Hate the micro USB connector | David Grajal

Hate the micro USB connector

“The micro-USB connector was designed with a rated lifetime of about 10000 insertion cycles”. An extremely positive engineer at Nokia, late 200x

MicroUSB has long been a commercial success. It is also an engineering flop. Every single day millions of microUSB cables and connectors die. Silently. Kaput. Gone. Nobody knows if the problem is rooted on a flawed design or in the poor quality, non USB certified, non tested connectors available for assembly companies.

Do you remember mini USB? That was a good connector! No one of my miniUSB connectors failed!

In comparison, how many microUSB cables have you said goodbye to? I’m sure a few. Cables are the less problematic issue you may have because they are disposable and replaceable. Can you buy durable cables? Oh yeah you can but almost nobody does. Expensive cables have better mechanical support because they are nylon braided, they are shielded with a mesh and use thicker copper wire.

The real pain are the PCB connectors. How many devices do you have that mysteriously don’t charge anymore? That’s the issue. The tiny size makes it hard to replace even by hardcore electronic enthusiasts. They have terrible durability and they are not replaceable.

But why is microUSB mechanical inferior to miniUSB? Is it just because the connectors are smaller? Nope. One word: Latching.

Unlike mini USB, Micro USB has latches. They added latches so you could hang the phone by the cable when it charges. With those latches, every time the cable is under tension, it stresses the PCB receptacle. It is very easy to apply tension when the cable needs to be inserted on a specific orientation. Extra mechanical stress and bad solder joints result on loose connectors after some use. That’s why your device only charges when the cable is a specific position or under a concrete pressure: you are helping the connector electrically connect to the PCB traces.

The solution is USB type C, the superior connector. It is equally small. It doesn’t have latches. Being longer and wider good mechanical support, enough to hang the phone by the cable when it charges. It is reversible because it automatically determines the orientation. It is symmetrical on the power lines so you can manufacture cheap, dumb chargers to power simple devices and still allow both orientations. With 24 pins it is future proof. Fuck yeah! I like USB type C.

Micro USB was an error. Engineers designing new products with micro USB bring misery to the world. Let’s stop.