There are several different types of USB, each of which have their own uses, benefits and disadvantages. In this guide we’ll be taking an in-depth look at USB-C, analysing what it is, how it differs from other USB connections, and how it’s used throughout the technology world.
How does USB-C work?
USB-C is a 24-pin connector that can be used for data transfer and charging. It was developed in 2014 by the USB-IF (USB Implementors Forum) as a faster, but most importantly, simpler, connection port for devices.
The ‘C’ in USB-C refers to the physical form factor of the connector itself, meaning it supports Type-A host and Type-B peripheral device plugs. USB-A can be considered the most familiar USB port, but it can only be plugged in one way, leading to that familiar frustration when your USB cable doesn’t go in first try.
Key to USB-C’s design is its bi-directional power flow. This enables a USB-C cable to be plugged in via any orientation, and also affords it faster data transfer rates.
Do you need USB-C?
USB-C became an increasingly common sight for tech users towards the end of the 2010s. The higher adoption rate across other devices meant that more and more manufacturers began using USB-C as their connection port of choice.
2023 saw the biggest step towards USB-C as an industry standard when Apple used it on their iPhone 15 series handsets, replacing the Lightning connector. Given that some Macs also feature USB-C, the ecosystem for this connection port became significantly bigger.
The benefit for users is that if you already have a USB-C cable lying around, you can use it across a wide spread of devices without the need for another cable type.
Is Micro USB the same as USB-C?
No, USB-C sits in the middle between the traditional USB-A connector and Micro USB. The original Micro USB was released in 2005 to accommodate technology like MP3 players, but they were only capable of data transfer speeds up to 480Mbps.
USB-C on the other hand supports transfer speeds up to 10Gbps without requiring a large connection port, hence its prevalence on a diverse range of devices.
Because not every device has an oval USB-C port, you’ll need an adapter if connecting to a different sized hub, such as USB-A.
The same applies for Thunderbolt and Lightning ports, which commonly appear on Apple products. If you want to connect an iPhone 15 to an iPhone 14 for example, you will need a USB-C to Lightning cable.
Now that you know the ins and outs of USB-C, you’ll know what to expect when transferring data and recharging your devices. If you’re also curious about the differences between Apple’s flagship iPhone 15 and 14 handsets, our comparison breakdown has you covered.
What does USB 3.2 mean?
USB 3.2 refers to the speed specification of that USB cable, and how fast it can transfer data. Many cables ranging from USB-A to USB-C can support these speeds, but only USB-C allows for the even faster USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 specification.
How do I know if I have a USB-A or USB-C cable?
The hallmark of any USB-C cable is its oval-shaped connector. USB-A cables sport a more rectangular connector at the end, and can only be inserted one way.