Flashback: micro-USB has tidied up the charging and data cables

We don't care about micro-USB today, but it was the best connector ever - at least until USB Type-C, aka USB-C, came along. We're more than ready to say goodbye to him, but it deserves a look back at what made him so good.

If you don't think micro-USB has ever been particularly good then you can't remember the days of proprietary connectors - you can check out our description of our off connectors for the frustrating and inconsistent mess we had to deal with. before the USB took over. Remember that the U stands for "universal".

First, let's clarify this “micro” and “Type” activity. Originally, USB had a strict tree network topology - meaning it was clear which is the trunk and which is the branch. In other words, who was the host device and who was the guest. This has been reinforced by having different connectors on each end of the USB cable.

The shapes and sizes of USB connectorsThe shapes and sizes of USB connectors (image credit)

One end had the rectangular Type A connector that was always plugged into the computer - or more generally, the host. The other end of the cable had a square connector with two sloping sides, Type-B. This has always been entered in the guest devices.

This made things easier as you could never plug a mouse into an external hard drive. This connection makes no sense and is not physically possible. USB Type-C cables sometimes come with a Type-A connector on one end, but we are seeing more and more C-to-C cables. This makes silly connections possible, but it's not really our biggest problem with Type-C (it's clearly labeling the port's capabilities this hard?).

Back to micro-USB. You've probably seen full-size Type B connectors if you've plugged in a printer or monitor with a built-in USB hub. These tend to use the large connector as they don't need to stay slim like phones do. In addition, they are rarely disconnected - the large connectors were actually less robust than the small ones.

The standard requires full-size USB ports to survive 1500 insertion and removal cycles. mini-USB increased that figure to 5000, micro-USB and Type-C are both designed for 10000 cycles.

Various USB connectors, including some less common onesVarious USB connectors, including some less common ones

Mini-USB has been a thing for a while (and still pops up from time to time), but was quickly replaced by micro-USB. Note that regardless of size, Type-B retained the sloping sides, which clearly marked that end of the cable.

micro-USB was defined with a USB 2.0 revision. It was capable of carrying high speed data, the official name of 480 Mbps mode. This was more than pretty fast, considering the days when phones used slow eMMC storage while computers used spinning hard drives.

But it wasn't just data. Using the Mobile High-definition Link (MHL) standard, the micro-USB can output uncompressed 1080i or 720p video at 60Hz, PackedPixel mode enabled 1080p. Version 3 even managed to extract 4K video with Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master audio. An alternative was SlimPort, which was based on the Mobility DisplayPort specifications (the Nexus 4 was the first to use this standard).

LG boasts of the simplicity of MHL and SlimPort compatible devicesLG boasts of the simplicity of MHL and SlimPort compatible devices

Both standards were superior to the analog TV output found in some older phones (which were blocked with standard definition video). However, they required adapters, sometimes powered adapters, so MHL and SlimPort weren't as convenient as mini-HDMI (which a few phones had), but manufacturers are still looking to cut a port or outlet when it does. is possible.

Displays that do not natively support MHL required a powered to HDMI adapterDisplays that do not natively support MHL required a powered to HDMI adapter

As phones (even multifunction phones) became more and more like computers, they gained the ability to act as host devices. This meant that you could plug in external storage (for example, a USB stick), a keyboard, or other accessories.

This was achieved with the USB On-The-Go (aka OTG) standard. You can recognize a USB OTG phone by its micro-AB connector. Its shape allowed the port to receive rectangular connectors (micro Type-A) as well as standard Type-B micro.

Use case for USB OTG: keyboard for easy typing
USB OTG use case: copying files to / from a USB flash drive

USB OTG use case: keyboard for easy input • copy files to / from USB stick

However, OTG still enforced the host / guest device divide, as OTG cables had to have a Type-A on one end and a Type-B on the other - an extra pin on the Type-A end informed the phone that 'it should switch to host mode. This still allowed you to connect the phone to your computer and it would know how to go into guest mode.

USB On-The-Go permettait aux utilisateurs de connecter des périphériques à leurs téléphones <a href =image credit "width =" 382 "height =" 300 "src =" https://fdn.gsmarena.com/imgroot/news/21/02/flashback-micro-usb/popup/-x300/gsmarena_001.jpg ">

Or you can do it (image credit)

The advantage of USB-C that you hear most often is that it's reversible (we've all heard the jokes about how many tries it takes to plug in older USB cables). However, with a clever design, reversible micro-USB cables have appeared on the market. These were never taken into account because the Type-C was already picking up speed.

Reversible micro-USB cables are one thing
Reversible micro-USB cables are one thing

Reversible micro-USB cables are one thing

The real advantage of Type-C is that it has 24 pins, which is six times more than older USB 2.0 connectors. This makes it easier to route high speed connections and use multiple pins for power (which allows for power distribution and other standards).

Some phones charged quickly via 'micro-USB', but they were actually proprietary ports with extra pins. The standard micro-USB is designed for a maximum of 7,5W, although over time 10W chargers have become the norm.

And then there was the micro-USB 3.0 connector. It got high marks for compatibility, but it was a wobbly connector that required an extra large plug. Of course, he activated SuperSpeed ​​mode - 5 Gbps connections (later 10 Gbps). And you can still use your old micro-USB cables (but at only 480 Mbps). Despite all this, the connector was a failure in the market.

Samsung used micro-USB 3.0 on the Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy S5, but by the time the Galaxy Note 4 came out it had already given up and reverted back to micro-USB 2.0. Ultimately, very few phones are bothered by micro-USB 3.0. The only opportunities to see one in the wild these days are old external hard drives and some USB hubs.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 was the first phone to use micro-USB 3.0 (it was also one of the last)
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 was the first phone to use micro-USB 3.0 (it was also one of the last)

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 was the first phone to use micro-USB 3.0 (it was also one of the last)

The contributions of micro-USB cannot be underestimated. It was the gold standard for transferring and charging data for many years and hundreds of millions of devices. This allowed people to go through with one cable and one charger, instead of needing it for each device.

This is relevant today because there is great pressure to reuse the old charger and cables to reduce electronic waste. Of course, USB-C is the one cable to rule them all now and it's time for micro-USB to head out into the sunset for a well-deserved retirement.

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