At the Intel Developers' Forum currently running in Shenzen, China, the first official pictures of the future of USB for smartphones and tablets have been released. USB 3.1 Type C, as its official title goes, is reversible like Apple's Lightning connector, eliminating the pain of fiddling a miniature plug into the socket on your smartphone.
The reversible plug has been mooted since December last year, but now is the first time we've seen a proper mockup of what the connector itself will look like. USB 3.1 Type C cables will have the tiny reversible plug on both ends, so you'll have to have a charger or laptop with the new port (or an adapter) to jump on the new standard.
The connector, and its power and data transfer standards, should be finalised by the middle of this year, so you might even start to see it appear on products by the beginning of 2015. It's in the "industry review" phase of its development according to the USB Implementers Forum, so it's possible the design or specification might change slightly before release. Apart from the new connector design, USB 3.1 also boosts data transfer speeds to 10Gbps over USB 3.0's already impressive 5Gbps.
Type C is the future of USB — it's designed to take over from standard-size USB (both type A and B, the horrible squarish connector you plug into your printer), mini-USB, and micro-USB. It'll be a long and difficult changeover period when new smartphones, tablets and other devices using the connector start to appear on electronics store shelves, but it's good to see that the USB standard is making a concerted effort to keep up with the innovation of other data connectors like Lightning and Thunderbolt. [IDF 2014]