Apple looking to bring a lot of convenience to the standard USB plug

We are less than a month away from an event that could see the official announcement of the rumored iPhone 6. Unless previous leaks were incorrect, we have a pretty good idea of what the device will look like, but it looks like Apple still might have a couple of tricks up its sleeve in regards to the device and its accessories. 

Interestingly, it looks like Apple might improve on the experience by introducing a new Lightning Cable with a reversible USB port. According to well known Apple leaker, Sonny Dickson, Apple is working on a new cable that could debut with the upcoming iPhone 6. In a tweet, he shows off the end of the new cable, exclaiming that it has a reversible USB port. Although the port dimensions remain the same, the connector pins are surrounded by gaps on both sides, presumably allowing the cable to be plugged in, in either direction.

Although this isn’t a major innovative breakthrough, it will bring a bit more convenience to a cable that hasn’t changed much in terms of design over the past two decades.

Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 6 at an event that is scheduled on September 9th, 2014.

Source: Sonny Dickson | Image via Sonny Dickson

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68k said,
Solution to USB problem: look at plug, look at socket, plug in right way. Easy.

Get on hands and knees (port is at bottom of case), curse the lack of good lighting in the room your in and always plug it in the wrong way first time, every time. Seriously? People can't see any use case that makes this an obvious improvement (and why the next USB standard has this improvement..)?

Sure, it'll be helpful to most people...

But, it really isn't *that* difficult to get it right first time, every time. I personally don't have the 'problem' of getting the positioning incorrect (regardless of light levels) and it's strange seeing a warrant for things like this in the very near future.

Goldfire86 said
,But, it really isn't *that* difficult to get it right first time, every time. I personally don't have the 'problem' of getting the positioning incorrect (regardless of light levels)

So, in the dark you get it right every time? So much for basic probability then ;)
The fact they've designed around it proves how annoying it is to most of us not carrying a magic four leaf clover in our back pocket :)
What's strange is you can't see a need for it - to me it's just obvious mechanical design.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I can see the need for it, it's just strange seeing it happen.

As for the dark, it isn't a problem. Besides, a simple trick of putting a small blob of glue for the 'right side up' and letting it set will allow you to work out which way is up by running your finger over it. Pretty useful for tablet chargers.

All in all though, I've seen people rage over it and kick up a whole lot of fuss.

I think I was being a little too optimistic. Yesterday, I could swear the connectors were aligned, but they just wouldn't go in! :crazy:

Here's the problem. There's been a bunch of news lately about the 'new reversible USB cable' meaning USB 3.1 type C. Except now Apple is going to come out with this first, and people will assume that Apple's modified version of the crappy old connector is the new reversible USB they've been hearing about... which just means that USB 3.1 type C is just going to have an even more difficult climb before it's ever used broadly. ("Wait, I can't connect my old devices into this? Why isn't it like Apple's?")

Because we all know how much more difficult it is for a human being to flip a cable over to plug in a standard USB cable.

Really? It doesn't annoy you at all? Fumbling at the back of the computer trying to plug something in and you're not quite sure if you have it turned right or if it just isn't going in so you keep flipping it over and over until you finally get it. It was just a terrible design, but then most connectors are these days. Still can't believe someone thought the SATA connector was a good idea.

SJTWD said,
Because we all know how much more difficult it is for a human being to flip a cable over to plug in a standard USB cable.

Still a waste of time. Add up each every "fumble" over the years... multiply by the population of computer users. Lots of wasted time from this bad design. Time is money.

Bonfire said
Still can't believe someone thought the SATA connector was a good idea.

What's so bad about them? If you want to see a bad connector, look at the original IDE/PATA, or even better, the old floppy connector…

MFH said,

What's so bad about them? If you want to see a bad connector, look at the original IDE/PATA, or even better, the old floppy connector…

Which of course were made tripply hard when the cheap ide cables didn't come with the one pin blocked off or the bloody nipple to stop you inserting them the wrong way

MFH said,

What's so bad about them? If you want to see a bad connector, look at the original IDE/PATA, or even better, the old floppy connector…

SATA cables have improved a lot but when they first came out they were crap, the connectors would break and the cables would just fall out if you breathed on them too hard. I never had any trouble with PATA cables, aside from being really wide and taking up a lot of space those offered a very secure connection and they were strong, well made cables.

Bonfire said,

SATA cables have improved a lot but when they first came out they were crap, the connectors would break and the cables would just fall out if you breathed on them too hard. I never had any trouble with PATA cables, aside from being really wide and taking up a lot of space those offered a very secure connection and they were strong, well made cables.


