Apple Went in the Wrong Direction with the MacBook

USB Type-C is being widely adopted in the smartphone market, but not by Apple

Apple refreshed their top laptop, the MacBook Pro, in late October. It was a departure so drastic from the Pro of old and a change so user-hostile that if not for the fact sales of the iPhone eclipse that of Macs, you could argue that it was an even deeper cut into the already fraying ties that bind the Apple faithful. 

The controversy surrounding the new MacBook Pro, indicative of a philosophy consistent with the iPhone’s removal of the headphone jack, is centered around the USB Type-C connector. Like Apple’s unnecessary removal of the 3.5mm audio jack, this move asks the user to switch standards; iPhone 7 owners suddenly find themselves exploring wireless audio solutions and buyers of the 2016 MacBook have all added “dongle” to their vocabulary. In other words, Apple is asking too much.

The notion that dongles are for the use of legacy devices is false, given that many peripherals are still shipping with USB Type-A. There’s a parallel to this inertia that can be seen in other parts of Apple’s walled garden: scarce 3D Touch inclusion, few iPad Pro-optimized apps, the prevalence of wired headphones. Apple can’t drive the industry forward all on its own.

"Apple can’t drive the industry forward all on its own."

Since the iPhone 6S and 7 have continued to use Apple’s proprietary connector even after the USB Type-C standard was finalized, despite Apple contributing roughly a quarter of the engineering team responsible for its development, it’s safe to assume that Lightning will continue to be the mobile connector of choice on Apple products for years to come. It is in this context that the decision to debut the Core M MacBook with a single USB Type-C connector and to throw two or four on the Pro model (with no MagSafe, SD card slot, or traditional USB ports) is so mystifying. 

Why have two different reversible connectors? Why does a USB-C to Lightning cable have to exist? This fragmentation is mind-boggling and puts an unnecessary workload on users to do their homework and buy the right adapters. The introduction of Lightning earphones and Lightning-charged mice and keyboards only confounds the problem because those are all thing you use with a computer, and Apple computers don’t have Lightning ports. Pardon the nostalgic tone, but this move is very un-Apple and if Steve Jobs were alive today, Cupertino would be moving in a more well-thought-out direction.

The direction Apple should've gone in was to add a female Lightning port to charge the Apple Pencil and use Lightning earphones. In addition, they should've figured out a way to keep their patented MagSafe a part of their charging solution. Third party manufactured Griffin devised such a way, for example. Likewise, Windows OEMs are including USB Type-C and A without compromising on the beauty of their hardware. Case in point, HP's 2016 revision to the Spectre x360 is a prime example of what the MacBook should be. You can buy a pair of USB Type-C headphones and use them with a Samsung phone and laptop or HP phone and laptop. There's no one pair of headphones you can use out-of-the-box with both the iPhone 7 and 2016 MacBook Pro. That's either a massive oversight or a foolishly arrogant design choice.