Tell me if this sounds familiar: you go to plug in a USB cable, and it doesn’t fit. So you turn it over 180 degrees and try it again, and it still doesn’t fit. Then you look at the plug and port, realize you had it right the first time, try it again, and it finally works. Lather, rinse, repeat, every time you go to plug in a USB cable.
This is the very problem that the new reversible USB-C standard is intended to solve. It’s also a problem that Apple’s reversible Lightning connector solves, as the first Apple connector had the exact same issue. But USB-C is a relatively rare plug yet, and all the legacy devices out there still use plain-vanilla USB and micro USB. Is there hope for those of us stuck in the USB stone age?
As it turns out, there is. A representative of cable maker WinnerGear contacted me a few days ago and asked if they could send along a sample of their “MicFlip 2.0” fully reversible micro USB cable for me to try out. (Judging by all the reviewers on the Amazon product listing for it who also note they got their cable free, they do this a lot.) I got it, and have been using it, and have to report that, on the whole, I am more than a little impressed.
The cable is called MicFlip 2.0 because it’s actually the second iteration of the MicFlip cable. The first version, funded by an IndieGoGo campaign that raised almost $209,000, had a reversible micro-USB plug but an ordinary USB Type A plug—the one that goes into your computer or battery pack. However, this new one has a reversible Type A plug as well, so you don’t have to worry about how either end of it plugs in.
The cable isn’t cheap, as USB cables go. Amazon lists it for $20, or you can order two of them for $30 via the Indiegogo page. Android Authority Deals has it for $14 for another day or so. But WinnerGear went the extra mile to make sure it was worth it. This 6-foot cable is one of the sturdiest USB cables I’ve ever seen, with gold-plated plugs and a thick, woven nylon shell around the cable (much like the woven wrapping of the ZealSound earbuds I reviewed a couple of months ago). If there’s a downside to the length and sturdiness, it’s that the cable is simply too big to fit in the cable loops in my JanSport “Digital Burrito” cable organizer. But I can deal with that.
How do the plugs work? On the whole, pretty well. The Type A plug removes the plastic stopper that occupies half of a normal Type A USB plug so it will only fit in one way, in favor of a thin board in the middle of the plug with contacts and hollow space on both sides. And it works: no matter which way you plug it into the USB socket, it makes contact and connects.
The micro plug is a little less satisfactory; it rounds off the trapezoidal corners on the bottom of a traditional micro-plug so it fits in both ways, and duplicates the contacts on the inside of the plug so there are a set to make contact no matter which way you have it turned. It goes in readily enough, and works in both orientations, but it seems to me there’s a bit of a wobble in the fit, since the plug simply doesn’t fill the entire socket. It stays plugged in all right for the most part, but I wouldn’t use it in circumstances where the cable is likely to be bumped or nudged a lot, because too much jiggling could knock it right out.
That being said, I spent much of yesterday using it as my USB battery pack cable to keep my Nexus 6 phone powered up while I biked around playing Pokémon Go and Ingress, and didn’t have any problems with it. It was especially convenient on the go being able to unplug and replug the cable without having to worry about whether I had it in the “right way.” At six feet long, it’s the longest USB cable I own, and there was ample room to connect it to the handlebar-mounted phone without worrying that it might get yanked out if I turned the handlebars too sharply.
It was definitely a new experience being able to plug the cable in without having to stop to make sure I had it oriented the right way—though a time or two, I caught myself starting to check the plug simply from force of habit! While the cable is pretty expensive as cables go, I think the novelty of the reversible plugs combined with the sturdiness of the cable’s manufacture makes it worth the money. (Though take that recommendation for what it’s worth, considering that I got this cable free.)
I checked with WinnerGear to find out who developed the plugs. The rep told me that the plugs are patented to WinnerGear’s manufacturing partner, and as such WinnerGear is the only one who can use the official plugs—and has no plans to license them out to anyone else. The rep told me that a number of other reversible cables available on Amazon use knockoff plugs that can cause damage to batteries or charging ports.