Posted on July 4, 2024 in Technology

What Kinds of USB Are Out There?

Over the last ten years, the most common kinds of USBs for phones have been the micro USB, Mini USB, and USB-C. Outside of that, USB-A types are the most common for computers, while USB-B, USB-C, mini- and micro- types can largely be found in specialty peripheral connections as well as older tech. USB-A connectors are the kind of connector that jump drives use, with a large square connection. Mini- and micro-USB connectors are much smaller, and the bottom of the connection is flat. USB-C drives are about the same size as the micro-USB, but round, and can be connected “upside down”, an advantage over previous versions of USBs which must be plugged in a certain way to function. USB-As for example do not have a visual cue to show which way is ‘up’ on a jump drive or cable.  Ideally, everything will eventually connect to and from USB-Cs.

USBs are extremely convenient – as mentioned in the last article, these nifty plugins replaced larger, bulkier serial and parallel ports which were rarely made to be compatible with each other, although for the time their speed was fine. The industry desperately needed something to ensure devices could talk to each other, and USB delivered, with ports appearing on the backs and sides of PC computers before 1999, and Apple devices too after (with version 1.1 being used for the iMac G3). These early USBs could only communicate with a host computer upon the host’s request – peripherals couldn’t talk to each other until later, around 2000 with USB version 2.0, which also supported more devices as USBs (and small consumer electronics) became more widespread.

Shortly after, mobile and cellular phones grew in popularity as cell networks became more reliable, which itself lead to a sort of diversification of micro-sized plugins as each device tried to re-invent the wheel, much to the annoyance of the customer, who would have to find a replacement cord should their charger ever split. People who still use Blackberry devices will tell you that it’s agonizingly difficult to find a charger in-stores now because it’s one of many devices that just didn’t use USB-C and paid for it down the line. Right now, you may still struggle to find the right cable for your device, because mini-USBs are just as common as lightning cables, but lightning cables are still everywhere. Apple really did think it would win in the lightning vs. USB-C argument!

All of this has gradually pushed the EU to standardize onto the USB-C cable, hoping to ease the load on both the consumer and the electronic waste disposal services.