Apple's cord situation is completely out of control

Apple’s newest computer, the MacBook Pro, looks pretty great: It’s got the fastest chip, a good screen, MacOS, and a new kind of touchscreen keyboard it’s calling the Touch Bar. 

But I’m personally worried that buying the new MacBook Pro will doom me to carrying around various dongles for years, or as long as I’m in Apple’s ecosystem. And you should be worried about that too. 

In the company’s zeal to move to next-generation connectors and future-proof devices, Apple’s created a morass of different cords, dongles, and standards.

Take a user who has an iPhone 7 and new MacBook Pro. That’s Apple’s core customer: someone with disposable income who wants the best computers.

This person needs to think hard about what cords they are going to carry from day to day. The iPhone and MacBook Pro use different chargers, so that person would have to carry both. iPhones use Apple’s proprietary Lightning charger. The new MacBooks use the relatively new open USB-C standard. 

(That’s not a big deal, although it’s worth pointing out that if this person had a Google Pixel phone instead of an iPhone, their phone and computer could use the same charger. That’s not very elegant, Apple.)

Things get worse when you consider headphones. The new MacBook Pro has a headphone jack, so you can plug basically any pair of headphones into it. The iPhone 7, as you’ve probably heard, does not.

Customers can use the dongle that comes with the iPhone 7 to use their laptop headphones with their iPhone. But if someone wants to use the Lightning Earpods that come with the iPhone 7, there’s no way to plug them into your laptop, unless Apple makes another dongle — some kind of male USB-C-to-female-Lightning adaptor.

Of course, what Apple wants you to do is buy its new AirPods, which haven’t even gone on sale yet since they have been delayed. Apple says they’re “not ready.” 

And finally, just try to charge your phone from your laptop using the cord that comes with your iPhone. You can’t — unless you have yet another adaptor (this one USB-C to USB), which Apple will sell you for $19. A USB-C to Lightning Cable costs $25. 

Apple’s insistence on using Lightning as its proprietary standard on its phone makes its choice to commit to USB-C on Mac a confusing one.

I understand that ports change and technology has to change with it. But the whole reason to adopt open standards like USB-C is so things can be standardised. And USB-C can do a lot of different things, like power a monitor — so it can certainly handle headphones, or anything else Lightning does.

It’s madness. Apple’s head of design Jony Ive said last month that “we believe in a wireless future.” But my immediate future — deciding whether or not I buy a new MacBook Pro — looks to be full of different cords and dongles.


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