Table of Contents (click to enlarge)
- Understand USB ports
- USB types (depending on physical design)
- USB types (depending on version and speed)
USB cables can be categorized into USB Type-A, USB Type-B, USB Type-C, USB Micro, USB Mini, and Lightning based on their physical design. Also, USB ports are divided into different versions based on their speed, e.g. USB 1.0, USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and USB 4.0.
It is safe to say that almost all electronic devices including smartphones, laptops, tablets, desktop computers, Bluetooth speakers, etc. rely on USB ports and cables for various functions.
But like any technology, USB, or "Universal Serial Bus" (it's a mouthful, isn't it?) has come a long way since its inception in 1995. As such, it is sometimes difficult, and even overwhelming, to understand terms like USB 3.0 vs. USB Type B. What exactly does "Type B" mean in this example? How about "3.0"? What does that mean?
This article covers everything you need to know about USBs. But before we get into USB, let's quickly talk about a termAlwaysListen along with USB: USB connection.
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Understand USB ports
Most electronic devices have a port that a USB cable plugs into. This "place" or slot is called a port. As you can imagine, this port allows USB devices to connect to the "host" device.
A USB cable is connected to the USB port of the laptop. (Copyright: Jaroslava Nyvltova/Shutterstock)
So when you transfer data from your phone to your laptop using a USB cable, connect your phone (host) to the USB port (receiver) of the laptop.
Now that you understand a USB connector, it's time to look at USB types.
USB types (depending on physical design)
USB cables come in many different shapes and styles. Therefore, depending on their physical structure, they are classified as follows:
- usb typ a
- USB-Typ B
- USB-Typ c
- Mini USB (Mini USB A and Mini USB B)
- Micro USB (Micro USB A, Micro USB B und Micro USB B Supervelocidade)
- Cable Lightning (for Apple devices)
Here is an image to better understand the different USB types:
Different types of USB cables. (Image credit: iunewind/Shutterstock)
1 – USB-Typ A
USB Type-A connectors or simply Type-A connectors are one of the most common USB connectors. They are therefore also referred to as standard A connectors.
USB Type A. (Image credit: cigdem/shutterstock)
If your laptop or desktop computer has a USB port (which you can connect USB devices to), it is probably a USB Type A port. Please note that most modern Apple laptops (Mac ) have no connections. usb type a
2 – USB-Typ B
Type B is smaller than Type A and has a square shape. This is relatively rarer than Type B, but you can find it in computer components such as printers, scanners, external hard drives, etc.
Type B USB connector. (Photo: Hank Shiffman/Shutterstock)
3 – USB-Typ-C
USB Type-C is probably the most popular USB port. Because of its small size, it easily fits into the smallest peripherals we use today, such as smartphones, Bluetooth speakers, etc.
One of Type-C's many advantages over other variants is that it allows for "reverse connector orientation," which basically means you can always connect your USB cable correctly the first time. Its connector is designed in such a way that you can insert it into the slot without thinking about its orientation.
This is what USB Type-C looks like (Image credit: Mateus André/Shutterstock)
Another interesting aspect of the Type-C is that it offers bi-directional power delivery; In other words, you can charge your smartphone on your laptop and vice versa.
USB Type-C made headlines in tech magazines around the world when a variant of Apple's 12-inch MacBook was released. It was the first laptop to incorporate Type-C into its design.
As mentioned above, type C is already widespread worldwide. Therefore, it is almost certain that all electronic devices will support Type-C in the years to come.
4 - Mini USB (Mini USB A and Mini USB B)
USB Minis come in two varieties: USB Mini A (or Mini USB A) and USB Mini B. These are smaller equivalents of USB Type A and Type B connectors.
USB Mini-A and USB Mini-B connectors (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)
You'll likely find USB Mini in handheld cameras, game controllers, and some older cell phones.
Also read:Why do the transfer rates vary when copying a file from the PC to the USB stick and vice versa?
5 – USB Micro (Micro USB A, Micro USB B und Micro USB B Superspeed)
Popularly known as Micro-USB, this is a common USB connector that you can find on many smartphones these days. However, with the advent of USB Type-C, micro-USBs will be phased out in newer models of high-end smartphones. But Micro-USB is still widely used in budget smartphones and other electronic devices around the world.
Micro USB B connector (Photo: Marco Rubino/Shutterstock)
There is another variant of USB Micro known as USB Micro B Superspeed. As the name suggests, this allows for faster data transfer than traditional micro USB B connectors.
Micro Superspeed USB connector with USB Type-A on the other end. (Credit: Ni Gal/Shutterstock)
Therefore, you will find most of these connectors on external hard drives, which regularly transfer large amounts of data.
