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Cellphones Hardware Technology

Reversible Type-C USB Connector Ready For Production 191

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-never-the-facing-the-right-way-on-the-first-try dept.
orasio writes: One of the most frustrating first-world problems ever (trying to connect an upside-down Micro-USB connector) could disappear soon. The Type-C connector for USB has been declared ready for production by the USB Promoter Group (PDF). "With the Type-C spec finalized, it now comes down to the USB-IF to actually implement the sockets, plugs, cables, adapters, and devices. The problem is that there are billions of existing USB devices and cables that will need adapters and new cables to work with new Type-C devices. It’s a lot like when Apple released the Lightning connector, but on an even grander scale. Further exacerbating the issue is the fact that China, the EU, and the GSMA have all agreed that new mobile devices use Micro-USB for charging — though it might be as simple as including a Micro-USB-to-Type-C adapter with every new smartphone."
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Reversible Type-C USB Connector Ready For Production

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  • by Target Drone (546651) on Tuesday August 12, 2014 @05:57PM (#47658939)
    One of the most frustrating first-world problems... they keep inventing new incompatible connectors for no good reason (at least for the consumer).
    • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

      As an Apple customer, I am quite happy they ditched the "30-pin" connector and went with the reversible lightning connector. One less thing to fiddle with when charging my phone. Nice to see USB picking up the feature, even if it is a couple years later with implementations still not available.

      That said, the cable/connector interface on the lightning cables is not nearly strong enough for the insertion/removal force required. It will be interesting to see if the USB design will work better in that regard

      • What do you mean, not strong enough? We've managed to walk an Apple wall wart out of an outlet several times. The lightning connecter stayed connected to the iPad.
        • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

          The cable connection at the lightning connector has failed on me several times, specifically because the connector stays connected to the device. The removal force exceeds the strength of the cable. Yes, I understand you shouldn't pull from the cable, but the connector body is sometimes too small to get a good hold on.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        Wouldn't you have been better off if they had gone to Micro USB though? It's cheap, ubiquitous, supports full 1080p video without nasty compression and does everything else that the Lightning connector does. Apple could even have added some extra pins for their own functions, like Samsung and HTC have done, while still retaining full compatibility.

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          Wouldn't you have been better off if they had gone to Micro USB though? It's cheap, ubiquitous, supports full 1080p video without nasty compression and does everything else that the Lightning connector does. Apple could even have added some extra pins for their own functions, like Samsung and HTC have done, while still retaining full compatibility.

          microUSB does NOT SUPPORT TV OUT.

          Sorry, but do not confuse MHL, SlimPort or other "let's hack a micro USB compatible connector" standard with micro USB. MHL and S

    • No good reason? Really?

      Look on the bright side - with Type-D they'll figure out how to go reversible and genderless and then we'll be done for good.

      • Don't they call that Bluetooth?

      • by AdamHaun (43173)

        Look on the bright side - with Type-D they'll figure out how to go reversible and genderless and then we'll be done for good.

        Along those lines: the "gendering" (sort of) of USB was deliberate. USB is a master/slave protocol with a host that supplies power and a device that (optionally) consumes it. The cables were designed to prevent people from connecting two hosts together and shorting out their power supplies. The newer USB On-The-Go (OTG) standard allows two hosts to connect using special connectors (micro-AB) to control power switching and a connection protocol for deciding which end is the master, but it's pretty complicate

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          Along those lines: the "gendering" (sort of) of USB was deliberate. USB is a master/slave protocol with a host that supplies power and a device that (optionally) consumes it. The cables were designed to prevent people from connecting two hosts together and shorting out their power supplies. The newer USB On-The-Go (OTG) standard allows two hosts to connect using special connectors (micro-AB) to control power switching and a connection protocol for deciding which end is the master, but it's pretty complicate

          • by samjam (256347)

            That may be how OTG was conceived but I never heard of anyone using it that way.

            People (including me) use it for USB keyboard, mice, hard disks, flash drives on phones or tablets which also act as removable media to a PC.

      • with Type-D they'll figure out how to go reversible and genderless

        The two are mutually exclusive, aren't they?

  • Er, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pathological liar (659969) on Tuesday August 12, 2014 @06:05PM (#47658991)

    though it might be as simple as including a Micro-USB-to-Type-C adapter with every new smartphone

    This is genius.

    "This new connector, whose only value is that it's reversible, doesn't work on the billions of existing devices. Why don't we include a non-reversible adapter?"

