Last night we received a report from Macotakara that the new MacBook Pros were still coming this month, despite a lack of any announcements from Apple. The reporting didn’t specify anything about the internal hardware specs, but did resurface the idea that MagSafe, Thunderbolt 2, and USB-A ports would be replaced.
The thing for me is this: Apple just dropped the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 and the reaction to that has been controversial to say the least. Apple explained that the move took courage and was needed to move from analog to digital, free up space in iPhones, and push wireless. There are no signs that this affected iPhone sales, but transitions are still hard.
Headphone jack aside, if new MacBook Pros fully replace USB-A with USB-C, are we in for the next episode in the same series? We’ve already seen this with the 12-inch Retina MacBook’s single USB-C port, but it’s worth considering what it could mean for MacBook Pro users if true.
I’m personally rocking a 2010 15″ MacBook Pro with a DIY Fusion Drive setup, and maxed out RAM. The only reason I’ve held out this long is because I haven’t had a desire or need for more out of my system these past few years.
I haven’t picked up any USB 3.0 devices for personal everyday use, and I definitely haven’t gotten any USB-C devices (save for my Apple TV’s service port). I’m interested in USB-C, but just from keeping an eye out on the market, I haven’t seen many others in the Apple ecosystem pick up on it either aside from some 12-inch MacBook owners.
If Apple really is replacing MagSafe, Thunderbolt 2, and USB-A, then consumers might have a hard time swallowing the USB-C pill. Outside the fact that pushing USB-C is going to create a standard in the market (which I’m actually in favor it), I don’t think USB-C has been around quite long enough in the Apple world that others are ready for it. Let’s break down the removal of these ports and what it means for Mac users.
I’ve been a fan of the MagSafe charging connector since day one. The idea of a cable that unleashes itself versus tugging the whole laptop down with it has saved my work setup on more than one occasion. When Apple introduced the 12-inch MacBook with a single USB-C port, I definitely thought that the removal of the MagSafe benefit would stick to the MacBook and head nowhere else. I wanted that MagSafe, I needed that MagSafe.
I wasn’t alone either as Griffin put out their own version of a MagSafe into their BreakSafe Magnetic USB-C Power Cable. While not a perfect solution, Chance did praise the ability to bring back the safety of a MagSafe-style adapter to single USB-C MacBooks.
I already have multiple MacBook Pro chargers I keep on hand for traveling, and the thought of buying multiple more sounds expensive. Though, I do have to concede that this really isn’t any different from when Apple moved from the 30-pin connectors to Lightning, it’s just potentially more financially painful. Removing this level of security, this extra comfort, all for the sake of an extra USB-C port just doesn’t seem great for my current perspective. The piece of mind that comes with a breakaway style connection seems so much better than the added benefit of an additional port.
Perhaps Apple has found a way to mix MagSafe’s benefits with UBS-C, using the 12-inch MacBook as a test bed, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Removing the USB-A connection would be equal parts painful and welcome. I liked using standard USB cables back in the Windows 98 days, but overtime it’s quickly felt clunky. We’ve even had smaller FireWire cables than USB-A cables.
Moving to USB-C will be nice solely for the smaller connection and space it needs and occupies once plugged in. USB-C is also reversible so you don’t have to plug it in upside down before you realize it goes the other way. Bringing this into their flagship computers makes me think that Apple believes and wants this standard pushed across the entire market. While I support the idea, I don’t quite think everyone is ready yet. Not even Apple.
Running a quick search on Apple’s own site shows a lackluster amount of USB-C products available for sale. Most of which seem to be additional cables, and then a smattering of adapters used to address the MacBook’s lack of other ports. In my thinking, the most common devices that consumers use that require USB cables are external hard drives, and even of those Apple only has four USB-C variants listed on their site.
Apple’s choice to remove the headphone jack seemed more logical to me only because alternatives have existed for quite some time now. Bluetooth headphones are growing in popularity and finding something priced relatively low isn’t hard at all (just like with wired headphones, price often relates to quality). Apple included a Lightning to 3.5 mm Adapter with new iPhone 7 purchases so that definitely helped the transition a bit, but we haven’t heard if that’s the case with these new MacBook Pros.
If Apple did choose to remove all these ports, are they going to provide multiple USB-A to USB-C adapters in the box? Maybe just one? Will Apple lower the price of that $19 USB-C dongle? If not I know Amazon already has two packs of USB-C adapters and a multitude of other USB-C accessories I can stock up on, but the transition period can’t end soon enough.
Hopefully if Apple really does replace most of the ports on MacBook Pros with USB-C ports, it becomes more aggressive with marketing USB-C accessories and becomes a little more generous with UBS-C adapters than the current situation.
Apple has added new USB-C accessories over time including the fairly new USB-C to Lightning cable, but the iPhone 7 appears to have just been released a little too early for it to make sense to include these in the box for new MacBooks. Transitions are hard, even for Apple.