Ok, I never had those kind of problems with SATA - but I was moving from PATA really late…
Sure PATA offered a good connection - and had nubs that prevented false usage, the floppy connector (http://www.nullmodem.com/images/fddcable02.jpg) did not :D
Good luck finding out how this cable should be connected without a manual or documentation… (I should add that the one in my [very] old PC did not even have the red mark on the cable - it was a pure guessing game…)

Shadrack said,

Still a waste of time. Add up each every "fumble" over the years... multiply by the population of computer users. Lots of wasted time from this bad design. Time is money.


the time you just took to calculate those numbers I could have plugged in 200 standard USB cables. C'mon man, get serious. :/

Bonfire said,
Really? It doesn't annoy you at all? Fumbling at the back of the computer trying to plug something in and you're not quite sure if you have it turned right or if it just isn't going in so you keep flipping it over and over until you finally get it. It was just a terrible design, but then most connectors are these days. Still can't believe someone thought the SATA connector was a good idea.

If any fumbling is going on, it's most likely do to the area being too dark to find the USB port which happens with any cable, not because you need to flip the connector over. Geese, you make it sound like an 30min infomercial were everything gets exaggerated to the point of being unbelievable like that earwax removal contraption. Ooooooouch!!!!

SJTWD said,

If any fumbling is going on, it's most likely do to the area being too dark to find the USB port which happens with any cable, not because you need to flip the connector over.

I think we all can agree that the USB design just sucks, exactly because it's nearly impossible to put it in in low-light conditions at first try…
Had the connector been designed symmetric, or even asymmetric in external shape (like e.g. the FireWire 400 connector) it would be way easier to put it in…

MFH said,

I think we all can agree that the USB design just sucks, exactly because it's nearly impossible to put it in in low-light conditions at first try…
Had the connector been designed symmetric, or even asymmetric in external shape (like e.g. the FireWire 400 connector) it would be way easier to put it in…

I beg to differ. In low light situations you would have trouble on the first try with the reversible usb plug if you can't see the port. I haven't heard anyone complain of having difficulties plugging in a standard USB cable for decades. And I work in IT where I deal with cables daily. It wasn't an issue before so why is it an issue now?

SJTWD said,

you would have trouble on the first try with the reversible usb plug if you can't see the port.

Huh? What kind of problem would a design like the one from USB-C have?

MFH said,

Huh? What kind of problem would a design like the one from USB-C have?

Well, for one thing that plastic piece in the middle with the contacts is very thin. Who knows if it will be prone to breaking very easily. Two, try plugging that thing in low light. You will have just as much difficulty finding the port as with any cable.

But this is what I see happening, people trying to find fault with a standard USB cable where no one has ever had fault with it before. USB -C may be a fraction of a cat whisker more convenient but hardly worth bragging about.

SJTWD said,

Two, try plugging that thing in low light. You will have just as much difficulty finding the port as with any cable.

I'd be willing to bet it would be easier than the current one. A perfect example of a easier plug than current USB would be RJ45 - In at first try every time, because it's asymmetric and therefor extremely easy to get oriented the right way…

SJTWD said,

But this is what I see happening, people trying to find fault with a standard USB cable where no one has ever had fault with it before.

Yeah, right. No one ever complained about the USB connector, before USB-C was announced, ever /s That must be why there are countless posts about how crappy USB is and that you have to try at least 3 times to get it in…

MFH said,

Yeah, right. No one ever complained about the USB connector, before USB-C was announced, ever /s That must be why there are countless posts about how crappy USB is and that you have to try at least 3 times to get it in…

Find me something, anything, that even remotely has complaints about using the standard USB plug before the USB-C. I tried and couldn't find anything. Basically, all these so called complaints never happened before today. I wonder why.

You also didn't address the flimsy looking plastic that I think could be easily broken off if you're not extremely careful. One little yank the wrong way and so much for that reversible cable.

How about a lightning cable that is thicker and doesn't fray and quit working. I had a lightning cable melt and catch fire in an ambulance as I was driving. I took it to the apple store, "user damage, it's frayed". It was melted so no way of telling if it's frayed. Pulled up a website full of complaints and pulled up their own website which gives them a crappy review. Got told tough. Emailed apple corp, got a new lightning cable. I was extra careful with it and it works. However another cable that came with an iPhone 5 is now dead.

I've bought thicker cables from other makers now.

