USB Type-C cable plugs to be reversible

By Leo Kelion
Technology reporter

image captionThe new USB Type-C connector will be reversible unlike the current USB 3.0 version

USB cable developers have announced that a forthcoming version of the connector's plug is to be reversible.

It means users of the Universal Serial Bus cables will no longer have to worry which way round the part is facing when plugging it into a device.

The specification is due to be completed by mid-2014, and the first product on the market by 2016.

It will neuter one of the advantages Apple's proprietary lightning cable currently has over the USB system.

The first USB cable were released in the mid-1990s and, until now, could only be plugged into a computer or other device one way round to ensure a data connection.

The Promoter Group, which agrees the design of the standard, is currently made up of representatives from Intel, HP, Microsoft, Renesas Electronics, ST-Ericsson and Texas Instruments.

"Consumers are now demanding thinner and sleeker product designs and the USB 3.0 Promoter Group recognises this need," said the group's president Jeff Ravencraft.

He added that the development was unrelated to Apple's move to a reversible system.

image captionUSB Type-C will be roughly the same size as a micro-USB connector, seen on the left

Other changes to the current version - USB 3.0 - include:

  • A smaller size, giving the full-size USB Type-C plug similar dimensions to the micro-USB format used by many smartphones and tablets
  • Support for scalable power charging, allowing the cable to offer up to 100 watts
  • Data speed transfers of up to 10 Gbps, double what is possible at the moment
  • A promise that the new design will accommodate further upgrades

"This allows USB to increase performance and continue to deliver ease of use to several evolving product categories for years to come," said Roland Sperlich, from Texas Instruments.

One industry watcher welcomed news of the update.

image captionApple's Lightning connector is already reversible

"I don't think consumers buy devices based on the type of plug, so in terms of driving adoption of a certain type of smartphone, tablet or PC it doesn't make a great deal of difference," said Ian Fogg, from consultants IHS.

"Where I think it is important is the convenience of using the devices, and increasingly USB is used not just to connect and share data, but as a way of charging our machines.

"Anything that makes it easier and more convenient to charge is a good thing as it's something we all have to do very frequently."

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