USB-A vs. USB-C: Why the USB Wars Aren't Ending Anytime Soon

2024 April 5

The USB-C connector is newer and offers compatibility with higher USB standards than USB-A. Some might say it's a clear winner. However, we don't expect to see the original USB connector type disappear from the scene anytime soon.

Here's our take on the direction of USB connection. We'll dive into each connector type, the difference between the two, the advantages of each, and why this dynamic connector duo will be working in parallel for a while yet.

USB-C: Newer, Faster, Universal

The USB-C port brings a slew of advantages, including:

  • Higher data transfer speed
  • Faster charging
  • Reversible plug that can be inserted either way
  • Advanced Power Delivery options for fast charging and greater control

Not all USB-C cables will have capabilities such as advanced Power Delivery, but USB-C cables are able to deliver these features.

USB-C is becoming more ubiquitous. Especially now that Apple products are being produced with USB-C connections in lieu of the now-defunct Lightning connectors, the market has really swung towards USB-C as a kind of universal charging option.

USB-A: The Original

But just because USB-C is the newer, faster option doesn't mean USB-A is on its way out. In fact, when most non-tehnnical consumers think "USB," they probably still think of the classic USB-A port.

That universality is a huge part of why the USB-A port is still a major player. Most people still own a large number of peripheral devices that connect via USB-A, and would be hesitant to purchase a device that would render them all obsolete.

Additionally, this older connector is easier and cheaper to design and manufacture than the newer connection type. On certain devices where size is  not at a premium, it may not make sense to go with the smaller connector. While USB-A does not support the new USB4 standard, it works in situations where USB 3.0 is sufficient.

That phone with a USB-C plug might come with a charger that features a USB-C connector on one end, to plug into the phone, and a USB-A connector on the other, to plug into a charging block with a USB-A port.

Wait, What About USB-B?

Full USB-B ports can sometimes feel like the "forgotten" USB type, as they were mostly used on larger electronics like printers and monitors.

USB-B mini and micro ports are more common. (There are also USB-A versions of mini and micro ports, which have largely been phased out.) These are notorious for only having one correct plug orientation, which is an annoyance that the USB-C connection does away with.

It's still handy to have cables on hand for USB-A to mini-B because you still may occasionally come across an older mobile or A/V device using this kind of port.

USB-A vs. USB-C: Both is Good (For Now)

Even though some people are itching to simplify down to only USB-C, the dominance of only two connector types is a recent phenomenon.

Much of that simplification is thanks to the European Union's requirement that mobile devices sold in the EU have a USB-C charging port by the end of 2024, which led to the end of Apple's Lightning port and other experiments in USB variety. The consumer-friendly ruling is designed to cut down on electronic waste and the need for purchasing separate chargers for every device.

In the future, you can expect to see even larger devices like laptops being powered by USB-C, with models beginning to turn up on the market.

But just because the future is USB-C, doesn't mean it's time for professionals to pitch the cable bin just yet. For now, expect to see both USB-A and USB-C connections being being used in parallel. 

What does the co-existence of the USB Type A and C mean?

Since USB-A and USB-C are working in tandem for now, what does that mean for people working in engineering, testing, A/V, and other technical professions? Here are our takeaways.

Be prepared to adapt.

Have USB-C to USB-A adapters at the ready in any situation where you're using A/V on the fly, especially in BYOD environments.

Remember that not all USB-C cables are created equally.

Check out our article on what different USB-C cables look like on the inside for a refresher on why it's hugely important to source your USB-C cables and components from a trustworthy manufacturer. Just because something is "USB-C" doesn't mean it's equipped with advanced Power Delivery or high data transfer speeds; you still need to do your due diligence.

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