USB-A vs. USB-C: What's the Difference? + What's Best for You? (2024)

It's fascinating to think about just how many things USB ports and connectors allow us to do. For starters, we can store the equivalent of thousands of books on a USB flash drive and then access them at will. (Pretty cool, right?) But we also use USB ports for connecting everything from our mobile devices to our TVs to our computers, so it's fair to say that USB is among our most important connectivity standards.

However, USB connectors have gone years without a true next-gen evolution -- until recently. Now USB-C, the successor to the original USB-A connector technology, is on the scene and ready to shake things up. What's the story when it comes to USB-A vs. USB-C, and which type of USB hardware will be more appropriate for your application? Let's get connected with the basics of these crucial technologies.

USB-A vs. USB-C: What's the Difference? + What's Best for You? (1)

USB-A at a Glance

USB-A is the original type of USB port that most people are familiar with. You've probably seen USB-A ports on your computer, TV, phone charger, game console, or any of the numerous other devices that use these ports. A USB-A port refers to a port in a host device that allows it to connect with a receptor device, either through a USB cable or by plugging in the receptor device directly (as with a USB flash drive).

Some things are classics for a reason, and USB-A ports are a great example. They've been popular for so long because they're versatile, reliable, and already installed in millions of devices around the world. USB-A technologies like flash drives have been ubiquitous for over a decade, and just about everyone uses devices that support them. USB-A also hasn't gone completely without upgrades in its time -- the USB 3.0 standard supports Type A connectors and provides transfer speeds that are still more than fast enough for most people's everyday needs.

However, the USB-A connector isn't without its drawbacks. Anyone who's ever tried to insert a USB-A connector into a port can attest that it can be frustrating to get it to fit just right. These difficulties happen because the bottom portion of a USB-A port features pin connectors that have to be lined up to power the device. In addition, the data and charging speeds that USB-A offers aren't always up to the requirements of applications that need very fast, high-capacity data transfer and/or charging.

USB-C at a Glance

It's time to meet USB-C, the next evolution of USB technology (more formally known as USB Type-C). USB-C devices feature a new type of connector that can provide power and data transfer at much greater rates. The basic technical standards for USB-C made their debut back in 2014, but the technology only started to receive widespread implementation in the late 2010s.

The first thing you'll probably notice about USB-C is that it's shaped quite differently from a USB-A port. A USB-C connector is much smaller, more rounded, and symmetrical, which means that it works no matter which way you insert the connector into the port. (Cue sigh of relief.) Although it features a different connector shape, USB-C is still backward compatible with USB-A devices through the use of an adapter.

However, there's a lot more going on under the hood of USB-C than just a more conveniently shaped port. The USB-C standard allows for a range of big improvements over USB-A, including:

  • Far higher power capacity (referred to as Power Delivery), allowing it to charge devices quickly and power larger devices
  • The ability to use alternate modes for compatibility with different connectors, such as HDMI ports, when using an adapter
  • Much faster data transfer capacity (referred to as SuperSpeed or SuperSpeed+) through high-speed protocols like USB 3.1 and USB 3.2
  • Support from numerous large tech manufacturers, including Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Dell and many others

One thing you should be aware of about USB-C is that the standard is still evolving. Numerous different standards, such as the USB 3.1 and 3.2 standards that we just mentioned, have been introduced. Thus, when purchasing USB-C equipment, it's especially important to check that it's designed for compatibility with the correct USB standards. Read up on the USB-C standards to make sure you understand them.

Shop USB-C Flash Drives Customized With Your Logo!

Wait, What Happened to USB-B?

From the lack of attention paid to USB-B, you might think it went the way of the iPhone 9. But USB-B does exist, it's just a more specialized technology that's not as widely used in general business and consumer applications. Instead, the most common applications for USB-B are in peripheral devices like printers and scanners. So, while it's still a relatively common type of connector, most people can go years without ever having to buy a USB-B cable.

