Ever since the Universal Serial Bus (USB) connector was first developed and introduced in 1996, the technology has advanced and become the standard connection method for several devices today. However, USB connectors come in different types, of which the mini USB and micro USB versions are the most commonly used.

Mini USB and micro USB might sound like they could mean the same thing, but they actually differ. In fact, wrongly purchasing any of these USB connectors will likely render them useless for the intended purpose. Therefore, it’s essential to understand how these two USB connectors differ and their suitability for different applications.

What is a mini USB connector?

The mini USB was first introduced in the early 2000s. It’s a five-pin version of the original USB type A connector introduced in 1996; however, the mini USB is much smaller and features crimped sides that give it a trapezoidal shape as shown Figure 1.

Figure 1. USB type A, USB mini and USB micro connectors. Source: macrovector/AdobeFigure 1. USB type A, USB mini and USB micro connectors. Source: macrovector/Adobe

Mini USBs revolutionized the design of digital devices as they not only allowed data transfer between devices, but they also allowed users to charge their devices using the same port. They also offer a data transfer speed of up to 480 Mbps and power transfer capabilities of up to 0.5A. In addition, mini USB connectors typically have about 5,000 connect-disconnect cycles, which means they can be plugged in and removed 5,000 times before they wear out.

Although the mini USB connector is becoming obsolete, it can still be found in removable storage devices, digital cameras and some mobile phones today.

What is a micro USB connector?

The micro USB connector also features a five-pin configuration and crimped surfaces that give it a trapezoidal shape like the mini USB connector. However, micro USB connectors are much smaller and more recent than mini USB connectors. They were first introduced in 2007 to standardize the connectors used in Android mobile devices.

While micro USB connectors offer comparable data transfer capabilities with mini USBs, they can achieve power transfer capabilities of up to 2A. This means their devices can be charged up to four times faster than what is achievable in mini USB connectors. In addition, micro USB connectors typically have 10,000 connect-disconnect cycles, and their small size means more efficient space utilization and reduced weight and size of the final product.

Micro USB connectors support USB on-the-go, permitting tablets and smartphones to function as a host for accessories like keyboards, mouses or USB flash drives.

Latest trends in USB connectors

The new USB 4.0 standard

USB 4 (or USB 4.0) is the latest standard of USB technology announced in 2019. This USB standard offers greater data transfer speeds and power capabilities than the previous USB generations like USB 1.0, USB 2.0, and USB 3.0. For instance, USB 4.0 can achieve transfer speeds of up to 40 Gbps, whereas USB 2.0 only supports up to 480 Mbps. In addition, the USB 4.0 technology has power transfer capabilities of up to 5A.

Table 1 shows the different USB technology generations, their achievable transfer speeds, and power supply capabilities.

USB 4.0 is also backward compatible with previous generations of USB (down to USB 2.0) and with Thunderbolt 3.

USB type C connectors

The USB type C (or USB-C) connectors are the latest innovation in USB technology. They are replacing conventional mini USB and micro USB connectors because of their improved features and performance.

For instance, USB-C connectors boast substantially higher power transfer capabilities, meaning they can be charged quickly. As a result, mobile phone and tablet manufacturers can now incorporate bigger batteries in their devices without worrying about the long charging times common in devices with mini or micro USB connectors. These connectors also have a data transfer rate of up to 10 Gbps and are found on video gaming controllers, recent laptop models and certain Android phones.

Summary

USB connectors are great devices that can achieve great data transfer speeds and power capabilities. However, to get the best from the USB technology, users must ensure that they correctly choose USB connectors that satisfy their application needs.

Learn more about USB connectors with Engineering360.

To contact the author of this article, email engineering360editors@globalspec.com