    Hell, for extra convenience, just leave the adapter on the cable all the time.

    • It has several other values: Higher current capacity to allow faster charging of devices, and higher bandwidth to allow faster revisions of the USB spec.
    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      Not sure if trying to be funny or just braindead. There's this thing called backwards compatibility that is typically required when you change a global standard.

      Oh are you going to be massively inconvenienced by having to use an adapter for a few years while all your devices adopt the new standards and your cables get replaced by attrition? Maybe your story can get on Slashdot as the "most frustrating first-world problem".

      So yes, it is actually quite genius to design a system like that.

    • The whole point of Type-C is to address the ugly kludge that is the current micro-USB3 connector that almost no phone or tablet adopted because the connector is huge - over twice as wide as micro-USB.

      As for the EU and others with mandated micro-USB charging, I bet they will include Type-C as an acceptable or even preferred alternative in short enough order.

  • by CaptainDork (3678879) on Tuesday August 12, 2014 @06:05PM (#47658993)

    .revelc woh ...

  • Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mirix (1649853) on Tuesday August 12, 2014 @06:07PM (#47659007)

    I know, one more USB connector to have an adaptor for... But this is how the mini/micro and even old USB 'A' should have been from the beginning.

    There's nothing worse than having to blind mate USB, and having to flip it four bloody times before it works. (except maybe blind mating 'F' connectors, or sometimes D sub..)

    • by erice (13380)

      I know, one more USB connector to have an adaptor for... But this is how the mini/micro and even old USB 'A' should have been from the beginning.

      There's nothing worse than having to blind mate USB, and having to flip it four bloody times before it works. (except maybe blind mating 'F' connectors, or sometimes D sub..)

      I can think of a few things that are worse, including:

      1) Arriving at your destination needing to charge your phone and finding that, although you have the charger and the phone, you forgot the adapter.
      2) Having to mate and secure two connections instead of just one.
      3) Unplugging phone cable from adapter leaving converter behind. This already happens with car adapters where you can easily walk off with the cable and phone, leaving the 12V adapter behind.
      4) Arriving at far off destination to find that you ha

      • by mirix (1649853)

        That's kind of a bullshit complaint. Do you currently plug your phone into a USB A to USB B adaptor, to a USB B to USB mini B adaptor, which is plugged into a USB mini B to micro B adaptor? (yeah, I skipped some USB variants).

        No? then shortly you'll just have a USB micro C cable / charger, same as how you have a micro B cable / charger now.

        • same as how you have a micro B cable / charger now.

          And what about the thousands or hundreds of thousands of installed USB chargers and devices? Some public library in the EU installed 50 micro B USB cables after the EU legislation. How many products went and built themselves around micro USB B? What if you want to borrow your friend's. A lot of stuff has in integrated USB micro B instead of a USB-A.

      • For most of those issues, the solution is simple: if you forget cables and adapters so often that it is a major hassle, you might want to buy some spare cables and adapters to suit most scenarios. Type-A plugs are not going to disappear overnight (USB 3.0 Type-A maps directly to Type-C so Type-A on PCs, power adapters and anywhere else where shaving cubic millimeters does not matter is not going anywhere) so an A-to-C cable should have you covered in most cases where you cannot do C-to-C... assuming Type-C

    • Proof that cables exist in 4-dimensional space:
      http://www.smbc-comics.com/ind... [smbc-comics.com]
    • by daid303 (843777)

      Try blind mating an DVI connector. You'll find that USB is a charm compared to that.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Back when USB first came out the technology to make such small, robust connectors didn't exist.

      I don't think we will be needing cables for most of our mobile devices for much longer anyway. My phone and tablet already charge and sync wirelessly. I can even buy a wireless battery charger (you put the cells in the charger, then put the charger down on a charging pad) if I really want to avoid every plugging anything in again.

      We are finally ready to get rid of the mess of wires and USB hubs, so hopefully this

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 12, 2014 @06:10PM (#47659021)

    This is today's XKCD - and it's already out of date !
    http://xkcd.com/1406/

  • by Cockatrice_hunter (1777856) on Tuesday August 12, 2014 @06:19PM (#47659069) Homepage

    Is there a reason why USB cables can't be shaped like 3.5 mm speaker cables just with more 'stripes'? Then they could be plugged in any direction and they'd be rotate-able.

