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USB Cables and Connectors: A Guide

Tech - by Joe Weber - updated on 1/26/2023

Different USB Cable

USB cables are everywhere and it seems like every rechargeable device in your home uses one. But what different kinds of cables are there? Now, it's true that you are destined to use the cable that your device is designed to use but what other cables are there and what are the differences?

Important USB Terms

  • Version
    The USB version describes the technology used in the cable and connection. The most important aspects of the version are the transmission speeds and how long the cables can be.
  • USB Type
    Type refers to the connection of the cable or the shape of the plug.
  • Male and Female
    Male and female refer to each end of the cable. The male end of the cable is the end that you plug into the device, the female end is the side that connects to either a USB extender or the power adapter.

What Different USB Types Are There?

Over the years USB technology has evolved and will continue to evolve. There are many different types of USB connections out today and we'll dig into each one. See the USB type and version table below for a quick overview of each.

USB Type USB Versions Supported Maximum Transmission Speeds Maximum Cable Length
Lightning 2.0 480 Mbps 10 feet
USB Type-A 2.0, 3.0 & 3.1, 3.1 Gen 2 480 Mbps, 5 Gbps, 10 Gbps Ver 2.0 16 feet, Ver 3.0 9 feet
USB Type-B 2.0, 3.0 & 3.1 480 Mbps, 5 Gbps Ver 2.0 16 feet, Ver 3.0 9 feet
USB Type-C 2.0, 3.0 & 3.1, 3.1 Gen 2 480 Mbps, 5 Gbps, 10 Gbps Ver 2.0 16 feet, Ver 3.0 9 feet
USB Micro-B 2.0 480 Mbps 16 feet
USB Mini-A 2.0 480 Mbps 16 feet


Lighting is a proprietary design owned by Apple. A lightning cable will come either with a USB type A or USB-C end to connect to your computer or power adapter. Lightning cables are only used with Apple devices starting in 2013 with the iPhone 5. The Lightning connector can also be connected face up or face down, it doesn't matter.

Type A

When you think of USB, you probably think of USB A. Arguably the most common type of USB on the planet. Type-A supports all versions of USB and is found on virtually every modern electrical device that has USB. USB Type-A is also the most common end that connects to computers, chargers, etc.

For example, many cables have a Micro-B or USB-C on the end that connects to your phone, camera or tablet and the other end that connects to your computer is USB Type A.

Type B

Most often seen in printers and scanners, USB type B is starting to be seen less and less with the advancement of wireless technology for printers. USB type B does still support version 3.0 so it is expected to be around for quite some time. Generally, one end is Type B while the other end is Type A to plug into your computer.

Type C

The new fighter in the ring, USB-C, is found in most new technology from cell phones, game consoles and computers. With the capability to change and transfer data at high speeds in a single cable, it is quickly becoming the standard in the technology industry. Can be inserted into the device in any way, there is no up or down.

It's important to pay attention to the packaging when purchasing USB-C cables, there are some USB-C cables that are strictly for charging or strictly for data transfer. Make sure you check the specs before purchase to avoid unnecessary headaches.


More commonly known as "Micro USB", these very popular cables are very frequently seen in older Android phones and game consoles like the Playstation 4 and XBOX One for connecting and charging controllers. They look similar to a shrunken down HDMI connector. Be careful, these must be connected in one way and you can damage the connection on the device if you try to insert the cable upside down.


Very rare in today's technology, the USB Mini-A was replaced by the more reliable Micro USB a few years back. These were primarily seen in older digital cameras, cell phones, GPS units and computer peripherals. These are rarely seen in current devices.

What Are the Most Common USB Cables?

In today's world there are only a few USB types that are used for most devices.

  • USB A: Commonly seen in flash drives, mice, keyboards and other peripherals that connect to a computer or game console.
  • USB Micro-B: Older Android phones, video game controllers, GPS units, rechargeable headphones and much more.
  • USB-C: Seen in new laptops, Android phones and other devices that require fast charging and data capabilities in one cable.
  • Lightning: Proprietary and used with all Apple devices since 2013.

What Kind of Phone Charger Do I Need?

Today, most cell phones and smartphones use one of two types of USB, Lighting and USB-C. Most Android phones from Samsung, Motorola, Google, LG, and others use the new USB C while Apple is still using Lighting.

Essentially, if you have a newer Android phone, you more than likely use a USB C charger and if you have an iPhone you use Lightning.

Now, there are still some devices out there that may use the Micro USB cable but these are becoming few and far between.

Will There Ever Be A Standard USB Connection?

There was a time when most cell phones used different chargers. Every brand had their favorite and every time you bought a new phone you needed to buy new cords for the car. That's gotten better in recent years with Lightning and USB but there is currently no standard. Thanks to the European Union, that's about to change.

In October 2022, The European Union announced   that they are adopting a law requiring Apple, the only manufacturer left not using USB C, to start using USB C in their phones and tablets by the end of 2024. With this change, USB C will become the standard USB connection seen around the world in electronic devices.

What is Qi?

You've seen the name, but what the heck is it? Qi, pronounced "chee", is a wireless charging technology that has taken the world by storm. Qi is not the only wireless technology available but it is the most well-known and used by most smartphone manufacturers. This technology allows you, if your phone is equipped with it, to place your phone on a wireless charger and it will charge without plugging it into anything.

Apple's proprietary MagSafe accessories, while not completely obvious, also uses Qi technology with the added convenience of magnetic attachment to your Apple device.

Batteries Plus Has the Chargers and Cords You Need

Visit us online or stop into one of our locally owned stores to see our selection of USB cables, chargers and Qi wireless chargers for your phones, tablets and accessories. To learn more about or selection of Belkin accessories available for your phones in "The Best USB-C Cables & Chargers from Belkin".

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