Rumors of new iPad Pros continue to whirl. Lastly, we have received a 9to5Mac report saying that the new iPads would break with previous models in several ways, including support for a new Apple pencil, removing a physical home button in favor of Face ID, replacing Smart Connector with a new magnetic connector, and replace Lightning with USB-C.
Would this begin a transition from Lightning? Or is there another way Apple amplifies that iPad Pro is more like a computer and less like an iPhone? Moving the iPad Pro to USB-C is potentially a big move, but it's potentially much nothing. Let's look at the possibilities.
Worst Case: New Dongles for All
The worst transition I can imagine is one that is totally symbolic. What if iPad Pro has a USB-C connector, but support for peripherals is largely unchanged from today's models? The 9to5Mac report suggests that at least one new external device should be supported, namely 4K resolution screen.
It's a great feature if you want iPad to display a presentation on a 4K projector or display a 4K HDR video on a TV, but the iOS does not allow you to control apps on an external display (it's just available for mirroring or as a secondary screen in an app like Keynote), it seems like a weird choice to break compatibility with all previous iOS accessories.
Now, for people with existing modern Mac laptops, iPad Pro will get compatibility. You may probably use the same charger used for MacBook and MacBook Pro on iPad Pro. If you have invested in adapters and dongles for USB-C devices, they should also work on any USB-C iPad.
If you have not purchased these adapters yet, buying a new iPad Pro will be a new set. (Or alternatively, a new set of cables with USB-C on one end and another USB connector on the other.)
Also if another rumor is true and these new iPad professionals also fail a wired headphone jack , users will need to handle an adapter to get the wired headphones to work.
Best Case: New Features for All
Looking at the bright side, and maybe adding USB-C to iPad Pro, will be accompanied by extended support for external USB devices in future versions of iOS. At the moment, iOS support for peripherals is extremely limited when comparing it with the external devices like "real computers" like the Mac support.
In addition to support for 4K output, iOS can be improved to add more sophisticated support for external monitors. These can be either touchscreens, so you can connect an iPad to a big screen and use it as an iPad or regular display with support for non-touching controls like track and mouse. It would be a big step for iOS today, but it seems that Apple could be headed in that direction as it starts to allow Mac and IOS to share apps.
Then there is USB storage. Right now, iOS support for remote storage is extremely limited. If you connect a memory card to an iPad or iPhone using an adapter, you can see some very specific content in the card files and videos. That's it, though the App Files app is an Apple-built file browser on every iOS device. You can run PowerPoint on an iPad, but if a staff member gives you a flash drive with an updated presentation, you can not access it. It's unacceptable in a product with "pro" in the name, but the frustration is magnified even more if it's a "pro" device with a standard USB port.
You may be surprised to know that is other USB device types already supported in iOS via adapter. You can connect a USB microphone or audio mix to an iPad via an adapter and it will usually work, but for some power hungry devices you must connect the adapter to a power source. (Probably, an iPad Pro with USB-C will be more capable of supplying power to plugs as well.)
Forward, Professional iPad
Apple has done a great job in the last three years in separating iPad- line, create the cheap iPad for general use, while iPad Pro gives the freedom to grow (literally) and adapt to a user base that's hungry to do more.
Adding USB C to iPad Pro may seem a little odd, but in the context of defining it as a work tool that is suitable for doing much of the same work that a laptop can do, it makes sense . (It gives much less meaning on the iPhone, in my opinion.)
But Apple can not just change the port and call it one day. If this is the case, efforts must be made on the software side and add new features to iOS to allow iPad Pros to work with USB devices just like they work with Mac and PC.