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Home / Technology / Adding USB-C to iPad is not enough to fix Apple's messy port strategy

Adding USB-C to iPad is not enough to fix Apple's messy port strategy



Apple's new iPad Pros is here, and if you have not already heard, one of the biggest changes is the USB-C switch (and only USB-C) – unlike Apple's iPhones, which have Lightning as their single port.

Many people – even included – have taken the time to wonder how Apple refuses to put USB-C on iPhone. It's a decision that would have allowed, in principle, all major Apple devices to share a charger with each other and with almost any other big new electronic devices released today. It's the kind of interoperability that has been the core of USB C's core since it was introduced.


Frustrating as it may be, understanding the reasons behind Apple's strategy is simple: computers – a class of device that now includes iPad Pro – get full-featured USB-C ports with accessory ecosystem to match. Mobile products like iPod Touch, AirPods, and iPhone get Lightning ports, where Apple can take advantage of the iron-fired check that the MFi licensing program has over and you can not connect with the enhancement. licensing profit to go with it. (It's an argument that Apple prefers Lightning because of its physically smaller port size. But if almost every other smartphone has found out how to incorporate the port on devices of similar size, I'm pretty sure Apple's design team can do that too. )

Would Apple be convenient for opening up future iPhones with USB-C? Obviously. But it would be a huge price for Apple, both in money and in control of its main device – none of them Apple will renounce easily. The IPhone is simply too critical of Apple's core business to risk the chaos of USB-C. It is not acceptable for the company that someone ever bought a pair of headphones or a charger and that it did not work with iPhone because the cable is bad or that the wattage is too low or that specifications are incorrect.

iPad, on On the other hand, Apple allows a little more experimental and open. It can still run iOS and be subject to the limits of the expanded App Store, but USB-C adds a new avenue where hardware and software developers can expand what's possible. Apple points the iPad as a computer, and the USB-C gives it a universal, open hardware port (if not completely free from Apple's control) for the types of professional tools that people have come to expect from computers. The extra complexity of USB-C can drive people away from the iPhone, but it can be a blessing for the iPad to lure more power users to make the jump.


Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Unfortunately, consumers are in a strange limbo, caught between the closed light on one side and the confusing, inconsistent world of USB-C on the other. And yes, there will be some problems.

To start, let's get in touch with the dongle-big elephant in the room: Apple now sells three different classes of computers – phone, tablet and computer – and all three offer different physical connectors to connect a pair of headphones. To correct this, Apple now sells two different $ 9 dongles that allow you to use a standard 3.5 mm headphone jack on iPad Pro and iPhone.

If you buy an iPad Pro, Apple does not sell a pair of paired wired headsets that you can connect without dongle. (And third party USB-C headphone scene is still … bad, to say the least, although there are hopes in Google and OnePlus releases.) If you own a fancy pair of Lightning headphones (or even earpods like Apple includes with its iPhones which is the default option for many users), there is no way to connect them to iPad or MacBook Air. And if you have a pair of regular 3.5mm headphones, and you want to use them with your new iPad Pro and your iPhone, you now have to wear two different dongles and none of these are included with either of your 749 units as well.

It's a mess and the only real takeaway is that Apple really wants to sell you a few AirPods, which means you completely avoid this mess at the low cost of $ 159.


USB-C versus Lightning Aside, once you have accepted the fact that iPad will not share ports with iPhone anymore, at least all MacBook Pros USB C accessories and adapters will work, right? Unfortunately, no.

It's because, like the 12-inch MacBook iPad's USB-C port only a USB-C port is not a Thunderbolt 3 port, which is a hardware standard developed by Intel using the same physical hardware for USB-C. To put it another way: All Thunderbolt 3 is USB-C, but not all USB-C is Thunderbolt 3. That means that monitors like the fancy Apple-approved LG Thunderbolt 3 screen can not work with your new iPad . Instead, iPad Pros supports USB-C / HDMI and DisplayPort option modes for output to a monitor. These are good standardized specifications, but there is an additional layer of confusion when almost all Apple's other USB-C computers (including the new MacBook Air) have the more expansive Thunderbolt 3 specification.

To cope, iPad's USB-C port is further limited because it can not connect to external storage devices, except for SD cards, which Apple apparently has not counted. So if you want to remove files from a USB C flash drive or transfer Photoshop .PSD to an external drive, you can not. (You can technical correct a way to do it using the same dongles and adapters you want on a Mac.)

Can you connect USB instruments for use with GarageBand? USB Keyboards? Game controllers? Heaven can be the limit of iPad Pro, but much depends on what Apple allows developers to do. And the only way to find out can be trial and error. In short, the dream of just connecting the laptop from a USB-C dongle, plugging in the iPad, and having all the displays, the hard drives and the accessories may not work as easily as the ports are fighting.

Nevertheless, the fact that the iPad Pro hardware makes the concept of a plug-and-play switch for a laptop possible, a big step forward for what Apple wants that the iPad should be – even if the reality The USB-C is a bit messier than that.

Is it worth setting up a new layer of dongle despair? We have to wait and see.


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