More than 1.4 billion mobile phones are sold every year around the world. If you’re one of the lucky ones who has just invested in a new phone, congratulations.
Whether the phone is brand new or new-to-you, you probably have some questions about this new model. If you’re thinking about upgrading, you may be comparing makes and models.
One of the most important questions you can ask is about how you’ll charge the phone.
Can you use the same cable you’ve been using with your old phone, or will you need something new? Will you be able to share a charger with everyone else in your household? Will you have a completely unique set-up?
There are several different types of USB cables, and not all of them work with every device. That’s why it’s important to know which ones will work on your mobile.
Lucky for you, this guide has exactly the information you’re looking for. Discover the different types of USB cords, and which mobile models they work with.
It makes sense to start with some of the more popular and common types of USB cords. Then the guide looks at some of the older ones.
The micro-USB cable was once considered the standard connector. It’s not as popular today. Micro-USB is notable for its small size, which is why it’s so popular for mobiles and other tech gadgets.
Micro-USB cables only fit into the port if they’re the right way round. If you try to insert one upside down or backward, you risk damaging the port or the cable.
The primary advantage of micro-USB is that they connect directly to your device. That means you don’t need a computer interface. You can connect a USB drive or another USB device to your mobile.
If your device is older than 2015, it’s quite likely that it will come equipped with a micro-USB port. If you’re purchasing a used device, check to see if the cable and the charger come with the phone.
Many newer mobiles and devices are using a different type of USB cable. A cable from a newer device may not be compatible with an older used phone.
What Mobiles Use Micro-USB Cables?
As mentioned, the micro-USB cable was once the standard among mobile manufacturers. As a result, many phones are compatible with micro-USB cables.
Samsung lists the following models for its Galaxy series phones:
- Galaxy S5, S6, S6 edge, S7, and S7 edge
- Galaxy Note5 and Note6
- Galaxy A6
- Galaxy J3 and J7
Many Galaxy tablet models also make use of the micro-USB cable. This includes Galaxy Tab S and Tab S2, as well as the 2016 Tab A 10.1 model and older.
Other Android phones also make use of the micro-USB port. The Sony Xperia X and Huawei Honor 6X are good examples.
The Most Popular of USB Cables
In the last few years, mobile manufacturers have been moving away from micro-USB in favour of a new type of USB cord. It’s known as USB-C, and it has a few advantages over its predecessors.
First, USB-C is much faster than micro-USB. That’s the primary reason manufacturers have been switching to it. It’s also believed to be more powerful than some of the older USB types.
USB-C is also more versatile. Unlike micro-USB, USB-C is actually backward compatible. That means you can plug it in upside down, and it will still work.
That’s good news for anyone who’s ever fumbled with a USB cable or struggled to get it into the port the right way round.
Even Apple has been adopting USB-C ports for its devices. Apple has long been the hold out in the mobile world, resisting the allure of micro-USB. That decision caused Apple products to be incompatible with other chargers for years.
Which Models Work with USB-C?
As noted, most manufacturers are trending towards USB-C for their devices. Even Apple appears to be interested in this more powerful USB cable.
So, which mobiles have a USB-C adaptor?
Many newer Samsung models utilize USB-C cables. They include:
- Galaxy S8 and newer
- Galaxy Note8 and newer
- Galaxy A10e, A20, and A50
- Galaxy Fold phones
Newer generation Samsung Galaxy tablets use USB-C type cords as well.
Google’s Pixel phones have never been equipped with a micro-USB port. Rather, all models of this phone make use of the USB-C port. Google notes this allows for faster charging.
Google also says other cables may work with your mobile. They’ll take longer to charge the device though.
Newer phones from Motorola, HTC, Huawei, and OnePlus are all making use of the USB-C cable. Some notable models include:
- Motorola G6 and newer
- Huawei’s Mate X, which is foldable and 5G
- OnePlus 6T
- HTC’s U12 Plus
- LG’s ThinQ series phones
- Newer Sony Xperia phones
If your mobile is newer than 2015, there’s a good chance it has a USB-C cable. It’s always a good idea to double-check and be sure exactly what you’ll need with each model. Today, most phones incorporate USB-C cables.
Apple Adopts USB-C
Even Apple is making use of USB-C. The new iPhone 11 was introduced in late 2019. It was the first iPhone model to features a USB-C port.
Apple had previously added USB-C to its other products, including iPads and laptops.
Future iPhone models should also feature USB-C. That means most phone chargers will be interchangeable. Finally, you’ll be able to charge your Android mobile with the same cable that you use for your iPhone.
Apple’s Lightning USB Connector
With the roll out of the iPhone 11, it seems as though Apple will finally let go of its proprietary USB cable. Known as the lightning connector, Apple used this type of USB cable with every iPhone model from 2012 on. The connector was also used in iPads, laptops, and other mobile products from Apple.
