USB-C vs. Micro USB: What's the Difference?

USB-C is becoming more common but Micro USB isn't going anywhere

When it comes to USB-C vs. Micro USB, what are the differences? Micro USB has been around longer and can be found on more devices like digital cameras and smart home devices. Technically, Micro USB can mean one of three kinds of shapes: Micro USB-A, Micro USB-B, and USB 3.0 Micro-B. USB-C is used mostly on newer smartphones and computers and it, too, has different specs as it has evolved over the years. What could be more confusing is despite the evolution of USB-C, the shape has remained the same.

Differences between USB C and micro version of USB come down to shape, data transfer and charging speeds, and compatibility. Here's what else you need to know.

USB-C vs Micro USB

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Overall Findings

USB-C
  • Data transfer up to 10 Gbps.

  • Used on smartphones and laptops.

  • Capable of up to 100 Watts of power.

  • Can be inserted with any orientation.

Micro USB
  • Data transfer up to 480 Mbps.

  • Compatible with more electronic devices.

  • Limited to 9 Watts of power.

  • Must be inserted with correct orientation.

Micro USB technology was established in 2007 and is still incorporated for both power charging and data transfer in a wide range of modern electronic devices. USB-C was introduced in 2014 and is primarily used in newer smartphones and laptops due to its greater power charging capacity and faster data transfer speeds.

USB-C cables are easy to use since they can be inserted into the USB port in any orientation. Micro USB connectors have a long edge and a short edge, so they need to be positioned to align with the orientation of the port.

Data Transfer Rates: USB-C Is Much Faster

USB-C
  • Capable of up to 10 Gbps.

  • May include USB 3.0 or USB 3.1 technology.

  • Device data transfer speed is usually the limiting factor.

Micro USB
  • Limited to 480 Mbps.

  • Uses USB 3.0 technology.

  • Cable data transfer speed is usually the limiting factor.

USB-C is by far the faster connector, incorporating USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 technologies. This means it can transfer data between 5 Gbps (gigabits-per-second) and 10 Gbps.

On the other hand, Micro USB connectors only transfer data at up to 480 Mbps (megabits per seconds), or up to 5 Gbps if the cable supports USB 3.0.

If you're using a newer device capable of data transfer speeds faster than 5 Gbps, a Micro USB port will be the limiting factor when it comes to how quickly you can transfer data between that device and the USB accessory you're connected to. However, since some devices like USB drives can't transfer data faster than 5 Gbps, you'll find those devices typically come with micro USB ports and cables.

Usability and Compatibility: Micro USB Is More Common

USB-C
  • Easier to use in any orientation.

  • Limited use in higher-power electronics.

  • Not compatible with lower-power adapters.

Micro USB
  • Must be inserted in correct orientation.

  • Compatible with more common electronic devices.

  • Can be used with most USB power adapters.

The shape of USB-C connectors vs. Micro USB connectors plays a large part in how easy it is to use the cables. USB-C connectors are oval in shape, while Micro USB are longer on the top and shorter on the bottom. This means that you have to insert Micro USB connectors using the correct orientation. However, you can insert a USB-C connector any way you like and it'll still work.

Since USB-C can provide larger power loads (see below), it's also the ideal choice for larger electronic devices like computers or printers. For example, some laptops can use USB-C to send data to a monitor and also receive power from the monitor using just one USB-C cable. However, because Micro USB technology has been around for longer, far more smaller electronic devices utilize Micro USB ports and charger cables. These include USB drives, cameras, smart home devices, and more.

This means that if you have a single Micro USB cable and any USB charger, it'll be compatible with all of those electronics you own that have a Micro USB port. However lower-powered USB chargers won't be capable of powering a USB-C cable.

Charging Speed: USB-C Does It Faster

USB-C
  • Can power low-wattage and high-wattage devices.

  • Capable of fast-charging.

  • Saves time when recharging your smartphone.

Micro USB
  • Can only power low-wattage electronics.

  • Not capable of fast-charging.

  • Requires longer wait when recharging your smartphone.

USB-C cables also charges devices faster than Micro USB because the USB-C protocol provides for a maximum of 100 Watts of power. This means manufacturers of USB-C cables can include a higher power supply. It also means that USB-C can even power larger devices like laptops or printers. USB-C is also capable of providing both input and output power.

Micro USB, on the other hand, can only transfer power up to 9 Watts. This only makes it useful for charging smaller electronic devices. It also isn't capable of providing power from a "fast charging" power adapter. Micro USB is only capable of input power.

These power differences are the main reason most newer Android phones now use USB C ports for charging and data transfer.

Final Verdict

USB-C is clearly superior over Micro USB, though they each have a part to play. While it used to be USB-C was only for larger, higher-power electronics, we are now seeing devices with modest power requirements using USB-C (keyboards, Kindles, etc). It's best to think of Micro USB as a legacy technology, although one that has its place. For ease of use, nothing beats USB-C.

FAQ
  • USB-C cables vs. Micro USB cables: What's the difference?

    Your particular USB cable has all the same positives and negatives of its larger USB type: the cable simply connects USB-C or Micro USB devices together. You can only use USB-C cables for USB-C devices and vice versa.

  • USB-C chargers vs. Micro USB chargers: What's the difference?

    Just like with cables, USB-C and Micro USB chargers are simply chargers for each specific type of USB with the appropriate connector. You can only use a USB-C charger with a USB-C device and vice versa.

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