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  • Cables Overview
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Mobile phones--whether 'smart' or otherwise--utilize a wide variety of cables to connect to their power sources, transfer data, and send audio and video content. Keeping track of the various acronyms and variations can be difficult, however, and there are few things more frustrating than bringing home a new device only to discover that you're missing a cable essential to its use.

The vast majority of modern cell phones utilize USB ports and cables. The reasoning is simple: USB allows for the transfer of both data and power, often simultaneously, so a single port will take care of all of the major transfer requirements of a phone. Not all USB connections are the same, however.

USB cables vary in plug size, shape, and functionality, but the three most common variations you're likely to encounter are: mini-USB, micro-USB, and unique (or proprietary) brand-specific connectors. Mini- and micro-USB are distinguished by slight variations in size and performance (the latter is smaller and more efficient, and is now heavily favored). Proprietary connectors, as in the 30-prong shape used by Apple, require specific cables and adapters, and often feature expanded functionality. For the full range of cables used among mobile phones (including HDMI, 3.5 mm audio, and RCA) read on.

Mobile phones--whether 'smart' or otherwise--utilize a wide variety of cables to connect to their power sources, transfer data, and send audio and video content. Keeping track of the various acronyms and variations can be difficult, however, and there are few things more frustrating than bringing home a new device only to discover that you're missing a cable essential to its use. Below, we'll cover the common cable types for mobile phones, their uses, and their distinguishing features, so staying connected is easy and simple:

USB:

Since it's introduction in the mid 1990's, USB (Universal Serial Bus) has become the standard mode of connection for a host of consumer electronics--mobile phones being no exception. The reasoning is simple; USB allows for the transfer of both data and power, often simultaneously, so a single port will take care of all of the major transfer requirements of a phone. While plug size and shape varies, USB cables almost always feature the same receptacle.

Mini-USB

Many phones manufactured in the last decade feature Mini-USB connections. Mini-USBs are approximately 3 x 7 mm in size.

Micro-USB

Micro-USB was introduced in 2007, and by 2009 was accepted by the vast majority of cell phone manufacturers as the standard mode of connection. Micro-USB is somewhat smaller than its mini counterpart (1.8 x 6.8 mm), and is also rated for higher transfer speeds.

Unique or Proprietary USB Cables:

A number of manufacturers have, at one point or another, developed there own unique USB connection ports and cables. In recent years, however, the vast majority have switched to some variety of universal USB connection, with Apple being the one notable exception. Apple's cables and ports feature proprietary 30-pin connections, which, in addition to providing USB connectivity, also feature HDMI and Analog Audio transfer. If you use an Apple device (an iPhone, iPod, or iPad), you'll need a cable designed specifically for Apple products, or an Apple-specific adapter. Certain older phones from Samsung, LG, and others also feature unique connections, and will require brand-specific cables.

HDMI:

As their name suggests, HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) cables allow for the transfer of high definition video and audio content between digital HD audio video sources like Blu-ray players, tablets, HD camcorders, personal computers, and certain phones, and compatible televisions, stereos, projectors, and monitors. Often but not always, HDMI cables feature one standard HDMI connector and one micro-HDMI connector. HDMI connectors are broken down into five different classes (A, B, C, D and E), each with its own specific applications, so be sure to check your device's ports before making a purchase.

3.5 mm:

3.5 mm, also known as mini TRS, is the most common audio connection for phones and other devices. The vast majority of consumer headphones utilize this connection, which allows for both mono and stereo audio transfer. Not all mobile phones features a 3.5 mm port, but due in part to the increasing popularity of mp3 music functionality, they are now often featured alongside their USB counterparts. For those that don't, a number of adapters (typically to micro- or mini-USB) are available.

RCA:

You'll never find RCA inputs or outputs in a phone, but you may encounter them when trying to connect it to a stereo or television. RCA cables feature two to three connectors, typically colored red, white, and, if applicable, yellow. Red and white connectors provide stereo audio; yellow transfers composite video. Depending on whether you're phone has the ability to transfer video, there are two common options for connecting cables: 3.5 mm to RCA and Micro-USB to RCA. The former will transfer stereo audio only; the latter will allow for the display of video and other visual content alongside audio.

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