  9. Crisp Silver badge

    Where are the juicy pictures?

    If ever an article needed a few visual aids it was this one!

  10. Moffy

    Why is it..

    That they HAVE to keep making them smaller.. and ultimately more fragile. USB as it was was 'put uppable with' in terms of fragility, but the micro usb3 is it? that samsung/blackberry use is atrociously open to being snapped/crimpled on/eaten by the dog

    The lightning charger of Apple is ok but with it being small is pulled out easily, wears, etc etc

    Far from being a luddite, but please can i just keep something how it is..smaller is not better. Designers.. ask your missus.

    1. handle

      Re: Why is it..

      Funnily enough, Micro USB is more robust than Mini USB, both in terms of lifetime (insertion cycles) and reliability (positive locking).

      The BlackBerry Playbook reverse insertion problem is because it uses a Micro USB A-B socket, into which it is easy to plug a Micro USB B plug the wrong way round, especially when used to the impossibility of doing this with a Micro USB B socket. Bad bit of design, that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why is it..

      "crimpled on"

      I've never come across this term before... but if I were to try and decipher it, my interpretation would be "when the girlfriend gets it tangled up in her curling iron".

      I can certainly see that being a problem for phone charging cables!

  11. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Other desirable features...

    Other things I hope they consider for USB-C are:

    - Make the connector so that it doesn't scratch things, like the current microUSB design is prone to.

    - Insertion / removal force required.

    - Mechanical strength - relevant to docking solutions.

    - Point of any physical failure should be the (cheap and replaceable) cable, and not the device's female port.

    - Design the female port so that it doesn't allow water ingress into the device, facilitating the design of waterproof devices.

    Since this new design will hopefully be the last redesign for a while, it should be as good as it can be!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Other desirable features...

      Also, make sure that there are two different incompatible types of cable: "crossover" and "patch". You know it makes sense.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Other desirable features...

        Yeah, I couldnt play Doom with a friend until we'd made our own null modem cable...

      2. DropBear Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Other desirable features...

        Oh, you didn't know? That's why it's reversible! Plug it in one way, it's patch. The other way, it's crossover. Genius!

    2. G7mzh

      Re: Other desirable features...

      Why not use a minijack? 4mm diameter and 4- or 6-pole, like the old Post Office ones, should do nicely.

  12. Justin Stringfellow

    still crap, try harder

    I'd have thought the obvious design would be a round connector which would have no orientation requirements at all - e.g. a headphone jack type of thing. Or did I miss something?

    1. handle

      Re: still crap, try harder

      Perhaps you missed the phenomenal number of concentric circles required to accommodate all the connections, which would make it far too big to use in slim devices. And if done like a headphone jack, the short circuits which happen each time it is inserted.

      1. Justin Stringfellow

        Re: still crap, try harder

        and perhaps you missed the "S" in Serial. How many lines does that require again?

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: still crap, try harder

          Five. Two for the voltage (remember, the bus can need power irrespective of data), two for the data, and one for the shield.

          And it's the shield that's the hard part. In order for the plug to be electrically safe, THAT has to be connected first AND stay connected while the rest of the pins are connected. Oh, and since we have POWERED pins, we might also want to make sure the wrong pins don't touch each other. Got anyway to achieve that besides a parallel insertion?

  13. Paul

    IIRC, Buffalo already had a USB hub which allowed plugs to be inserted both ways up.

    ah yes, here it is:

    http://gizmodo.com/5887636/a-usb-hub-that-doesnt-care-which-way-you-stick-it-in

  14. CollyWolly

    Wonderful!

    So we are giving up backward compatibility to save the frustration of an upside down USB cable.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People criticise Apple for their proprietary connectors but they're only on their second connector for iPods and the like.

    What have we had from USB so far?

    USB A and B (USB1.1 and 2.0).

    Mini USB

    Micro USB

    USB 3.0 connector

    and now this.

