As with USB versions, the shape of the USB connection has also seen drastic changes over the years. With each new evolution of USB type, their form factor generally becomes smaller to accommodate for new, much thinner devices that are popular during the time of release.
The USB C design, which is the latest USB release, is unique because it’s the only USB that fits into another port type not specifically created for it: Thunderbolt 3. They are both the same shape and users can employ Thunderbolt 3 and USB C cables and ports interchangeably. All other male and female USB connector types only fit their corresponding male and female ports. For example, a USB port type b will only accept a USB type B connector.
The version or speed of the technology is dictated by the host device, connecting peripheral, and the version of the USB cable, not the shape of the port.
What Does Backwards Compatible Mean?
Backwards compatibility means that the latest version of something is still capable of using previous versions. For example, a USB A 3.0 port is capable of recognising and utilising a USB A 2.0 peripheral.
For the newer USB C, it’s still possible to connect older USB supported devices to a USB C port or host, via an adapter. StarTech.com provide an extensive range of USB cables, which can be used if the host and peripheral have different port types. Adapters, or connectors, can be found for all USB types and are not limited to USB C.
When using previous USB versions, the performance is limited to the earliest version that’s being used. For example, if you want to transfer files from a 2.0 USB A enabled hard drive to a laptop with USB A 3.0 ports, the transfer rate (USB speeds) would be limited to 480Mbps.