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 extend the tiny “USB 2.0 Micro B” connector with a bigger, USB 3.0 plug. This compromise came about because of the need to ensure backwards compatibility with USB 2.0-only systems. USB 3.0’s performance improvements are delivered through an entirely separate bus.
The new connector will still carry two separate buses – though not necessarily simultaneously – but will not fit into existing USB ports of any kind. Gadgets will require new slots, then. Users will need new cables to hook up to their existing computer-hosted USB ports and AC adaptors for power.
Speaking of power, 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.
It’ll also be able to support future USB speed upgrades, paving the way for the bus to become a one-size-fits all system for connectivity and energy. Almost that - there’s still display data, of course. But if they can manage to cram DisplayPort or HDMI in there too, we’d be able to run everything off the same kind of cable.
The USB Implementers Forum, overseer of the USB standard, said it expects to have the USB Type C specification ready during the first quarter of 2014, with the final specification published around the middle of next year.
Products using the connector won’t appear for another 18 months or so after that. ®