Dane said,
How about a lightning cable that is thicker and doesn't fray and quit working. I had a lightning cable melt and catch fire in an ambulance as I was driving. I took it to the apple store, "user damage, it's frayed". It was melted so no way of telling if it's frayed. Pulled up a website full of complaints and pulled up their own website which gives them a crappy review. Got told tough. Emailed apple corp, got a new lightning cable. I was extra careful with it and it works. However another cable that came with an iPhone 5 is now dead.

I've bought thicker cables from other makers now.

Apparently it is true

http://store.apple.com/us/prod...ZM/A/lightning-to-usb-cable

Dane said,
How about a lightning cable that is thicker and doesn't fray and quit working. I had a lightning cable melt and catch fire in an ambulance as I was driving. I took it to the apple store, "user damage, it's frayed". It was melted so no way of telling if it's frayed. Pulled up a website full of complaints and pulled up their own website which gives them a crappy review. Got told tough. Emailed apple corp, got a new lightning cable. I was extra careful with it and it works. However another cable that came with an iPhone 5 is now dead.

I've bought thicker cables from other makers now.

I'm still on my first cable. But I baby my cables.....

Even if you were pulling it by the cordage to cause a disconnection, this would fall under the category of "anticipated use." If the fire led to significant damages you would still be in a position to sue Apple. They can't use user abuse as a defense to mitigate their damages in this scenario because the abuse should have been anticipated by them to begin with. If this were something approved by UL, there would be all kinds of testing done that pulled the cord out by the cordage in every which direction multiple times. They test things BEYOND what would be expected by an abusive end user.

If I had to guess, most problems are actually from folks "winding" their lightning cables too tightly (like tightly around a phone or one of those wallwart chargers). This is usually the source of insulation "fraying" and ablations. When wrapping up any set of flexible cordage, special care needs to be taken to put too much tension on the cordage while winding it. Instead the user's goal is to wind it as tightly as possible so that it it doesn't become unwound and takes up the minimum amount of space (it is also easier to wind tightly). This is, of course, really bad for the cable.

I had the same problem with cables from Apple and cables from Nokia. The neck gets worn out from plugging in/unplugging daily for charging. I've had better luck with generic cables for some reason.

TsarNikky said,
Why wasn't this idea part of the original USB plug standards?

I know. They really should have considered an asymmetrical connector body since the connection is actually asymmetrical.

Gotta love USB. I have a 50/50 chance of plugging it in the correct way on the first try, yet I'm wrong 75% of the time.

Shadrack said,

I know. They really should have considered an asymmetrical connector body since the connection is actually asymmetrical.

Gotta love USB. I have a 50/50 chance of plugging it in the correct way on the first try, yet I'm wrong 75% of the time.

Its not so hard. If the connector has a USB logo then it should be upside. If not (for example a pendrive), then the company logo goes upside.

Shadrack said,

Gotta love USB. I have a 50/50 chance of plugging it in the correct way on the first try, yet I'm wrong 75% of the time.

When plugging in a USB, third times the charm =).

Brony said,

Its not so hard. If the connector has a USB logo then it should be upside. If not (for example a pendrive), then the company logo goes upside.

Yes, this logic applies 100% of the time. NOT! On my DELL monitors, the USB logo of a plugged in device faces in the opposite direction. When I pick up my secondary mobile device battery, the logo on the USB faces away from the logo on the batter pack.

This is just what I have in front of me. What you say is generally true, but not always. Your assumption is that there should be a clear "upside" to every device, and that isn't reality.

Brony said,

Its not so hard. If the connector has a USB logo then it should be upside. If not (for example a pendrive), then the company logo goes upside.

Your logic is faulty. You are assuming that all USB ports are installed in devices in the same orientation. They aren't.

Shadrack said,

Gotta love USB. I have a 50/50 chance of plugging it in the correct way on the first try, yet I'm wrong 75% of the time.

QFT... Although for some reason the USB port on the front of the PS3 i'm able to get on the first time most times.

warwagon said,

QFT... Although for some reason the USB port on the front of the PS3 i'm able to get on the first time most times.

That'll be because it's not a Microsoft product, right? ;-)

warwagon said,

QFT... Although for some reason the USB port on the front of the PS3 i'm able to get on the first time most times.

I agree! Plugging the USB in the PS3 is 100% and I never have to flip it over...I do however, have to flip the PS3 over 75% of the time for things to work

Ambroos said,
Already fixed.
http://www.extremetech.com/com...es-and-adapters-coming-soon

New, universal USB3.1 connector, doesn't matter how you put it in. Design finalized, expected on new computers quite soon. And it's going to be the only connector size for USB 3.1, no more bigger connectors. And it's capable of delivering up to 100W in power so it'll probably even be used to charge laptops (ultrabooks and low-power machines).