    If they designed it right in the first place instead of having some god awful design by committee then there wouldn't have been so many versions.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      ...and your list doesn't even include the large number of proprietary phone connectors over tose years... even single companies would have a number of similar-looking but different connectors, even for headsets! (looking at you Samsung)

    2. Mike Moyle Silver badge

      @ AC -- XII/05/2013 12:31 GMT

      "People criticise Apple for their proprietary connectors but they're only on their second connector for iPods and the like."

      Third, actually; their second PROPRIETARY one. Frst iPods used Firewire, THEN came the dock and lightning connectors.

  16. PGregg

    And *still* no analogue audio support. :(

    Intel quote:

    > “This new industry standards-based thin connector delivering data, power and video is the only connector one will need across all devices.”

    That's ok then because we don't want audio with our video and speaker docks.

    1. Boothy
      WTF?

      Eh!

      Why would you add analogue to a digital connector and have a huge step backwards?

      So you'd rather have a restricted number of audio channels prone to interference, that can't be updated without adding more wires, than a digital solution, that has no such limitations, and can quite happily cope with anything from simple stereo, to HQ 7.1 with DTS etc.

      Even Apple dropped analogue from their Lightning connector. (External speakers, Lightning to old style adaptors etc. now use a DAC to convert the digital data to analogue).

      So just do the same with USB, create a USB 'profile' that tells the PC/Phone you've plugged in some USB speakers, and the Speakers do the DAC.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Eh!

        Because sometimes one MUST take a step back to go in the right direction. What else would you do if you missed the turn?

        Because sometimes, simple sells, and if there's one place where digital audio probably won't fit for the forseeable future, it's CARS.

        So long as a car has a cassette adapter or an aux-in socket, one can easily send line-level analog stereo audio into the car and be able to enjoy music as simple as can be. No radio issues, no excess power drain. And all we ask is THREE bloody pins (TWO if we share the shield with the USB shield). Is that too much to ask?

  17. Wize

    Time to invest in...

    ...companies that will be making USB adaptors.

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Boothy

      Quote: 'If they're going through the effort of changing USB all over again, why not adopt a better sized port? One universal port across mobiles, desktops, laptops, etc.'

      That is what they are doing, at least that how it seems to read when I looked at the Intel PDF. One new Type C plug for everything.

      http://www.usb.org/press/USB-IF_Press_Releases/Type-C_PR_20131203_Final.pdf

  19. avlisk

    Oh, god help us all. . . more progress. Why must we keep making changes to move the civilization forward? Why can't we just accept things the way they are and be happy? At least this gives us another chance to bitch about something.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I said the same thing when they invented the wire. We've gone along just fine without stretching metal into thin strands and electrifying it; now you need to go complicating everything! Every house in the world is obsolete! Think of the expense!

  20. Alan Denman

    USB = Unlikely to Satisfy those with Blinkers

    Not for the Apple crowd I'm afraid.

    Universality bad, garden duties good..

  21. phil8192
    FAIL

    USB isn't "universal" after all

    When USB was introduced, it was supposed to eliminate the plethora of different interface connectors on PCs, but the growing plethora of USB variants, some of them now incompatible with USB 1.0 and USB 2.0, is taking us back to the "bad old days".

    1. Boothy
      WTF?

      Re: USB isn't "universal" after all

      Please clarify, what is incompatible?

      USB 1.0 to 2.0 is pin for pin the same, only the protocol/speed changed, and this was specifically done to be backwards and forwards compatible. i.e. USB 1.0 devices work in USB 2.0 hosts, and USB 2.0 devices work in USB 1.0 hosts, just slower. Plus does anyone actually have anything that still uses USB 1.0 anyway? USB 2.0 has been around for 13 going on 14 years now.

      The same goes for USB 3.0. In fact USB 3.0 is literally USB 2.0, with an extra data channel. So plug a USB 3.0 device into a USB 2.0 host, and it just acts as a USB 2.0 device. Like wise plug a USB 2.0 device into a 3.0 host, and again it just continues as a USB 2.0 device.

