The nature of technology is constant evolution. During the late 2000’s and early 2010’s, Micro-USB was the dominant form of USB connectors in the mobile device industry. However, everything changed in 2014 with the invention of USB-C. With its sleeker design and advanced capabilities, USB-C instigated a major shift within the mobile device world and it slowly but surely began replacing Micro-USB as the industry standard form of USB. The impact of this transition is clearly visible today when almost every new mobile device is released with a USB-C connector. At LAVA we created the SynC and SynC+ model adapters to enable SimulCharge for select Samsung USB-C devices, while still utilizing the capabilities of Micro-USB in other product families (nSTS, eSTS and nLTS). The focus of this article is to compare the specifications between Micro-USB and USB-C by outlining the distinctions between their connectors, power ratings, and data specifications.
Micro-USB connectors were originally designed as an improvement to the Mini USB connectors, common in the early 2000’s, which itself was a “mini” version of the standard USB-A connector. The Micro-USB connector is capable of supporting up to 5 signals; Voltage, Ground, 2 lines for USB data transfer and a USB OTG ID line. USB Type A connectors do not have the ability to support the USB OTG ID line, and while it is included in the standard for Micro-USB connectors, most applications only require the standard four signal lines. That being said, the USB OTG ID pin is required for certain applications where you can tell the unit (via the hardware) which device will act as a USB host/power supply for the peripherals in OTG mode. Regarding their power specification, Micro-USB connectors are rated for 2 Amps at 5 Volts (10 Watts) – anything more and you run the risk of damaging the connector. As for data specifications, Micro-USB data lines are only able to support USB 2.0, as they physically lack the capability to run USB 3.0 data.
On the other hand, USB-C connectors were designed to be more powerful than previous USB connectors, and can transfer power and high speed data up to 20 times faster than Micro-USB. USB-C connectors have 24 pins and wires, with 12 on each side. The arrangement of wires and pins is mirrored on both sides, which makes USB-C reversible. This design avoids the limitation of inserting Micro USB connectors the one right way, and allows USB-C to be a more user friendly, universal connector. The ability to assign different types of data and power to different wires enables USB-C connectors to transfer a far greater and powerful array of data than Micro-USB can, such as HDMI.
USB-C connectors are rated for 5 Amps at 20 Volts (100 Watts), but whether your device is able to handle that output threshold is another question entirely. If the system you are supplying power to can do USB-C PD (Power Delivery) then it can negotiate higher wattages from the PSD (Power Sourcing Device). USB-C connectors have the data specifications to support USB 3.0, but as with their power specifications it comes down to whether the hardware can handle it.
While it is unlikely that Micro-USB connectors will be phased out anytime soon, as they still maintain a significant role for mobile devices. USB-C connectors are a significant improvement on them by virtue of their more accessible and reversible design, higher power rating, and ability to support USB 3.0 data specifications.
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