6 USB Cable Types and Their Uses
Most computers and electronic devices have some form of USB connection, and many devices also come packaged with a USB cable. What are all these different cables for, and why does it matter which one you use?
It can be somewhat complicated to wrap your head around all this. Hereâs everything you need to know about the USB standard.
USB is supposedly universal, but there are so many different types. Why is this? As it turns out, they each serve different functions, mainly to preserve compatibility and support new devices.
Here are the six most common types of USB cables and connectors:
Type-A: The standard flat, rectangular interface that you find on one end of nearly every USB cable. Most computers have multiple USB-A ports for connecting peripherals. Youâll find them on game consoles, TVs, and other devices too. This cable only inserts in one way.
Type-B: An almost square connector, mostly used for printers and other powered devices that connect to a computer. Theyâre not very common these days, as most devices have moved onto a smaller connection.
Mini-USB: A smaller connector type that was standard for mobile devices before micro-USB. While not as common today, youâll still see these on some cameras, the PlayStation 3 controller, MP3 players, and similar.
Micro-USB: The current standard (though slowly declining in popularity) for mobile and portable devices, which is even smaller than mini-USB. While youâll still find micro-USB on all sorts of smartphones, tablets, USB battery packs, and game controllers, some have moved onto USB-C.
Type c :The newest USB standard, this is a reversible cable that promises higher transfer rates and more power than previous USB types. Itâs also capable of juggling multiple functions. Youâll see it on many new laptops and smartphones, including the MacBook, Pixel phones, and Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. We discuss USB-C more below.
Lightning: This isnât a true USB standard, but is Appleâs proprietary connector for the iPhone, iPad, AirPods, and more. Itâs a similar size to USB-C and comes standard on Apple devices released since September 2012. Older Apple devices use the much larger 30-pin proprietary connector. For more on cables, adapters, and ports for Apple devices, take a look at our guide.
In most cases, youâll find USB cables have one standard type-A end and one type-B end of some sort. The type-A end powers the device, while the type-B end receives power. This is to prevent potential damage that would be caused by connecting two computers via USB-A, for example.
The Mini and Micro connectors are considered smaller forms of type-B, even though âtype-Bâ is usually not in their name.
In general, the cables youâll use the most, and therefore need to replace, are micro-USB, USB-C, and Lightning.6 USB Cable Types and Their Uses
We will introduce USB Speed Standards in next article.