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 is on more devices such as digital cameras and smart home devices. Technically, Micro USB can mean one of three shapes: Micro USB-A, Micro USB-B, and USB 3.0 Micro-B.

USB-C is used mainly on newer smartphones and computers, and it, too, has different specs as it has evolved over the years. What could be more confusing is that despite USB-C's evolution, 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 in a wide range of modern electronic devices for power charging and data transfer. 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 you can insert them 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 direction 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 the faster connector, incorporating USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 technologies to 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 second), 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 a USB accessory. 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, while Micro USB is longer on the top and shorter on the bottom. It 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 receive power from the monitor using just one USB-C cable. However, because Micro USB technology has been around for longer, more smaller electronic devices utilize Micro USB ports and charger cables. These include USB drives, cameras, smart home devices, and more.

It 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 a maximum of 100 Watts of power. It 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.

On the other hand, Micro USB can only transfer power up to 9 Watts. It only makes it useful for charging smaller electronic devices. It also cannot provide power from a "fast charging" power adapter. Micro USB is only capable of input power.

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

Final Verdict

USB-C is superior to 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 legacy technology, although it has its place. For ease of use, nothing beats USB-C.

FAQ
  • How do I clean a USB-C port?

    To clean a USB-C charging port and remove dust, grime, and debris, get a can of compressed air, a plastic dental pick, cotton, and rubbing alcohol. Ensure the device is powered down, and then spray the compressed air into the port. Use the edges of the dental pick to remove tougher debris. Dampen a cotton ball with the alcohol and rub away any grime.

  • What is a USB-C to Lightning cable?

    A USB-C to Lightning cable is just what it sounds like: It is a cable that has a Lightning connector on one end and a USB-C connector on the other end instead of the usual USB-A connector. With a USB-C to Lightning cable, it's easy to charge and sync your iOS devices.

  • How do I fix a Micro USB port not charging?

    If your Micro USB port isn't charging, there may be debris clogging the port. Try using a toothpick to clean the inside of the port; use it to poke and scrape away any grime. Sealing your ports while they're not in use is a good way to prevent this problem.

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