6 – Cable Lightning (for Apple devices)
Modern Apple devices like iPhones and iPads often have a completely different type of USB connector: the Lightning cable. The cable has a slim rectangular connector on one end and a Type-C connector on the other end.
A Lightning cable with a thin connector on one end and a Type-C connector on the other end. (Image credit: Jaromond/Shutterstock)
It's also reversible, meaning it can be attached either way without worrying about which one is on the right side.
As you can imagine, the Lightning connector's design means it can't be used on any other non-Apple device, making it a nuisance for many users.
These were the main types of USB cables based on their physical design and structure.
Now let's look at the USB types based on their speed and functionality.
USB types (depending on version and speed)
There are different USB versions depending on how fast they transmit and receive data between two electronic devices. The main types of USB are as follows:
- USB 1.0
- USB 2.0
- USB 3.0
- USB 4.0
Among them are some versions like USB 1.1, USB 3.1 and USB 3.2.
Here is a table listing the main differences in speed and performance for some USB versions.
Main differences between some USB versions.
USB 1.0was released in January 1996. It had some problems and a newer version, USB 1.1, was released in September 1998. The maximum data transfer rate of USB 1.1 was 12 megabits per second (Mbps).
USB 2.0It was released in 2000 and greatly improved the maximum data transfer rate to 480 Mbit/s. In addition, USB also made it possible to have better current capacity for charging electronic devices such as smartphones.
USB 3.0was released in September 2007 and supported a maximum speed of 5 Gbps. This was the third major update to USB standards (previous updates were USB 1.0 and USB 2.0 versions).
However, further updates were released in the years that followed, resulting in the rebranding of USB 3.0 (i.e. the latest version of USBFrom that time on) a USB 3.1 Gen 1.
Therefore, USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 Gen 1 are essentially the same and have a maximum data transfer rate of 5 Gbps. Then, in July 2013, USB 3.1 Gen 2 was released with a maximum data transfer rate of 10 Gbps.
Then, in September 2017, USB 3.2 was released. There are four versions of USB 3.2: Gen 1×1, Gen 1×2, Gen 2×1, and Gen 2×2.
USB 3.2 Gen 2×2is quite popular today and offers a maximum speed of 20 Gbps with 2-lane operation (hence the name 2×2). This version only supports USB Type-C design. Since it offers significantly faster charging and data transfer speeds, most modern smartphones and even some laptops are compatible with this USB version.
The latest and most modern USB version is USB 4. It was released in 2019 and offers huge improvements over previous versions. It only uses Type-C connectors and offers an incredible top speed of 40Gbps.
This is what the USB 4.0 connector looks like. (Image credit: Victor Josan/Shutterstock)
Also read:How did the 3.5mm jack become the norm in electronic devices?
USB 4 and Type-C connectors look almost identical, so naturally many users confuse them and mix up the terms "Type-C" and "USB 4". Note that USB Type-C refers to the physical layout of USB ports. Instead, USB 4 designates the USB version. USB 4 has nothing to do with the shape of the connector; it only shows the performance and speed of the USB version.
Simply put, USB ports are classified by their physical design: Type A, B, C, etc., and by their speed and functionality: USB 1.0, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and USB 4.0.
References (click to enlarge)
- USB Type-C® cable and connector specifications. USB implementers forum
- USB-C-Protokoll – ecee.colorado.edu:80
- What you need to know about USB-C | IT support blog. The University of Texas at Austin
- A Roger. AN1953 - Microchip Technology. Microchip Technology Inc.
- Cable connector instructions. The College of William & Mary
- Son K, Choi S, Jung DH, Kim K, Park G, Lho D, … Choi S (2019, October). Design and analysis of a 10Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C connector for TV set-top boxes. 2019 IEEE 28th Conference on Electrical Performance of Electronic Packaging and Systems (EPEPS). IEEE.
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Is USB B and USB-C the same? ›
USB Type-C and Micro-USB (Type-B Micro) are not the same, and will not fit each other's ports on their own. Look for a USB Type-C to Micro-USB adapter. This will have a USB Type-C connector that plugs into your device and a Micro-USB port into which you plug the charger.What is the difference between Type A and Type B and Type-C charger? ›
To sum things up, the latest generation USB-C has transfer speeds up to 20Gbps. This can increase to 40Gbps with the new USB4 variation. In comparison, older USB-A can only attain speeds up to 20Gbps if it uses the latest 3.2 technology. Most USB-B port types use 3.0 technology.Is USB Type-C better than USB type B? ›
The USB-C, USB-B, and USB-A differences are most obvious in their physical form, but the distinctions run much deeper. USB-C is a more versatile and powerful standard and is set to be the main connector for years to come.What is the difference between normal USB and USB-C? ›
USB-C at a Glance
The first thing you'll probably notice about USB-C is that it's shaped quite differently from a USB-A port. A USB-C connector is much smaller, more rounded, and symmetrical, which means that it works no matter which way you insert the connector into the port.
