USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) today launched a description of the next version of USB. This provides noisy improvements in data transfer speeds, and USB 3.2 also tries to correct some of the confusion that public experience is trying to understand what USB products offer.
USB 3.2: All old is new again
First off, USB 3.1
The big change USB-IF announced today is USB 3.2 Gen 2 × 2, which offers 20 Gbps. It does so with two 10 Gbps data transmission channels, which are possible with some already available USB-C cables.
This is in line with one of the main objectives of USB 3.2: backward compatibility. All current products will work, even if they cannot take advantage of the new features.
A USB connector is not the same as a USB standard
One of the reasons people get confused, they expect separate types of connectors for the different USB standards. It doesn't work that way.
True, USB Type-C cables are usually needed for the latest USB standards, but there must be no obvious physical difference between a cable that supports USB 3.1 Gen 1 and one that supports Gen 2. Some cables like launched support USB 3.1 Gen 2 will now offer USB 3.2 Gen 2 × 2.
Worst of all, many companies only notice their products as USB-C, and leaving buyers given about which USB standard they support.
Apple usually tries to make clear which version its computers support. For example, each iMac and MacBook Pro since 2017 supports USB 3.2 Gen 2. MacBook Air released also in 2018. 2015 MacBook has USB 3.2 Gen 1. 2018 iPad Pro supports USB 3.2 gene 2.
Many of these devices also support Thunderbolt 3 , a related but different standard that also runs over USB-C cables … just to make things more confusing.
Hoping for clear descriptions
One of the goals of USB-IF in this new standard is to make hardware makers clearer about what customers should expect from the USB cables, etc. they buy. "When you refer to a product that is based on and complies with the USB 3.2 specification, it is crucial for the manufacturers to clearly identify the performance characteristics of that device," they said in the description of this standard.
For this reason, the Implementation Forum created marketing names for versions of the standard. USB 3.2 Gen 1 should be called SuperSpeed USB while USB 3.2 Gen 2 should be encoded SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps. USB 3.2 Gen 2 × 2 products must carry the name SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps.
That being said. This group has no power to enforce these recommendations. It is entirely up to hardware manufacturers to use these names on the cables, etc. And some companies have already said they prefer SuperSpeed Plus, Enhanced SuperSpeed and SuperSpeed + for the three versions.