Universal serial bus standards could become either more or less confusing for end users, following an announcement by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) at MWC 2019 that there will be a new designation for USB 3.0, USB 3.1, and USB 3.2. All three of the standards will be classified as USB 3.2 with the clarification provided by generation designations.
Summarily USB 3.0 will now be called as USB 3.2 Gen 1 while USB 3.1 will be designated USB 3.2 Gen 2 and the most recent iteration of the technology will be designated USB 3.2 Gen 2×2.
The change will undoubtedly take some time to move across the entire industry and may cause some initial confusion as a result, with different OEMs and resources using different naming conventions. The key marketing terms intended for use by manufacturers should eventually balance that out and make things more straightforward.
USB-IF has changed those to each bear the SuperSpeed designation. Qualifiers will highlight differences in data transfer rates to reduce complexity from an end-user perspective. USB 3.0 will be designated USB 3.2 Gen 1 but consumers should see that referred to as "SuperSpeed" USB. Similarly, USB 3.2 Gen 2 will be referred to as "SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps" and USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 — only available via USB Type-C — as "SuperSpeed USB 20Gpbs."
What's in a name?
As the names imply, SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps supports speeds of up to 10Gbps and the same distinction can be made using the name assigned to USB 3.2 Gen 2×2. SuperSpeed USB — USB 3.2 Gen 1 — only supports a maximum rate of 5Gbps.
Although USB 3.2 Gen 1 won't be marketed with the speed qualifier used for its counterparts, once manufacturers latch onto the idea, the renaming of the standards will provide users with a clear indication of the maximum speeds supported.
The name changes could backfire
The apparent intention to make distinguishing between standards more straightforward could ultimately backfire if the trend in naming conventions continues, due to the rate of change in the tech industry. For example, when USB 3.1 was introduced, USB 3.0 underwent a similar transformation to be dubbed USB 3.1 Gen 1 instead. Not every manufacturer has gotten on board with that shift, arguably leading to more problems with differentiating between the standards.
The change also resulted in some miscommunication, especially with the introduction of USB Type-C as a new physical standard, since those designations cannot be used interchangeably with the underlying standards for speed and features. USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 — A.K.A USB 3.2 — is only usable via USB Type-C port, for example. The "USB Type-C" only denotes the type of plug or port in use.
If USB-IF introduces USB 3.3 in the future, the new naming convention may have to be entirely reworked again. That could carry on in perpetuity until the introduction of USB 4.0, if and when that happens. That would give the appearance of further fragmenting the marketing of new technologies, in spite of the newly introduced SuperSpeed designations.
Conversely, USB-IF could choose to implement a future change as a new variant of USB 3.2 but, depending on how OEMs choose to highlight USB standards on their product pages, that may only serve to create more discrepancies and confusion.