      Even the cables work, i.e. a USB 2 Type A to micro type B (i.e. typical cable that comes with a current phone), can be plugged directly into a USB 3.0 host port on a PC/Laptop, and the other end into a USB 3.0 external device (External HD etc) and it just works, just only at USB 2 speeds.

      So what incompatibility?

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: USB isn't "universal" after all

        The point is not the communication standards but the PLUGS. For example, why was it deemed necessary for USB 3.0 to use an additional pair of data lines to transmit its ~5Gb/s mode? If the B-plug was too big for a phone, why not make ALL the peripheral makers (INCLUDING the printer makers) settle on Micro-B and stop the cable shuffling (which I admit to be having an issue with--which B end do I need--standard, mini, or micro, they're all over the map).

  22. CBN

    Perhaps the reversable connector will also stop idiot companies like Canon from subverting USB and adding proprietry extra pins to the mix (why does the Canon G12 require so many pins on its non-standard mini-USB connector just for AV?! Anything to screw the consumer who wants to make their own longer cables...)

  23. Daz555

    Seriously? We are going to lose backwards compatibility for the sake of turning a cable the right way round? Kids today..........

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A sixth 'universal' connector?

    Oh wonderful. Another USB connector standard. To go along with the big rectangular one on my PC, the big square one on my printer, the mini one on my PS3 controller, the micro one on my phone, and the looks-a-bit-like-micro-but-is-just-weird one on my digital camera.

  25. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    For all the cables I have only two give me trouble - the same trouble as it happens.

    The cable that connects my laptop to my WD portable hard drive and my iPod connector cable both "want" to orient wrong side down with the connected device sitting in its best orientation. In order to make them stop fighting me I have to put a loop in the wire or put the disc/iPod face down on the table.

    I could turn the laptop upside down I suppose, but then it would sleep with the lid down and I would need an external keyboard (whose cable would now be oriented the wrong way up).

    It's all go, innit?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is good. The micro USB connector is crap.

    It doesn't matter if you buy expensive or inexpensive cables.

    I can't tell how many times I've gotten up in the morning only to find my phone battery had no charge because the cable doesn't stay connected.

    I've also run into the problem of losing the connection to an external hard drive that uses a micro USB connection because I've barely touched the cable.

  27. IGnatius T Foobar
    FAIL

    Plugging it in upside down is impossible

    It's impossible to put any USB connector in upside down. The USB logo is always on the top of the connector, facing up. The only way to put it in upside down is to not be paying attention.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Plugging it in upside down is impossible

      >The only way to put it in upside down is to not be paying attention.

      Or to suffer from poor eyesight. Don't know how to explain this, but here goes: Technology is supposed to make life easier.

    2. DiViDeD Silver badge

      Re: Plugging it in upside down is impossible

      "The only way to put it in upside down is to not be paying attention."

      Oh typical! Technology is haaaard enough already with having to remember to charge our iThings and having to hit the right icon when we want to txt someone. Now you say we have to *pay attention* as well?

      This is worse than being in school!

      Next you'll be telling us we have to learn to text with the phone in our laps just so we can keep one hand on the steering wheel!

      It's political correctness gone mad, I tell you.

    3. Squander Two

      Re: Plugging it in upside down is impossible

      > The USB logo is always on the top of the connector, facing up.

      Yes, I used to think that too. But then it wasn't.

  28. This post has been deleted by its author

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    Everybody should just switch to CAN bus and be done with it.

    1. DropBear Silver badge
      Pint

      Exactly! All you'd need would be ONE host port and you could daisy-chain any number of devices to it! And, of course, they could sync relevant data among each other while they're at it! Quick, let's patent this down at the pub!

