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12-05-2013, 02:38 AM #1
USB 3.1 to Challenge Apple's Lightning and Thunderbolt
The USB Implementers Forum recently announced that the USB 3.1 specification will bring with it a new style of connector that can be plugged in any orientation and will support future USB technologies like USB Power Delivery, high-speed data transfer, and video-over-USB. The plug will sport an entirely new design that is similar in size to the existing Micro-B connector and will work with USB 3.1, USB 3.0, and USB 2.0 according to the USB-IF. The Micro-B connector, which is used by Apple as a service port on the Apple TV, measures just 6.85 millimeters by 1.80 millimeters.
Bringing relief to users who have been frustrated with existing USB connectors’ unidirectional nature, the USB-IF will take a page from Apple’s playbook and make the Type-C reversible. Apple’s reversible Lightning connector, which replaced the 30-pin dock connector beginning with the iPhone 5, has been praised by users for its ease-of-use and allowed Cupertino to save precious space in devices thanks to Lightning’s compact 7.7 millimeter by 1.7 millimeter dimensions.
The inventor of the USB, Intel engineer Ajay Bhatt, told The Economist that making the connector “flappable” was his next goal. According to the publication, USB has been saddled until now with one-way plugs due to a desire to keep the manufacturing costs as low as possible.
What had been flying under the radar in the USB-IF’s announcement was the revelation that the Type-C connector will support USB 3.1’s USB Power Delivery feature. USB PD is designed to deliver up to 5 amps and 100 watts to connected devices, significantly expanding the range of items that can be powered by the port, USB 3.0, in contrast, provides 1.5 amps and 10 watts. USB PD also allows for devices to negotiate for power. For example, a laptop that is running on battery power can increase charging capacity to a connected handset when the laptop is idle then reduce the capacity when it needs to spit up its hard disk. The USB PD technology isn’t limited to small electronics either.
The idea of combining USB 3.1’s anticipated 10 Gbps throughput and the USB PD system make the standard a tough competitor to Apple and Intel’s Thunderbolt interface. Though Thunderbolt 2 bumped throughout to 20 Gbps, a Thunderbolt cable can provide just 10 watts of power to connected devices, and the connector, though small, is still nearly twice as large as the proposed USB Type-C plug.
With the USB 3.1 specification not expected to be finalized until the middle of 2014, the possibility that Apple and Intel may make enhancements to Thunderbolt to compete with USB 3.1 and USB PD still exists. Thunderbolt was originally conceived to use optical connections for data transfer and some have theorized that the companies could design a hybrid optical-electrical cable that would both boost throughput and allow for increased power delivery. We’ll have to wait and see what comes from the technologies going forward.
Source: USB Implementers (Forum), The Economist
12-05-2013, 05:14 AM #2
Twice as large, twice the speed. What's your priority? It's clear neither technology is going away.
12-05-2013, 08:47 AM #3
New design and new specs and features, seems like they should call this USB 4.0 to avoid confusion. Sounds like older USB drives would be able to work with the new standard, so why call it 3.1 if almost nothing is the same? I'm just complaining about the title of the technology though, i totally support the upgrade and think it should've been more of a push a couple of years ago. If apple were to adopt this tech to replace USB, they could make MacBook airs and retina displays even thinner! The biggest problem would be older drives wouldn't work without adapters. The USB storage drive is a dying technology, meaning that less people are using USB drives to store files on. Cloud services are becoming more reliable and with more people switching to tablets for their main device, USB storage is a thing of the past.
Last edited by Scotty Manley Silberhorn; 12-05-2013 at 08:50 AM.
12-05-2013, 09:01 AM #4
You mean to tell me that one cable is catching up to the speed of the competitor. I never would have seen this coming.
Next thing you'll be telling me is all phones will run 64-bit and work in the clouds.
12-05-2013, 09:06 AM #5
12-05-2013, 10:04 AM #6
Yeah..if it works with old tech its only a patch of sorts. Not USB 4 at all. At least transfer speeds will be faster.
12-05-2013, 10:26 AM #7
12-05-2013, 01:43 PM #8
The big question is why is the new Lightning connector on the new iphones and ipads at 3.0 compatible ......that's the big **** up of all time.
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12-05-2013, 05:04 PM #9
12-05-2013, 08:50 PM #10
12-06-2013, 07:17 AM #11
12-06-2013, 04:59 PM #12
This USB "3.1" sounds like a completely new physical connector and most likely a change in the wiring as well. It should definitely be called USB 4.0 or something else. Naming it 3.1 is just stupid.
12-09-2013, 08:52 AM #13
Last edited by Scotty Manley Silberhorn; 12-09-2013 at 09:00 AM.