A complete physical redesign -- the first since it was developed in 1994 -- is in store for the ubiquitous USB connector, which might start appearing in new products sometime next year.
Called USB Type-C, the new connector will feature a smaller design, similar to micro-USB, but one capable of higher speeds than the popular cell-phone charge-and-sync cable, much like a full-size USB plug, eventually replacing them both.
The USB group says the new connector will be reversible, making it easier to plug a it into phone to charge it. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) announced a similarly reversible Lightning connector in 2012.
The USB plug was first imagined by a group of tech companies that included Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and IBM (NYSE:IBM) in 1994, and it was capable of speeds of 12 Mbit/s. With the new connector, USB's maximum speeds are more than 800 times faster, at 10 Gbit/s for the USB 3.1 standard released earlier this year.
The Type-C connector will not only be completely reversible, but it will also unify the connections for such devices as printers, desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. Intel VP Alex Peled told CNET it will eventually be the only connector consumers need across any device.
“It is an entirely new design meant to enable thinner and sleeker product designs, enhance usability and lay the foundation for future versions of USB technology,” according to the USB Implementers Forum.
That means Type-C will be on par with the size of a micro-USB plug, the standard size USB used on most non-Apple smartphones. However, the new connection will offer the full functionality of full-size USB connectors, but with USB 3.1 compatibility for speed.
In a press release, the USB-IF said Type-C was designed to “enable thinner and sleeker product designs.” It may require some time for manufacturers to make the move to USB Type-C connectors, but USB-IF says it will release the standard in mid-2014.