A USB-B connection has a more trapezoidal shape that looks very different from either USB-A or USB-C. Devices with USB-B ports often connect to a USB-A port via a USB-B to USB-A cable. In addition, there are tons of other types of USB connectors, such as micro-USB and mini-USB, that have been developed for applications such as mobile device charging. USB-C is designed to replace many of these smaller connector sizes.

USB-A vs. USB-C: What's the Difference? + What's Best for You? (2)

USB-A vs. USB-C: Head to Head

Now that we have some clarity on what USB-A and USB-C are, it's time to look at how they compare. Both USB standards have advantages to offer, and understanding those advantages will help you make the right choice.

There's no doubt that USB-C is gaining popularity, and it's quickly becoming one of the most important connectivity standards of next-gen tech. However, the changeover is happening slowly, and most experts predict that it will be several years before USB-C achieves the kind of genuine ubiquity that USB-A has. Ultimately, the decision will often come down to balancing the next-gen performance specs of USB-C with the accessibility and lower costs of USB-A.

If you need hardware or memory that's compatible with the widest variety of devices, USB-A is still often the way to go. Many people still don't have a device with a USB-C port, and it's not always practical or efficient to rely on the use of USB-A to USB-C converters. For example, a business buying wholesale flash drives will still often purchase USB-A flash drives to ensure the easiest compatibility.

USB-A, especially when designed for the USB 3.0 standard or higher, is also still more than sufficient for many everyday homes and office applications. Even photographers and other pros who need great USB performance are often perfectly fine with USB 3.0. If you need a good balance of performance, price, and accessibility, USB-A with USB 3.0 capability is the most common choice.

However, your application might require the enhanced features that USB-C provides, such as extremely fast charging or data transfer. In that case, it's probably appropriate to make the leap to USB-C hardware. With the stage set for a more widespread transition to USB-C in the next several years, an increasing number of businesses are finding that it's worth it to take the plunge on the superior performance specs of USB-C.

Dual Connector USB Flash Drives

While the world is in this transitional phase between USB-C and USB-A it can be difficult to decide what's best for your project. While your desktop may only support USB-A, more progressive tech companies like Apple have been exclusively supporting USB-C since 2015.

That's where dual-headed flash drives come into play. These drives support both connector options. wielding a USB type A connector on one side and a USB type C connector on the other. These drives are especially useful for promotional campaigns where drives will be distributed to a large and potentially diverse audience who will likely use the USBs on a variety of devices.

C-ing the Future: What's Now and What's Next for USB-C?

OK, we're sorry for that pun, but it's hard not to be a little excited about the many new possibilities as USB-C continues to roll out. Tons of technologies are now taking advantage of the enhanced capabilities of USB-C. Some have already become almost ubiquitous, while others are still in their infancy.

Currently, the application where you're most likely to find USB-C connectors in real life is their use as charging ports for mobile devices and laptops. The incredible power capacity of USB-C (up to 240 watts with the latest Power Delivery standard) allows it to charge anything from a smartphone to a high-end laptop, which is why you'll also frequently find them on portable USB charging banks.

How about new tech that's on the horizon of the USB standard? USB4 is one recent development in USB-C technology with lots of potential for innovation. It's by far the fastest USB standard yet, with potential data transfer speeds of up to 40 gbps, although the competing Thunderbolt 3 standard is also just as fast. Those looking for the fastest USB performance around should keep an eye on USB4 and Thunderbolt 3, which are both likely to become more widely available soon.

USB-A vs. USB-C: What's the Difference? + What's Best for You? (2024)


Why is USB-C better than A? ›

USB-C is more compact than its predecessors, reversible in connectivity (vertical orientation doesn't matter for a USB-C connection), and compatible with a number of connection types like USB-A, HDMI, Thunderbolt™ 3, etc. Also, due to power delivery support, charging capabilities and transfer speeds are faster.

Which is better for charging USB or USB-C? ›

Using USB-C for charging is faster, more affordable, and more reliable than ever. At Wirecutter, we're increasingly recommending USB-C accessories as the best options for phone chargers, car chargers, and power banks.