  30. Neoc

    I have two USB charging cable: The one at work has a corner "missing" on the plastic casing, the one at home has a raised "fin" to help you grasp it. So long as the missing corner is to the left (when looking down at the cable) or the fin is "up", the USB plug will happily go in.

    There's no need to make the *plug* reversible, so long as you make it easy to differentiate orientation via the plastic cover to the plug.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      OK. Try it IN THE DARK. Or in confined spaces. Or with cables without enough label embossing for usable tactile feedback. Plus some devices have the SOCKET upside-down (like my GS4), probably because the socket got installed to the UNDERside of the circuit board.

      Put it this way. USB is simple, just not simple ENOUGH. It's been determined to have practicality problems in blind or otherwise compromised installations. They need the installation procedure to be even simpler than what they have now.

      1. Neoc

        I *have* done so in the dark, and I don't know where you got your GS4 from but mine has its USB the right way around. Or at least according to the USB symbol on the various USB cables I use (said symbol is supposed to be facing upwards when plugging the cable in). And no, not all of them are from Samsung.

        Let's put this in a simpler way : I have figured out how to do it automatically without having to look at either the plug or my device. You appear not to have done so.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem with USB is that they think of now and now the future. They need to get rid of changing the electrical interface to support a new specification. They need to keep the electrical interface the same and put intelligence into the USB chipsets. The electrical interface would stay the same and when USB 4, 5, etc are released the devices negotiates with the chipset on the spec to use; electrically the bus stays the same with no changes. This removes USB from using a hub technology to that of using switched technology as hubs would not be allowed, only switches.

    Good examples of what I'm talking about; SATA, same connector but there was 1.5, 3.0 and 6.0Gbps. PCIe is another; x1, x4, x8 and x16 is the width but there have been PCIe v1, v2 and v3 and they kept those same electrical interfaces the same. The devices negotiate what they are going to use.

    It is time for USB to either grow up or be replaced. USB has been an example of what not to do.

    1. DiViDeD Silver badge

      "put intelligence into the USB chipsets"

      How about they put intelligence into the user instead. How hard can it be to open your bloody eyes before jamming the plug in?

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Because trying to plug it in the DARK (with no access to light) is a common enough scenario. So is trying to plug in a confined space where you can't see your hand (think back of a PC that can't be moved). Eyes can help you sod all here. Not to mention it discriminates against the BLIND. So you really need a standard that is capable of being plugged in by touch alone and forgiving enough that one need not know which way is up (because EITHER way can be up).

        And before anyone chimes in with round, please direct me to such an orientation-neutral connector that (a) ensures the ground is connected first and stays connected before any data pins connect, (b) is small enough to fit in a device less than 1cm thick), and (c) provides enough pins to transmit data at USB3 speeds.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: orientation-neutral connector

          This is a challenge, but going back to the audio jack - I remember seeing plugs that adopted the key principle, so earth/shield engaged first, other contacts when fully inserted and rotated.

          A variant of this approach is used by one manufacturer of child safe UK mains sockets - the plug will only rotate when the earth pin is fully inserted. Hence effectively the plug could be as long as a DSi's stylus... the only downside is the amount of space the socket takes up - remember Apple were wanting the SIM standard changing because the required socket took up too much space within a device.

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: orientation-neutral connector

            They were called DIN plugs.

            The concept started strongly but went all naff as the number of different pin configurations bloomed.

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: orientation-neutral connector

              >They were called DIN plugs.

              The problem with DIN plugs was that they did have an orientation, get it wrong and you risked bending pins - this being even more of a problem with the micro DIN aka PS/2 connector...

              1. Stevie Silver badge

                Re: get it wrong and you risked bending pins

                Only if you ignored the rather obvious hint that the plug was not seating easily and hammered it in with your fist like a clod.

                Yes I've seen them done in like that. I never bent a DIN (which were common in my teens on stereophonic equipment) or PS2 because I understood the simple fact that if the plug wouldn't seat, ramming it in with increased ferocity wouldn't take either me or the plug anywhere good.