    • by ChipMonk (711367) on Tuesday August 12, 2014 @06:40PM (#47659193) Journal
      It has to do with exactly *how* the connections are made as the plug is inserted. Ground/common so static can dissipate, then data/signal, then power last. Each line connects only to its corresponding line in the other piece. A 3.5mm plug doesn't provide that kind of "signal safety"; at some point, it's possible the power on one side would touch the ground on the other, and put a charge into the device before it was fully plugged-in.
      • by thegarbz (1787294) on Tuesday August 12, 2014 @09:40PM (#47659985)

        There's even more to it than that. The typical 3.5mm *will* briefly short when mating. Not that this is necessarily a problem but it needs to be taken into account in the design.

        Furthermore USB being a high speed data link relies on transmission line characteristics. That is the impedance of the lines need to be carefully controlled, the distance between data lines needs to be carefully controlled, and in these cases the construction of the connector matters a lot. Everything from the spacing of the pins to the shell, to the layout of signals as they reach the circuit board matters. There's no easy way to keep this all nice and even if you pass one signal through another.

    • by daid303 (843777)

      Because those are utterly crap. They provide a long arm and that's what causing the connector to break off quite easy at the PCB side.

  • I thought that the third world bought their technology from the first world. Like USB devices...

    • by Immerman (2627577)

      Idiot.

      You're supposed to wait a few years to make a killing selling USB 'C' cables before you make an announcement like that. ;-)

  • If you can plug in the USB either way, then there will not be scratch marks on the phone when a drunk tried to plug it in the wrong way. Then his brother might not have tell tale scratches in the phone he borrowed. Then how can Sherlock impress Watson? Bad idea.
  • by rahvin112 (446269) on Tuesday August 12, 2014 @07:13PM (#47659369)

    So they are finally getting the connector right. After 5 different connectors and almost 20 years they are finally going to fix the USB connector problem (at least most of them). Not only that but they designed with a future awareness that will hopefully prevent the Micro-USB3 nightmare (two connectors in one) in the future.

    It's Smaller than every previous USB connection.
    It's reversible so you can plug it only one time.
    They designed it with the ability to add additional wires in the future as the standard evolves.
    The C connector supports USB 3.1 which allows up to 100watts of power transfer (enough to power smaller laptops).
    IIRC it's also designed to put less strain on the connection to the circuit board so you won't get the solder flex failure so common with USB.

    What they got wrong is it's almost indistinguishable from Micro without close examination. They didn't put in a color or other requirement that would have made the port obvious without close examination, even though it's smaller a LOT of people are going to be trying to plug USB micro connectors into these ports.

    All in all I'd say the USB working group finally fixed a few major problems with USB and it's a good standard that will probably eventually replace all A,B,Mini and Micro ports over the next few years. The beauty is finally incorporating 100watt capability, it should be possible to have standard power adapters on laptops that use 1 or 2 USB ports for power eliminating the need to replace your power brick all the time.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 12, 2014 @08:32PM (#47659733)

      The C connector supports USB 3.1 which allows up to 100watts of power transfer (enough to power smaller laptops).

      Now THIS is totally awesome. I can just plug my laptop into itself, and I no longer have to carry around that behemoth charging brick. That TOTALLY make it worth it.

      • You're clearly not thinking outside of the box my friend. I plan on connecting my laptop into multiple USB hubs until I have enough 100 watts outputs to power my house and charge my car.

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      IIRC it's also designed to put less strain on the connection to the circuit board so you won't get the solder flex failure so common with USB.

      That is exclusively the department of the connector manufacturer and nothing at all to do with the USB spec or working group. Do a quick search on your favourite parts supplier's website for MicroUSB connectors and you'll see all sorts of weird and wonderful designs from ones which anchor through the circuit board in multiple places to some which have 2 flimsy pads holding the resulting mess together.

      There are bad USB connectors out there, but there are also good connectors. None of this changes with the ne

      • by rahvin112 (446269)

        Of course there are other circuit board connectors, but lets be honest, the reference design is the one you will see the most and the previous reference designs have a serious fatigue failure problem.