Is there an advantage to USB-C? ›

Type-C ports can transmit data at a higher rate. 4K videos can be transmitted via a USB 3.1 Type-C port. Type-C ports support relatively larger charging currents ranging from 3 A to 5 A, and support reverse charging. Type-C ports are more refined in structure and more safe in use.

What is USB-A used for? ›

USB Type A

This type of USB cable connection is typically used to couple peripherals, like a mouse, keyboard, or a gaming controller, to a host, such as a computer or a charge hub. Commonly found on: Mobile device charge hubs. Computers and laptops.

Is USB A being phased out? ›

USB isn't going away, of course. It's getting better. The new standard is USB Type-C, also called USB-C. It will replace not only Type-A but the Mini-USB and Micro-USB connectors.

Is USB-C better for your phone? ›

USB Type-C also allows faster electricity transfer, which means that devices such as phones will charge faster. Most USB 3.0 chargers still provide 2.1Amp power. But with an output of 5Amp, USB Type-C can charge smartphones two or three times quicker than at present. It also allows two-way power transfer.

How much faster is USB-C than USB A? ›

A USB-C connection can charge devices up to 20 times faster than basic USB. USB-C ports support USB Power Delivery, a fast-charging standard that can deliver 100 watts of power to compatible devices.

Is it better to charge iPhone with USB A or USB-C? ›

USB-A to Lightning will charge 30% of your iPhone battery in 30 mins. This will result in a full charge in about an hour and a half. USB-C to Lightning will charge your battery 55% in 30 mins, resulting in a full iPhone charge in just under an hour. In short, USB-C is considerably faster than USB-A.

What is difference between USB A and C? ›

The USB-A has a much larger physical connector than the Type C, Type C is around the same size as a micro-USB connector. Unlike, Type A, you won't need to try and insert it, flip it over and then flip it over once more just to find the right orientation when trying to make a connection.

Why do people prefer USB-C? ›

USB Type-C offers many advantages for the consumer, including high-speed data transfer, a high-wattage power supply cable, and a reliable means of connecting peripheral devices to the computer. In addition to these practical benefits, the reversible design of USB Type-C connectors makes them more user-friendly.

Can USB-C do everything? ›

With up to 100 watts, or 3 amps of power, USB-C cables can power almost anything. From laptops to large high-resolution monitors, even some printers. The 4K Ultra HD experience. USB-C cables can deliver Ultra-HD 4K video resolution to USB-C and HDMI displays.

What are the limitations of USB-C? ›

These USB-C cables only support 2.0 speeds and do not support alternate modes. All USB-C cables must be able to carry a minimum of 3 A current (at 20 V, 60 W) but some can also carry high-power 5 A current (at 20 V, 100 W).

What devices take USB-A? ›

USB Type-A
  • Classic flat, rectangular shape.
  • Used by the following devices: Almost all computers (desktops, laptops etc.) Most tablets. Games consoles (PlayStation, XBox etc.) Smart TVs. DVD and Blu-Ray players. Peripherals (e.g. keyboards, mice) Flash drives/memory sticks.

What device use USB-A? ›

USB-A has a thin, rectangular cross-section and is generally used for the host end of the connection. Thus, USB-A ports may be found on laptops, desktops, media players, or game consoles.

Does iPhone use USB-C? ›

Most commercially available smartphones have a USB-C port, but the iPhone does not. It uses Apple's proprietary Lightning port connector.

Why is USB-C not popular? ›

The big problem with USB-C: Charging speed

There is a very common frustration with the USB-C standard in its current form. Moving phones between different chargers, even of the same current and voltage ratings, often won't produce the same charging speeds.

Why did Apple stop using USB? ›

The reason why Apple and a plethora of other laptop vendors decided to strip away from the old standard USB port and move on to USB Type-C also boils down to the fact that USB-C port has great performance in data and power transferring.

Is Apple getting rid of USB-C? ›

Apple is continuing its transition to USB-C across its product lines after the EU passed a new law that mandates a common charger across all consumer electronic devices sold by 2024.