Is the voltage still at 5V? I hope not. A 5V source delivery 100W of power would be driving 20A. That connector is way too small (based on conventional wisdom) for that kind of current delivery. It would be a fire hazard.

I hope the next USB is faster. I need it to be able to keep up with things, like being able to plug an external Nvidia GTX Titan in to the computer.

Shadrack said,

Is the voltage still at 5V? I hope not. A 5V source delivery 100W of power would be driving 20A. That connector is way too small (based on conventional wisdom) for that kind of current delivery. It would be a fire hazard.


Required: 2A @ 5V.
Optional: 5A @ 12V (60W), 5A @ 20V (100W).

5A at 12V is close to what most ultrabook power bricks deliver nowadays and sounds perfect. My laptop with a full-voltage dualcore and dedicated graphics has a 19.5V 4.7A power brick, so even that should work.

Ambroos said,

Required: 2A @ 5V.
Optional: 5A @ 12V (60W), 5A @ 20V (100W).

5A at 12V is close to what most ultrabook power bricks deliver nowadays and sounds perfect. My laptop with a full-voltage dualcore and dedicated graphics has a 19.5V 4.7A power brick, so even that should work.

Thank you for the clarification.

Enron said,
I hope the next USB is faster. I need it to be able to keep up with things, like being able to plug an external Nvidia GTX Titan in to the computer.

I need dis.

-adrian- said,
is this their excuse for still not providing wireless charging?

Is wireless charging what you are waiting for to become an iPhone user?

Shadrack said,

Is wireless charging what you are waiting for to become an iPhone user?

In the US, one of our God-given rights is entitlement. We don't even need to ever plan on using the product; we just need to expect something to be there and it better be or else it's their fault for not providing it.

Pluto is a Planet said,
In the US, one of our God-given rights is entitlement. We don't even need to ever plan on using the product; we just need to expect something to be there and it better be or else it's their fault for not providing it.

I too find it funny how many folks complain about products that they do not own. I've asked that question before and the response is typically on the order of "Hell no!"

If the objective is to notify other users that a particular thing is missing, then fine. But I suspect that is not the objective.

-adrian- said,
is this their excuse for still not providing wireless charging?

Funny, my phone has wireless charging and I don't even use it. But, luckily for me, I'm not lazy to plug my device in.

-adrian- said,
is this their excuse for still not providing wireless charging?

I was sad too but after I used an iPhone case + wireless charging solution, I frowned at wireless charging because:
1. I placed my iPhone to a charging pad and it's recharging
2. A message came in, so I picked my iPhone up. Charging stopped.
3. After replying, I placed it again to charge.

Repeat step 2-3 a few times and you'll know for sure nothing good can come out of the battery being "abused" that way?

Dinggus said,

Funny, my phone has wireless charging and I don't even use it. But, luckily for me, I'm not lazy to plug my device in.

Y'know before I picked up a wireless charger I'd of probably said it was unnecessary fluff but I have to say the convenience of just popping on the night stand (rather than fumbling in the dark with a one-way plug) and not wearing out the connector on my phone (my wife kills phones this way and I end up replacing the charging board in her phones eventually) makes a good case for it. One could argue a fingerprint unlock is lazy - but it's obviously a nice convenience to have..

:: Lyon :: said,

Repeat step 2-3 a few times and you'll know for sure nothing good can come out of the battery being "abused" that way?

No reason why it should - a good charger/phone doesn't wear a battery at all with that work flow, after all, li-ion has no 'memory' effect like batteries of old. Not had a problem through a Nexus 4 and now 5 using it tbh.

dangel777 said,

Y'know before I picked up a wireless charger I'd of probably said it was unnecessary fluff but I have to say the convenience of just popping on the night stand (rather than fumbling in the dark with a one-way plug) and not wearing out the connector on my phone (my wife kills phones this way and I end up replacing the charging board in her phones eventually) makes a good case for it. One could argue a fingerprint unlock is lazy - but it's obviously a nice convenience to have..

I mean sure, if I wanted to pay $60 for the one I wanted, but I don't see the point. I'm pretty picky about the look of the charger I want.

Dinggus said,

I mean sure, if I wanted to pay $60 for the one I wanted, but I don't see the point. I'm pretty picky about the look of the charger I want.

The one I'm using cost me about 12ukp - it's a tidy black pad, a little larger than my phone and completely innocuous. Cost/looks weren't an issue for me :)

dangel777 said,

The one I'm using cost me about 12ukp - it's a tidy black pad, a little larger than my phone and completely innocuous. Cost/looks weren't an issue for me :)

Can I see what it looks like?