USB 3.1 – The Death of USB Memory Sticks as we Know Them

The body that controls the development of the USB standards has decided that the current USB connector (the one that has been with us since the mid 1990’s) is overdue for a makeover.

The USB connector – the metal bit at the end of the cable or any USB memory stick is apparently not sleek enough, not small enough and it’s biggest problem is that it’s caused us to waste hours and hours of our life trying to work out which way around the USB connector needs to be inserted – really? We handle more USB’s in a day than the average person will handle in a lifetime and we can’t say that it’s really been that much of an issue.

But, with smart phones, tablets and new wearable devices getting thinner and thinner there is a reasonable argument that we do need a sleeker and thinner connector to support them. Of course the downside of this is that overtime we’re all likely to have to upgrade our peripherals and storage devices to support the new interface – for the foreseeable future the current USB connector (socket) is not going to be phased out we’re more likely to see a parallel running so PC’s and Laptops (and possibly smart TV’s) will come equipped ready to support both standards.

USB Type C Cable and Connector - Courtesy of Foxconn

The new connector, christened “Type C” will hit the market later this year (probably just in time for Christmas) and you can be sure that the manufactures of adapters and connectors are poised to launch products at the same time. If this all sounds familiar then think “Apple Lightening Connector” and the challenges it created when it was introduced with the iPhone5.

Other touted benefits of the new Type C connector are:

  • The cable (or peripheral) will make an audible click when plugged in correctly.
  • It will support higher data transfer rates of up to 10 Gbps.
  • It will enable the delivery of greater power to peripherals via the USB Type C cable(s) – roughly double the amount of the current standard.
  • It's designed to be plugged and unplugged 10,000 times.

With an estimated 6 Billion implementations of the current sized USB cables/connector don’t expect things to change too much overnight! Most people are still using USB 2.0 and haven’t made the move to USB 3.0 so we’re not expecting a stampede to USB 3.1 and the Type C connector anytime soon.

As far as promotional USB flash drives are concerned it’s likely to be business as usual for many years to come – the two core requirements when companies are looking for promotional USB flash drives is “universality” (when they give them away can people use them) and “price”. Whilst there are undoubted merits with the USB 3.1 standard and the Type C connector the issues in the short term (the next few years) are that most people they would give a new generation USB 3.1 flash drive to would not be able to use it and they’ll pay a hefty premium for a USB 3.1 product versus USB 2.0

It’s too soon to be reading the last rites to USB flash drives as we know them today but the next few years are going to prove interesting!

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