Why are phones changing to USB-C? ›

Apple will ditch the Lightning connector on its iPhones, the company has confirmed, after European regulators decided all smartphones should have USB charging as standard in two years' time. New EU rules require all phones sold after autumn 2024 to use the USB-C connector for their charging ports.

Why do iPhones not use USB-C? ›

Removing the lightning charger would create e-waste because the lightning accessories people buy are rendered useless. Using USB C would make Apple lose its “uniqueness” because the lightning charger is what separates iPhones from Android phones.

Which Apple devices use USB-C? ›

You need an iPad model that has a USB-C port:
  • iPad Pro 11-inch (1st generation or later)
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation or later)
  • iPad Air (4th generation or later)
  • iPad mini (6th generation)
Oct 10, 2022

What is USB-C used for? ›

USB-C is an industry-standard connector for transmitting both data and power on a single cable. The USB-C connector was developed by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF)(Opens in a new window), the group of companies that has developed, certified, and shepherded the USB standard over the years.

What USB type does Apple use? ›

While the latest Android phones have a USB-C port, Apple's iPhones still use the proprietary Lightning port.

How do you know if a cable is fast charging? ›

Most fast charging cables and accessories will state it right on the package, too. Many cable manufacturers will simply label fast chargers and offer a description indicating what it's capable of. Look for a small description that reads “fast charging.” Another spec detail is “Quick Charge 2.0” or “QC3.

Which type of charging is best for iPhone? ›

Apple 20W USB-C power adapter

Note: For fast charging, iPhone 12, iPhone SE (3rd generation), and later models require a power adapter with a minimum power output of 20 watts, such as the Apple 20W USB power adapter.

What charging method is best for iPhone? ›

A wireless charger can work -- this model is the best

The second-fastest way to charge your iPhone is with Apple's MagSafe charger and a 20-watt power adapter, but for this to work you must own either an iPhone 12 or an iPhone 13 to get the faster 15-watt wireless charging.

Why is USB-C better for iPhone? ›

A USB-C port would unify Apple's device lineup, allowing most people to use a single USB-C charger to charge up their ‌iPhone‌, iPad, and Mac. Switching to USB-C would also allow for faster charging and it would enable faster transfer speeds.

Can I use A regular USB in A USB-C? ›

The good news is that USB-C ports can be used with older USB 2, 3.0, and 3.1 accessories.

Do all phones use USB-C? ›

Starting 2024, all mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets, and cameras, will need to have the USB-C port as the standard port for charging and data transfer.

Is my phone USB-C or USB A? ›

Secondly, the USB cable that comes with your phone should be able to tell you whether your phone supports USB-C or Micro-USB. Forget about the Type-A side (the rectangular-shaped side you plug into a PC). The end that fits into your phone should be oval and rounded if it's USB-C.

Why did Apple switch to USB-C charger? ›

EU lawmakers argue this move will help cut down on e-waste and ensure people only have to carry a single charger for all their devices. At present nearly every modern Android device uses the USB-C chargers along with Apple's own iPad tablets.

Why does everything use USB-C now? ›

In addition to charging, a USB-C cable can be used to transmit video signals from your computer to your monitor or TV; to transfer huge amounts of data at blazing speeds to and from devices like cameras, external drives and other peripherals; and, perhaps best of all, to do many of these things at the same time, so ...

Can I use any USB-C cable to charge my phone? ›

As long as you're using the right cable or the right wireless standard (and it's difficult not to), you can use just about any charger with your phone.

Do iphones take USB A? ›

You can use either a USB-A to Lightning cable or the newer USB-C to Lightning cable with your iPhone. You can use any of the adapters listed below to charge your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or iPod. You can also use a Mac USB-C Power Adapter or third-party adapters that comply with applicable safety standards.

Do Androids use USB A? ›

Android smartphones have used the USB Micro-B connector for both data transfer and charging almost exclusively since their introduction in 2008. Android tablets also use Micro USB but often have a separate port for their own power adapter.

How old is USB Type A? ›

USB (Universal Serial Bus) was originally developed and introduced in 1996 as a way of setting up communication between a computer and peripheral devices by replacing many varieties of serial and parallel ports.