Since it’s proprietary, Lightning connectors were only used with Apple products. That made it simple to charge your various Apple products using one cord. It did have its complications.
The biggest problem is that Lightning connectors are incompatible with micro-USB devices. Households that were split between Apple and Android know the struggle of finding the right adapter to charge a phone.
The iPhone 11 spells the end of the Lightning connector. That doesn't mean this cable type will disappear overnight though. That’s because Apple phones produced between 2012 and late 2019 come with the Lightning connector.
The Lightning connector was a bit ahead of its time, in that it was completely reversible. That meant you could insert the cable any which way and it would still work. Micro-USB does not have the same feature.
With USB-C integrating this functionality, as well as faster charging, the Lightning cable is now outdated technology.
Older USB Cables
If your device predates 2012, it may have an even older type of USB cable. Apple introduced the Lightning connector in 2012 to replace these older USB cord types.
USB-A and USB-B type cords are still in use today, although they’re not very common for mobile devices. The problem is that they require 30 pins, which means the connectors must be quite bulky. As a result, the USB ports must also be quite large.
Today’s sleek mobile devices wouldn’t be possible if USB-A and USB-B type cords had to be used with them. Today, you’ll see USB-A used with desktop peripherals, such as an external keyboard.
USB-B ports are commonly used with printers. They’re usually square in shape. Given their specialized function, they’re not as common as USB-A cables.
Unless you have an older device, chances are you don’t need to worry about USB-A cables.
Creating Compatibility for Different Cables
One of the more frustrating realities of advances in USB technology is that older devices are incompatible with newer cables. The reverse is also true.
This means an older Android device can’t make use of a USB-C cable. A newer device can’t use a micro-USB cord because it won’t fit the port properly.
There’s also the issue of Apple’s Lightning connector, which was used in almost all their mobile devices until 2015, and in iPhones until 2019.
Apple has offered various adapters and connectors, designed to make devices backward-compatible. It’s possible to buy a USB-A adaptor cable for Lightning connectors.
Many manufacturers have also offered adapter cables to connect micro-USB and Lightning connectors. This is useful for anyone moving between Android and Apple devices that predate 2015.
USB-C does not fit into Lightning connectors, which means you can’t use it with your older Apple devices. You can, of course, buy a cord that adapts between the two. It creates backward compatibility with all your older Apple products.
What about micro-USB and USB-C? You can also buy adapters that will allow you to connect these USB cord types.
There are even some cables that convert between all three popular types of USB cords. These cords include USB-C, micro-USB, and Lightning connectors.
What’s USB 3.0?
Another question you might be asking is, “What is USB 3.0?” Is this another type of cable, or is it compatible with the cables you already have?
USB 3.0 refers to the version of the standard interface the cable is using. It’s possible to have USB-C 2.0 cables and USB-C 3.0 cables.
What’s the difference? Generally speaking, USB 3.0 is faster. It incorporates a “SuperSpeed” feature that lets it transfer data around 10 times faster than USB 2.0.
USB 3.0 isn’t new. The standard was introduced in 2010, so many modern devices make use of USB 3.0. The standard was actually updated to USB 3.1 more recently, which increases speeds again.
Not all USB-C type connectors will make use of USB 3.1 or even USB 3.0, so it’s best to check. The number refers to the interface standard, while letters refer to the type of connection.
Which One do You Need?
Which type of USB cable do you need to charge your mobile? The best way to answer this question is always to take a look at the box. If you don't have the original packaging, check with the manufacturer.
If you’ve purchased a used device, then you may not receive the original power adapter and cable.
If the phone is 2015 or newer, you’ll likely need USB-C. If the phone is an older Android model, then it’s likely a micro-USB port. If you’re using an iPhone, you’ll need a Lightning connector, unless you have the new iPhone 11.
Given the trend towards USB-C, it seems like most new phones will continue to use it. That means you won’t need to keep guessing about which USB cable you need. In the future, the question will be easily answered, because USB-C will be standard.
A Word about Wireless
Another innovation that may soon make questions like, “Which type of USB cable do I need?” history is wireless charging. Wireless charging pads make it possible to charge without a cord.
While this technology isn’t widespread just yet, most manufacturers are exploring it. Apple introduced wireless charging with iPhone 8, and the iPhone 11 continues it.
Many of Samsung’s phones have built-in wireless charging as well, dating back to the S7. You’ll need a certified charger, but you can charge your mobile without searching for that cable.
Keeping Tabs on Charging
Today, there are several different types of USB cables. Not all will work for every device, so you’ll need to be sure you have the right cable for your device. With the advent of USB-C cables, though, all that guesswork will soon be history.
Wireless charging and other innovations are also doing away with questions about which cable you need for which device. As this technology improves, USB cables and other wires may become a thing of the past.
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