                I would expect anyone who graces themselves with the title "engineer" to get that too.

        2. Stevie Silver badge

          And before anyone chimes in with round

          I was actually going to suggest making the 'top' ribbed and the bottom smooth. I dunno why the 'intelligent' people in charge of the standard didn't hit on this themselves. It would scale to the various different sizes too, much better than that four-ended bungee cord they hot stamp into some (not all) usb plugs.

          That doesn't stop manufacturers installing the sockets in random configurations though - which they do. I'm forever having to get down on my hands and knees to see where the little tab is on one floor-level device I only plug into once in a blue moon when I can't do it by feel (ooh missus). It doesn't do much for the old gravitas to be discovered with my backside sticking out from under my desk by a vendor.

  32. True Thug

    Pfff reversible

    Reversible just means there are two correct ways to plug it in. If you make it round there's no wrong way...

  33. tjdennis

    This is just about the money

    When did we as a society come to the conclusion that figuring out which way to plug in a connector is the biggest problem we need to fix?

    I'm betting this is more about making money off new cable sales like Apple did. As everyone here has mentioned, we all have drawers full of USB cables and will never need to buy another one. The cable making industry is scared. New connectors will mean new cable sales for a few years along with other peripherals. At least until USB 4 comes out.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is just about the money

      I'm not sure I'd want to have the cable standards people responsible for nuclear nonproliferation, global warming, and world poverty...

  34. Herbert Fruchtl

    A curse on the inventor of PS2

    USB 1/2 was a huge improvement, but I never understood why they didn't go the whole hog in reducing apparent symmetry at the time. PS2 keyboard/mouse connectors (always at the rear of a computer chassis) were seemingly rotation invariant, so you had to guess the correct orientation out of an infinite number of possibilities, unless you had a clear view. USB (at that time also still only at the rear) reduced this to two options, making it infinitely easier, but still too fiddly. At some point they started universally colour-coding the (identical, but not exchangeable) keyboard and mouse plugs from grey/grey to lilac/green, which helps you bugger all when you can't see them. Can I claim back the hours I spent under desks trying to plug in keyboards and mice over 2 1/2 decades when I'm on my death bed and have only half a day left?

    1. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: A curse on the inventor of PS2

      PS2 connectors were symmetrical but weren't round and had a very well-defined keyway. You had to be willfully thick to hammer them in the wrong way (and yes I've seen the results of just such activity).

      As for being under desks, why not simply rotate the cpu case so you *could* see the sockets?

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: A curse on the inventor of PS2

        "As for being under desks, why not simply rotate the cpu case so you *could* see the sockets?"

        Because sometimes, be they on or under desks, PCs are locked down, tied down, or otherwise in a position (think inside a specialized cubby-hole) where they can't be moved, meaning you have to take the cable to the device.

        PS. I've seen PS2 connectors get mangled just by manual labor. Since socket orientation doesn't always correspond to the plug, it's STILL difficult to know which way is supposed to be up (consider sockets on PCI (Express) cards where all the connectors are UPSIDE-DOWN). People can twist and turn those plugs to the point that those literally-wire-thin pins get bent, if not snap altogether. A GOOD connector design needs to prevent that point from happening. The current USB A plug design and standard B plug do a good job at this but are too big for today's smaller devices, and the smaller B versions, while honest attempts, have their drawbacks.

  35. Roland6 Silver badge

    Power ...

    An area where people have over looked is "the Type C jack will support power charging across a range of voltages in order to support not only devices able to operate off standard USB power lines, but also kit like laptops that require much more power than USB usually delivers."

    I suggest for this to happen, safely, the cable will need to be intelligent ... Over the years, I've noticed that various manufacturer's mobile phones, don't charge over USB if you don't use their cable and their USB mains plug. So I expect this part of USB 4, will behave similarly, so whilst the vendors will be able to tick the USB box, you the user will still have to have dedicated cables etc. for some devices.

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