Is USB Type A still used? ›

USB-A is still widely used and can be found on devices like computers, gaming consoles, TVs, and all kinds of peripherals.

Do phones use USB A? ›

USB Type-A

You can connect smartphones, cameras, keyboards, and more to computers to transfer data, or plug into wall chargers to charge these gadgets with a Type-A port.

Are Lightning and USB-C the same? ›

The maximum current the Lightning cable carries is 2.4A while the USB-C cable is 3A and can be up to 5A. That means Lightning cables allow less power to deliver to the powered device under the same voltage. In this case, Lightning cables are not suitable to fast charge because its current is limited in 2.4A.

Is Apple switching to USB-C in the US? ›

At long last, Apple says the iPhone will be getting USB-C ports. Earlier this month, the European Union passed legislation that requires all phones and tablets sold in the EU to use USB-C charging ports by 2024.

Is USB Type C faster than A? ›

With the right data standard (see below), the USB-C connection is much faster and more versatile than USB-A. In time, you can expect USB-C connections to replace all older USB-A connections and other ports. This switchover will, however, probably take years.

Why is USB-C so special? ›

USB-C features a new, smaller connector shape that's reversible so it's easier to plug in. USB-C cables can carry significantly more power, so they can be used to charge larger devices like laptops. They also offer up to double the transfer speed of USB 3 at 10 Gbps.

Is USB-C faster charging than a? ›

USB-C to Lightning will charge your battery 55% in 30 mins, resulting in a full iPhone charge in just under an hour. In short, USB-C is considerably faster than USB-A. However, depending on where you are using the charger and what accessories you already have available will impact whether or not you need USB-C.

Is USB-C faster that USB A? ›

USB C is newer, faster, and better in almost every way. USB A is much more widely found in general, so it's easier to use simply due to how ubiquitous it is. USB-C is going to become the worldwide standard. It just might take some time for that to happen.

Can you plug USB-A into USB-C? ›

Even though you can't physically connect a USB-C connector to a Type-A port, you can use a physical adaptor to plug older devices into a USB-C port.

Do iphones use USB-C? ›

Most commercially available smartphones have a USB-C port, but the iPhone does not. It uses Apple's proprietary Lightning port connector.

Can a USB Type-C cable be used with a normal USB charger? ›

Yes. USB Type-C is backwards compatible with USB 2.0 and 3.0 devices. However, you'll need an adapter because the USB Type-C connector has a different shape to the connectors on USB 2.0 and 3.0 cables.

Why are we switching to USB-C? ›

On Monday, in an effort to reduce electronic waste, the European Union's member states approved a rule requiring USB-C charging ports on “all new mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, hand-held video game consoles and portable speakers, e-readers, keyboards, mice, portable navigation systems ...

What devices use USB-C? ›

USB-C, explained

This means that it can be a standard connector for both computers and phones, as well as other devices like game consoles. Some popular devices that use USB-C cables are the Nintendo Switch, MacBook Pro, and Samsung Galaxy line of phones.

Does fast charging damage battery? ›

Does fast charging damage my battery? You'd think with all that extra power there could be a risk to your battery. From our findings though, fast charging doesn't cause any more damage to your phone than standard charging.

How do you charge a Type C phone with a normal charger? ›

Simply insert the adapter's USB-C connector into your mobile device. Then, plug your Micro-USB cable into the adapter's Micro-USB port and connect the cable to the USB-A port on your computer or USB-A wall charger.

What is the difference between Type C charger and normal charger? ›

More efficient and fast: A Type-C connector is faster than any other USB cable. You can even use it to charge larger devices like laptops. It transfers data and charges devices at faster speeds. Small and safe: USB Type-C connectors are small and much safer to use.

How do I know if my USB-C cable is high speed? ›

The most preferable and reliable way to check a USB cable's speed is to read its specs. Examine any manuals or cards that came with the cable, or check its product listing if you ordered it online. Ideally, the cable's manufacturer should list its USB protocol, such as USB 3.0, as well as its speed in Gbps or Mbps.

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