What Is Micro USB?

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

If you can’t live without your cell phone or personal digital assistant (PDA), you’ll be pleased to hear that micro USB connectors will soon make these gadgets even more convenient to use. USB, which stands for Universal Serial Bus, is an external bus, or cable, standard used to connect peripheral devices, like keyboards, to computers. It's an alternative to its common predecessors, serial and parallel standards. After some time, USB technology was enhanced and reduced to a smaller size known as mini USB. The micro USB specification is now scheduled to replace mini USB connectors in many different types of portable devices, including cell phones and PDA's. Standard devices will use Micro-B receptacles, while USB OTG (On-The-Go) devices will use Micro-AB receptacles. Micro-A plugs, Micro-B plugs, and standard cables will also be available.

A variety of USB cables, including micro-USB, mini-USB, and standard USB.
A variety of USB cables, including micro-USB, mini-USB, and standard USB.

The micro USB technology was developed by the USB Implementers Forum, Inc. (USB-IF), an independent non-profit group that works to advance USB technology. Nokia is one of many companies that will be using the micro USB specification in its upcoming products.

When compared to the mini USB, the micro USB offers many advantages. The most obvious benefit to this new technology is its smaller size. As cell phones and PDAs become thinner and lighter, consumers are frequently finding the mini USB connector is simply too large for practical use. The micro USB will allow manufacturers to push the limits of this trend towards sleeker design.

In addition to its smaller size, the micro USB is more durable than the mini USB connector. A micro USB features a stainless-steel shell to allow for over 10,000 insertion cycles, as well as a latching mechanism that provides higher extraction forces without sacrificing the USB’s ease-of-use for synching and charging your portable devices.

Another benefit to this new connector type is that the micro USB specification will support the USB OTG supplement, a technology that was invented to meet the need for portable devices to communicate directly with each other without the assistance of a computer. Whether you’re traveling on business or meeting friends for a casual lunch, the OTG supplement offers total mobile interconnectivity. It allows you to easily transfer, print, or share your documents, songs, and photos while using low power features that will help preserve battery life.

What Is a Micro USB Cable?

USB cables allow data or power transfers between devices. Also known as a universal serial bus, each type is suited for different capabilities. Micro USB connections have been widely used to charge and transfer data between many digital devices, especially portable electronics. As technology has become more robust over the last decade, manufacturers have improved the appearance, compactness, hardiness and performance capabilities of previous generations of USB cables.

A micro USB, which is one of the smallest kinds of connectors, has a miniature head with a set of five smaller pins inside of it. These are nearly half the size of larger USB-A heads and are typically used to plug into smaller devices, such as tablets, smartphones and other mobile electronics. A micro USB cable has a different head at each end of the cord: most often the larger USB-A connector on one side with a micro USB on the other.

Is Micro USB the Same as USB C?

Though they look remarkably similar at first glance, micro USB and USB-C connectors are distinctly different in capabilities. Both appear rounded and small, but a micro USB has hooks on the side that appears flatter than the other, so it must be oriented correctly in order to be plugged in. On the other hand, USB-C cables have rounded surfaces without any hooks that enable them to be plugged into devices no matter how you turn the connector.

USB-C cables also have faster data and power transfer, which has prompted many manufacturers to cease using other USB types in favor of this new technology. However, the micro version is expected to remain available and compatible with several products for many years because it has been the existing standard for smartphones, external storage drives and streaming devices for quite some time.

Micro USB and USB-C cables look different, but you may also be able to tell which is which depending on when you acquired it. Many new devices use USB-C technology, while older ones are supported by micro USB cables.

What Is the Difference Between Mini USB vs Micro USB?

Both smaller than the versions that preceded them, mini and micro USB cables offer a more compact connector. However, as its name implies, the micro USB is even tinier than the mini. Mini USB cables were introduced as one of the first smaller connector options available to consumers. Its size made it a popular option for transferring data and charging digital cameras, cell phones, smaller hard drives and MP3 players. Though the power capacity may not be as strong or quick as other types, the mini became a popular choice for convenience and portability.

The flatter, slimmer micro USB cable entered the marketplace just a few years after the mini. Notable improvements in its shape, size and power made it a trendy cable choice for manufacturers of mobile phones, tablets, cameras, gaming devices and other common electronics. The micro differs from the mini connector in that it also enables USB On-the-Go technology, which can connect many types of products for more uses and functionalities apart from just power and data transfer. Through micro USB technology, you can connect a keyboard, mouse and external storage device to your smartphone and tablet.

What Is a Micro USB Cable Used For?

Micro USB cables are largely used with Android devices to charge your phone or tablet and transfer data to your computer, but many digital cameras, tablets, smartwatches, toys, battery charging packs, photo printers, GPS systems and older smart products use these cords too. However, manufacturers rarely produce technology that uses micro USB cords today, as many companies are switching to USB-C connectors. While micro USB was the reigning standard, which meant you could keep your cords when upgrading devices, buying a new phone or tablet now may also require a new set of charging cables.

Another reason why developers are moving away from the micro USB is because it is limited in its ability to transmit video or audio information. While these cables can be connected between devices, they require an adapter, such as a USB-to-HDMI converter, in order to translate the signals properly into something the output device can interpret and present. Converter connectors potentially add a wider variety of uses to the micro USB’s capabilities, even if these functions aren’t possible with the cable alone. The USB-C invention eliminates these drawbacks, making it easier for consumers to procure just one cord for many uses across products.

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

Dana holds a B.A. in journalism and mass communication from the University of Iowa. She has loved being part of the EasyTechJunkie team ever since discovering the joys of freelance writing after her son was born. Dana also hones her writing skills by contributing articles to various blogs, as well as creating sales copy and content for e-courses.

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Discussion Comments

anon996373

It's the plug on the far left. Get used to seeing it a lot, because the retention mechanism is pure trash and it will slip out of anything it's plugged into. The middle plug (Mini USB) is pure heaven, it works as designed.

anon329327

Could anyone tell me the dimensions of the micro USB?

anon323338

I'd like to connect my htc smartphone to my nexus 10 tablet without using bluetooth. I would prefer to use a micro usb to micro usb, but can't seem to find cables for it. Does anyone know if the standard allows for micro usb to micro usb connection?

anon321897

Too many shapes, too many connectors. It takes only two: a big one and a small one.

anon232377

From the manufacturer's point of view, Mini B is preferred, due to the cost difference between both connectors, which is at least 20 percent cheaper.

habura

The mini USB and the micro USB look very similar. The micro looks like about half the size of the mini. Also, while both are relatively rectangular in shape, the micro doesn't have little wings or flares on two of the corners like the mini has.

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