What are USB cables and when are they used?


USB cables, short for Universal Serial Bus cables, are almost everywhere in technology.

From transferring data to charging mobile phones and other gadgets, USB cables play a critical role in modern lives. In this guide, we’ve taken a deep dive into what USB cables are, when they’re used or needed, and a breakdown of the different types on the market.

What are USB cables?

USB cables are those that come with a standardised connector – they’re widely available in almost every country and can be used for a range of devices.

First introduced in the mid-1990s, these cables have evolved into a popular connection interface. From computers and smartphones to printers and cameras, plus many more, USB cables boast impressive levels of connectivity.

Many include plug-and-play design, which makes them user-friendly and compatible with an array of devices. There are several shapes of USB port, so it’s worth knowing which one is best suited to your task or application.

When are USB cables used?

USB cables are used in various scenarios and across different applications too. These include:

Data transfer: USB cables allow data to be exchanged between devices. Amongst other things, this enables users to sync files, photos, videos, and other digital information.

Device programming: From firmware updates to maintenance tasks, USB cables facilitate the programming of microcontrollers within computers.

Charging: Commonly used for charging smartphones, laptops, and other battery-powered devices, USB cables carry electrical power from various sources. These may include a computer’s USB port, a wall adapter, or a portable charging bank.

Connectivity: USB cables connect peripheral devices like keyboards, mice, external hard drives, and cameras to computers or another host device. This enables greater functionality and data exchange too.

Audio/Video transmission: Also used for transmitting signals across devices, USB cables can be used for headphones, speakers, monitors, and digital multimedia players.

What are the different types of USB cables?


Typically seen as the more traditional USB connector and commonly found on computers, the USB-A features a rectangular shape with a flat port. It’s likely the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a USB.


Often used for connecting printers, scanners and other peripheral devices, this USB features a sort of square shape with a small, rectangular port.


The latest standard in USB cables, known for its robust design and versatility. Now the standard charging port for Apple’s iPhone 15 and future models, the USB-C facilitates fast charging and data transfer.

Micro USB

Most often used for older smartphones and other portable devices, the Micro USB features a small trapezoidal shape with a small, rectangular port. The previous version is known as a Mini USB, but it’s generally only seen on older cameras and smartphones.


USB cables are versatile connectors.

In homes and professional settings, they’re essential for transferring data, powering devices, and enabling communication between gadgets and the people using them. With a variety of different types on the market, USB cables play a vital role in the digital world.


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