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Stupid Usability #108

Goodbye Micro-USB 2.0

Written By: High Monkey
Posted: 7/13/2015

From the mind of Aaron Kronberger, Consultant at High Monkey:

I wonder how many hours have been lost on a worldwide scale due to the lack of reversibility of the current Micro-USB B connector. Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? From personal experience, I’m certainly not the only one that has come across this annoyance on a daily basis. For those not in the know, this is the connector in question:



This little connector, which is now present on a huge percentage of consumer devices is certainly an engineering marvel in itself. It has enabled devices to be slimmer by reducing the height of the cable port. Just think if your current smartphone needed the old Mini USB connection, and the precious few millimeters that would add to its thickness. For this I am thankful.

The problem is that it’s not reversible. One side is “up” and one is “down”. To add insult to injury, the port on the device isn’t even always in the same orientation. On my current LG Phone, the narrow side of the cable is up when the phone is up. This is contrary to what I understand are the proper USB specifications, as seen on devices like Google’s Nexus 5, in which the narrow side faces down. Thanks everyone!

My problem isn’t with all non-reversible cables. HDMI cables aren’t reversible, Cat5 cables aren’t reversible. In fact most cables used in consumer electronics aren’t reversible. They’re also not nearly as small and as often used as Micro-USB. At night, plugging in my cell phone on the first try without being able to see it is a minor victory.

Checking my wide assortment of these cables at home revealed that only a small portion of Micro-USB cables (such as the one pictured above) have a significant asymmetrical or physical property to help determine which side is which. Why more of them don’t just add a little bump to the handle of the “up” side is unknown. Perhaps this would interfere with the required symbol on the top.

I didn’t see this non-reversibility as a problem until Apple’s marvelous Lightning cable entered my life by way of the newer iPads. Not once have I failed to plug in my iPad on the first try, because it’s perfectly symmetrical! Similar to Apple’s Lightning cable, the upcoming USB 3.1 Type-C cable will be symmetrical and additionally have a max bandwidth of 10Gbps. It also has the capability to carry substantially more power, so perhaps one day in the near future we’ll have laptops and full size external hard drives that no longer need bulky external power bricks. As a predominately non-Apple user, this is great news.

Overall, I will be very pleased when all my most used devices use a symmetrical cable port like USB 3.1 Type-C. On that day I’ll stop fumbling with the cables of old and bid a fond farewell to Micro-USB 2.0.

Chad's Bio Coming Soon!

More About Virgil

Virgil Carroll is the owner and president of High Monkey – based in Minneapolis Minnesota. Virgil also wears the multiple ‘hats’ of Principle Human Solutions Architect and SharePoint Architect.

Virgil is one of those rare individuals who can dive deep into technical topics while speaking clearly to the business owners of a project and never forgetting that the end user experience has the highest priority. He calls it using both sides of his brain. Virgil is passionate about leveraging technologies ‘out of the box’ as much as possible with a focus on the strategic use of content to create websites that deliver the right content to the right audience on the right device at the right time. Virgil brings high energy, an ironic wit, and a sense of grounded perspective whenever he speaks to an audience. Virgil regularly speaks at conferences and user groups throughout the United States and occasionally in Europe.

Posted: 7/13/2015 12:00:00 AM by Brian Haukos | with 0 comments