        • by thegarbz (1787294)

          Except that isn't even remotely true. The part chosen is governed price, availability manufacturer preference and required features which usually are based around things like circuit board layout, dimensions, but could be as strange as needing to be waterpoof. Heck one of the most popular devices on the market at the moment (Galaxy S5) has a custom made connector which fixes the receptacle to the case with screws so there's zero stress on the PCB. Farnell lists some 30 different microUSB-B connectors and a

    • by damaki (997243)
      100W is technically a good idea, but is 100W with 5V, it's madness. How will I be able to buy a proper 100W cable and not a cheap chinese knockoff if I'm no electrical engineer? Let's picture it: cheap cable + 20A => lots of fun.
      • It most definitely is *NOT* 100W with 5V- the power delivery is negotiated to figure out what each end (and the cable) can handle, and it boosts the voltage (decreasing the resistive heating in the cable). The USB Forum has been working on this for quite a while- don't know how it will all work out, but as most things committee based, nothing was put in the specification without a great deal of discussion and analysis.

        • by damaki (997243)
          I had a look at his, and 100W is only possible when the 20V mode is activated. So yes, there will be a power delivery negotiation.
          Still, I am quite skeptical towards this standard and the ability of cheap chinese devices (understand ubiquitously rebranded devices) to conform to it securely..
  • 100 Watts (Score:5, Informative)

    by neonv (803374) on Tuesday August 12, 2014 @07:21PM (#47659421)

    Please keep in mind an important aspect of this new cable, it supports 100 watts power transfer. That means most devices, including laptops, can be charged through this one connector. I see that as the best reason to switch, fast charging and universal connector for all my devices. The article glosses over that important detail. It also enables 10 Gbs data transfer.

    • by nblender (741424)

      mmm, USB Inverter! I'll be able to plug my iron into my laptop USB port while at sea!

  • by hirschma (187820) on Tuesday August 12, 2014 @08:12PM (#47659641)

    The USB 3.0 Micro B connector is horrendous design:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U... [wikipedia.org]

    Seriously, worst connector ever. Did they really think that abomination would be used on cellphones?

    • by Ksevio (865461)
      Yes. I have that abomination on my cellphone. It sucks to plug in, but at least it's compatible with normal plugs
    • Oh, like you don't find on the Samsung Note 3 and Galaxy S5, you mean? Yeah no chance of seeing it on a phone.
    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      A connector which combines the current standard with backwards compatibility to all existing cables and chargers is a horrendous design?
      What do you propose, yet another adapter? Throw away yet another charger? Yes maybe we should play this trick every time a new device comes out.

      Or maybe you just think it's ugly because it has a notch in it?

      And yes it is being shipped on many flagship cellphones.

  • by tbg58 (942837) on Tuesday August 12, 2014 @09:29PM (#47659945)
    In view of recent revelations that USB Security is fundamentally broken, is the new spec just for a connector or does it include any interface implementation of better security? http://www.wired.com/2014/07/u... [wired.com]
    • by Ash-Fox (726320)

      This can be fixed in the operating system with prompts on accepting device types.

  • If I can power my laptop and get a network connection (powerline ethernet) over the same cable, that would be really sweet.

  • If i look at the pictures correctly, the male portion of this interface is in the device, while the cable is essentially 'female' inside? Who's bright idea was this? The male side is much more likely to break.

  • For the sake of other lazy people, can someone respond to me and answer the following.

    What is becoming reversible, just the USB Micro style size or the larger sizes too?
    Are we just skipping everything and moving to the one plug at both ends for all USB connections possibly?
    If we do move to said plug, what aobut strength? I've seen some mock up pics of the proposed plug, it looks great for a phone, it doesn't look great for a printer / back of a PC - looks quite delicate.

    • by DrYak (748999)

      The idea is to have an unified Type-C connector every where.

      Long term plan is to have on both side, device side (harddisk, tablet, phone) and host side (laptop, power plug, etc.)
      (Juste like 6 wired FireWire 400 had the same connector everywhere)

      Althought they probably will begin used with A to C cables.

  • The problem is that there are billions of existing USB devices and cables that will need adapters and new cables to work with new Type-C devices. It’s a lot like when Apple released the Lightning connector, but on an even grander scale.

    What problem? My existing micro-usb devices won't need adapters, new devices with Type-C connectors will come with Type-C to Type-A cables, and when desktops/laptops start to come with Type-C connectors I'll just buy some new cables.

    It's the same situation when micro-usb replaced mini-usb, I don't remember there being a problem on a "grand scale" then either.

    • And, unlike Lightening, USB isn't widely used as a mechanical connector on top of being data. My iPhone doesn't work in most iPhone/iPod docks, but my USB keyboard doesn't have that requirement.

      I suspect this will be a very smooth switch.

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