Unless you use an adapter, USB-C ports or cables will not work with USB-A or USB-B ports or cables. Devices that require USB 3.1 transfer speeds of 10Gbps might not work with USB 3.0 or USB 2.0, or you might experience lower transfer speeds and impacted performance.What is the purpose of USB type B? ›
The primary reason for the development of USB B connectors were to allow the connection of peripheral devices without running the risk of connecting two host computers to one another. USB B type connector is still used today, though it is slowly being phased out in favor of more refined usb connector types.What is a Type-C charger look like? ›
The USB-C connector looks similar to a micro USB or rectangular USB 3.0 connectors at first glance, though it's more oval in shape and slightly thicker to accommodate its best feature: flippability. Like Lightning and MagSafe, the USB-C connector has no up or down orientation.What do Type-C Chargers go to? ›
You can use Type-C connectors in laptops, smartphones, tablets, and almost every modern-day electronic device. But before purchasing a Type-C charger, make sure that there is a USB-C connection on your device. And also, check how much power your device needs. All modern-day devices come with a USB Type-C connector.What do you plug a Type-C charger into? ›
Really, anything that has a Micro USB or USB-A could ultimately get a USB-C port. Devices like wireless mice, keyboards, speakers, and smart home devices, all either currently do, or could in the future, offer USB-C ports, both for power delivery and data transfer.How do I know if my USB is A or C? ›
Users can identify USB-C ports by staring at the female end of the connector. If the cord looks the same regardless of how it is held, it is probably a C-type cord.
Is USB Type B obsolete? ›
Is the B type connector is removed from the standard? The old Type B receptacle is superseded by "USB 3.1 Standard-B Receptacle" and "USB 3.1 Powered-B Receptacle". The new receptacles are backwards-compatible with old Type B plugs, so technically Type B is not "removed", since its plug is still supported somewhat.Does iPhone use USB-C? ›
Most commercially available smartphones have a USB-C port, but the iPhone does not. It uses Apple's proprietary Lightning port connector.Can I use a regular USB in a USB-C? ›
The good news is that USB-C ports can be used with older USB 2, 3.0, and 3.1 accessories.What is so special about USB Type-C? ›
Type-C ports support reverse insertion, so you can insert either end of the cable. Type-C ports can transmit data at a higher rate. 4K videos can be transmitted via a USB 3.1 Type-C port. Type-C ports support relatively larger charging currents ranging from 3 A to 5 A, and support reverse charging.What is USB Type-C used for? ›
A USB-C cable is a recent type of USB connector that's easier to use and more powerful than older USB types. USB-C cables can be used to quickly charge many popular devices, including the MacBook Pro and Nintendo Switch, and transfer data faster than any other USB type.Is there an adapter for USB to Type-C? ›
The USB-C to USB Adapter lets you connect iOS devices and many of your standard USB accessories to a USB-C– or Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)–enabled Mac. Plug the USB-C end of the adapter into a USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) port on your Mac, and then connect your flash drive, camera or other standard USB device.Can you go from USB-C to USB-A? ›
The Belkin USB-C to USB-A Adapter lets you charge your USB-C device as well as sync your photos, music and data to your existing laptop at transfer speeds of 5Gbps. Plus, the cable also supports up to 3 Amps of power output for charging USB-C devices.What is USB Type A and USB type B? ›
USB A-Type: This is the standard rectangular female port found on computers and other devices. USB B-Type: Most USB 2.0 printer cables, scanner cables and some external hard drive cables are B-type connectors. They are small and square. USB C-Type: These are the newest USB connectors on the market.What USB does Android use? ›
Android smartphones have used the USB Micro-B connector for both data transfer and charging almost exclusively since their introduction in 2008. Android tablets also use Micro USB but often have a separate port for their own power adapter.How do I know what USB port I have? ›
- Right-click the Windows icon (bottom left) and select Device Manager.
- In the Device Manager window, select Universal Serial Bus controllers.
- Locate the USB port by its type (e.g. 3.0, 3.1).
Does USB-C need special charger? ›
You also don't have to worry about the charger breaking or losing your charger because USB-C PD will work with any charger. USB-PD can charge smartphones/tablets up to 70% faster than a standard USB charger with 5 watts of power. This means that it does not take as long for the device to charge up to 100%.How to charge USB-C without charger? ›
If your laptop has a built-in USB-C port, then you'll be able to charge your laptop via a USB-C cable - you just have to make sure the cable has a plug adapter (the box-shaped plug at the end of your phone charger than can plug into an outlet). Some laptops use a USB-C cable as the primary charger.Is Type-C only for charging? ›
The USB Type-C connector is designed to replace data transfer, charging, and video connectors. However, not all cables support the same functionality.What is the difference between a Lightning cable and a USB cable? ›
The main difference between the USB-C and lightning formats is the list of devices each supports. Lightning cables are only meant to work with Apple devices, whereas USB-C connectors have a universal utility. You can charge your Android phone, video game controllers, laptops, tablets, and more with a single USB-C cord.Can I charge my phone with any Type-C charger? ›
Yes, you can use a non-standard charger or data cable to charge your phone.What is the difference between USB-C to Lightning and USB A to Lightning? ›
The biggest difference between the two is charging speed. USB-A to Lightning will charge 30% of your iPhone battery in 30 mins. This will result in a full charge in about an hour and a half. USB-C to Lightning will charge your battery 55% in 30 mins, resulting in a full iPhone charge in just under an hour.What is a Type B charger? ›
Type B is smaller than Type A and is square-shaped. This is relatively less common than Type B, but you would find it on computer components like printers, scanners, external hard drives, etc. USB Type B connector. (Why did USB-C replace A and B? ›
USB-C, the latest connector, is faster, more powerful and user-friendly than older USB types and allows power and data to be transmitted over the same cable.What devices use USB Type B? ›
USB Type B sockets are found on USB hubs, printers, scanners and other peripheral devices.Why is USB A being phased out? ›
The new standard is USB Type-C, also called USB-C. It will replace not only Type-A but the Mini-USB and Micro-USB connectors. The use of Type-A has been declining for a long time, because it takes up too much space on a phone or an ultra-thin tablet.
Why can t iPhones use USB-C? ›
Apple already admitted the USB-C cable is better
Previously the iPad used the same Lightning port the iPhone uses. By saying the USB-C port is faster and more versatile than any port before on an iPad, Apple is indirectly bashing the Lightning cable still used for the iPhone.
A USB-C port would unify Apple's device lineup, allowing most people to use a single USB-C charger to charge up their iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Switching to USB-C would also allow for faster charging and it would enable faster transfer speeds.Does USB-C work with old USB? ›
Fortunately, yes. First, the USB‑C format itself and most USB‑C connectors and cables are backward compatible with your older USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 devices. Second, you can connect your new Chromebook to your HDMI or VGA television or monitor, among other examples.Does Apple use USB-C? ›
At present nearly every modern Android device uses the USB-C chargers along with Apple's own iPad tablets. While Apple's new Macbooks come with its proprietary Magsafe charger, they also support charging via USB-C.Is USB-C faster than B? ›
A USB-C connection can charge devices up to 20 times faster than basic USB. USB-C ports support USB Power Delivery, a fast-charging standard that can deliver 100 watts of power to compatible devices.Are there different types of USB B? ›
Apart from USB4, every USB version supports Type-B connectors, including USB 3.0, USB 2.0, and USB 1.1. The second type of "B" connector, called Powered-B, also exists, but only in USB 3.0. USB 3.0 Type-B connectors are often blue, while USB 2.0 Type-B and USB 1.1 Type-B connectors are often black.Why is Apple switching to USB-C? ›
Apple will ditch the Lightning connector on its iPhones, the company has confirmed, after European regulators decided all smartphones should have USB charging as standard in two years' time. New EU rules require all phones sold after autumn 2024 to use the USB-C connector for their charging ports.What is a USB-C port look like? ›
The USB-C connector looks similar to a micro USB or rectangular USB 3.0 connectors at first glance, though it's more oval in shape and slightly thicker to accommodate its best feature: flippability. Like Lightning and MagSafe, the USB-C connector has no up or down orientation.What devices use USB-C? ›
This means that it can be a standard connector for both computers and phones, as well as other devices like game consoles. Some popular devices that use USB-C cables are the Nintendo Switch, MacBook Pro, and Samsung Galaxy line of phones.
Yes. USB Type-C is backwards compatible with USB 2.0 and 3.0 devices. However, you'll need an adapter because the USB Type-C connector has a different shape to the connectors on USB 2.0 and 3.0 cables.
How do you charge a Type C phone with a normal charger? ›
- Plug either end of the USB-C cable into the port on the bottom of your phone.
- Plug the other end of the cable into the power adapter that came with your phone.
- Plug your power adapter into a power outlet.
- Micro-USB Cables. Advantage Over Other Cables.
- Type A Charger Cable.
- Type B Charger Cable.
- USB Type C Cable.
- Apple's Lightning Charger.