Nowadays, the majority of computers and electronic devices will have some form of USB connection, if not multiple. While most of us are using USB cables on a daily basis to charge up our smartphones, tablets and other portable devices.
USB (which stands for Universal Serial Bus) was developed in the 1990s in an attempt to make connections between computers and external devices more simple. However, USB standards come in a variety of connection types, with the bulk being incompatible with others. If you have little knowledge surrounding the topic, replacing a USB cable could be deemed a difficult task.
With all the different USB connection types currently available, it can become difficult to understand what they all are. Accordingly, we have highlighted everything you need to know about the USB standard and have put together a guide to help you easily distinguish between the various types.
USB is seemingly meant to be universal, yet there are several different kinds which exist. You may be wondering why is this? Well, as it turns out, they each serve different purposes, largely down to the fact that they must maintain compatibility and support the latest devices. Here are the many different types of USB connectors currently on the market:
- Type-A: Found on host controllers and on the end of almost every USB cable, is the standard flat, rectangular interface of USB Type-A. The majority of computers will have multiple USB-A ports for connecting external devices. This USB type can only be inserted one way.
- Type-B: This type of USB is mainly used for things like printers and other powered devices which need to connect to a computer. Type-B is an almost square connector which isn’t very common to find in the latest devices.
- Mini-USB: While Mini USB is not a standard you will commonly see today, it is still used on peripheral devices such as digital cameras and MP3 players. This connection type was originally designed for earlier models of smartphones before it was replaced by Micro USB.
- Micro-USB: As the current standard for mobile devices, the Micro USB is essentially a smaller form of the Mini USB connector. This allows mobile devices to become slimmer whilst still connecting to a computer or hub. Although you will find Micro USB on various phones, tablets and other power devices, a lot of the latest models have progressed onto USB Type-C.
- Type-C: USB Type-C is the newest USB interface that was introduced to the market alongside the new USB 3.1-speed standard. Dissimilar to previous USB connectors, Type-C is reversible (meaning it can be plugged in either up or down) and can be used on both upstream controller ports and devices. You will see this standard on many new laptops and smartphones and it should eventually become the new standard for mobile devices.
- Lightning: Although this isn’t technically a USB standard, the Lightning USB connection type is Apple’s trademark connector used for all Apple products, such as the iPhone, iPad and AirPods. This type can be seen on all of the latest Apple devices released after 2012.
Some of the USB connection types outlines above are progressively being phased out, while others are built to become the future standard for smartphones and other mobile devices.
USB Speed Standards:
Not to confuse you even more, but USB also has multiple standards of different transfer speeds. Just because a cable may have a certain connection type, doesn’t fundamentally mean that it uses a particular speed standard. We have highlighted the main USB speed standards below:
- USB 1.1: This was the original standard of the USB and thus it’s unlikely you will find this standard being used on devices these days.
- USB 2.0: This standard is a development of USB 1.1, with an increase in data transfer speeds. With the introduction of USB 2.0, came many USB standards which include the support for Mini and Micro. Although it is the slower speed of USB, you will still see it being used on devices like flash drives, keyboards, and ports on most computers.
- USB 3.0/3.1: As the current standard for USB speeds, this developed USB offers super-speed rates and is much faster than USB 2.0. Often many USB 3.0 ports on computers will have the ‘SS‘ symbol added, which stands for SuperSpeed. This SuperSpeed Bus provides a fourth transfer mode which offers even faster transfer rates. The USB 3.0 standard is also backwards compatible with USB 2.0.
The Best USB Cables:
It’s essential to note that you don’t have to buy a USB cable that’s the same brand as your phone, but it’s important to stick to recognised brands. Purchasing a cable just because it’s the cheapest option isn’t necessarily a good idea as they can perform badly and damage your devices.
Are you after a new USB cable but unsure as to which one you should choose? Well, look no further. We have rounded up our top recommendations below: