Home USB Explained USB Connectors
USB Connectors

One Standard, Many Connectors
USB connectors are the link that makes communication between your device and your computer possible with the help of a cable. Connectors are placed on each end of the cable. Not all connectors are the same. The type of connector used depends on the device used and the location of the connection. A connector plugs into a USB socket or USB port which is built into the device as well as on your PC (and sometimes Mac). Plugs are meant to work with matching sockets.

There are two primary USB connectors, which are further broken down into size categories. Connectors are mostly Type A or Type B and they can be male or female.

Type A Connectors
USB Type A and Type B ConnectorsType A connectors are characterized by a wide and flat rectangle shape. They are easily recognized since they are the connection for USB flash drives as well as printers, scanners and similar devices. Its flat contacts help to keep it plugged in and it is outfitted with an inner plastic component to help guide users to insert it at the proper orientation. They connect to computers or hubs, supplying a downstream link.

Type B Connectors
The Type B USB plug has a thicker, somewhat rounded square shape. It stays inserted into a socket with the help of the friction from its contacts. Type B connectors plug into devices to load data or power, therefore acting as an upstream connection.
Connectors become smaller and more specific in their function, but are still based off of the A and B idea. They were a response to smaller devices entering the market.  

Mini USB Connectors

  • Mini A and Mini AB USB connectors have been deprecated by USB-IF since mid-2007 in part because they complicated the amount of connections consumers had to use. Their functions were to provide power or data for smaller devices like phones or cameras.
  • The Mini-B plug is a five pin connector that is the only standardized plug of its kind accepted by the USB-IF, however some manufacturers have created smaller four pin models of the connector for their products.

The standard Mini-B is a smaller version of its Type B predecessor. It is used with a variety of cell phones, digital cameras and other devices. Mini-B connectors can also be implemented with the USB On-The-Go connection which has the ability to link devices together.

Micro USB Connectors
Micro USB ConnectorMicro-USB connectors had been announced just months before Mini-A and Mini-AB connectors were no longer certified. They solely provide a male connection and have since enjoyed widespread adoption for its one-size-fits-all concept, especially when it comes to charging phones.

  • A Micro-USB A connector handles high speed transfers and On-The-Go for smartphones, digital cameras, GPS devices and more. It can withstand more wear and tear than a Mini plug.
  • A Micro-USB B plug gives an upstream connection for small portable devices.

The gray Micro-USB AB connector is multipurpose in that it can perform both A and B functions, be it downstreaming power or upstreaming data. It uses five pins just like a Mini connector but On-The-Go devices make up the connection’s primary location.

USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Connectors
USB 3.0 SuperSpeed ConnectorLastly, there are the basic USB 3.0 connectors with male only plugs:  USB 3.0 Type A, Type B and Micro-B connectors. The Type A USB 3.0 connector looks similar to its 2.0 counterpart with a flat, wide connector that points to the computer or hub. Its downstream capabilities work not only with a SuperSpeed interface, but also with USB 2.0 and 1.1. By appearance, these connectors are colored with blue markings to distinguish them for users.

USB 3.0 Type B connectors and cables are for SuperSpeed devices and can transfer data and power. They will not work with older interfaces, but are compatible with their cables. A Micro-B USB 3.0 connector will also carry data and power at a SuperSpeed rate, but it works conversely to the Type-B USB 3.0 connector. This blue connection is located on 3.0 devices but the Micro-B cables will not work with older devices.

Type C Connectors 

Singularity is key in the newly designed Type C USB connectors that is now significantly changing the course of how previous devices used to connect. Now with a much higher power output, Type C USB connectors will be used for more than just data transfer. Not only will Type C connectors be able to store data, but will also have enough to power laptops. Even more impressive is the new bi-directional power capability. Simply put, Type C USB connectors allow host devices to charge peripheral devices, and vice versa. This newly innovated tech will eventually turn Type A USB connectors obsolete. Type C USB connectors is cutting down the need for additional wiring in the near future by consolidating data transfer and power into one port.