Here’s why Apple could get rid of all ports on its devices

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What connects us? Is it the human condition? A general love of hot summer days and the Phil Collins classic “In the Air Tonight?”

No, it’s wires, cables, cords, or whatever you choose to call them – at least for now.

Now that Apple’s 2020 product line has begun to release, there’s a message inside almost every device hinting at the company’s vision for the future of wireless computing – and can. -be even the way she prepares for it. I’m not saying the iPhone 12 will have a USB-C port, because it will almost 100% have a “Lightning” connector, but the way computing is moving away from ports doesn’t need to be. to involve the phones.

You may have noticed that Apple has gotten rid of several ports on its devices over the years. For example, the iPad Pro lost the headphone jack, and the MacBooks ditched the SD card reader and all ports that are not USB-C.

It’s easy to say that Apple is destroying ports to force people to embrace “dongle life,” creating a whole new category of products that the business can generate revenue from, and you’d be right – at least if you look at the short term.

Where Apple wants to go

I think what Apple is doing is a little more nuanced. The tech giant is shaping the world to support either USB Type-C or a wireless standard like Google’s Nearby Share or Apple’s AirDrop.

Why do you ask? Well, Apple foresees a world where tablets are the primary computers for people, which is evident by the force with which the company has pushed the iPad Pro, iPad Air, and mainstream iPad over the past few years. .

The latest iPad Pro shows this clearly with its powerful specs, fully wireless Apple Pencil, and a single USB-C port. I think even the USB-C port is just a temporary fix to a wireless world in the corporate mind, but there’s a lot more guesswork involved in this particular scenario.

The regular iPad is more of a lifelong game, but it is marketed as an educational device. Schools are full of young people, and if Apple can convince them that an iPad can do whatever they need, chances are they will grow up and continue to use iPads.

Apple even changed its approach to iPads to include more features like cursor support. It now sells its own iPad keyboard accessories, and some of them even have trackpads, showing their commitment to helping people use them more as productivity devices.

While I’m still not sure whether the keyboard / mouse combo is the best way to interface with an iPad, it’s nice to see that Apple has added the option, and it will probably help draw more people into it. ecosystem of the tablet.

Where it started

Top view of Kaby Lake MacBook Pro

This is not Apple’s first attempt at this strategy. The company made a daring game with the only USB-C port and headphone jack in the 12-inch MacBook in 2015. While the device hasn’t hit a lot of people, I’ve used one for almost three. years as the main computer. . Granted, I must have relied on dongles more than I liked, but pulling that little fanless, fully capable Mac out of my bag felt futuristic every time.

Since the single-port MacBook hit the market, Apple has added USB-C ports to all of its devices except the low-end iPhones and iPads. This is probably because the iPhone is unique and won’t be replacing computers anytime soon, so it doesn’t need to be able to connect to all kinds of accessories.

More importantly, Apple is migrating almost all of its computer hardware, like the Mac and iPad Pro, to USB-C.

This suggests that the MacBook Pro was the first real step towards a wireless world, as professionals use Apple’s Pro line of products and need fast and reliable accessories and equipment to work with these devices. To do this in 2020, the equipment must support USB-C or a wireless standard. Therefore, accessory makers slowly began to evolve their products to support one of these two modern connection efforts.

Professionals are one thing, but the real market is regular consumers. That’s where the new MacBook Air comes in. The MacBook Air is what the MacBook Pro was for professionals, but with ordinary people in mind. Now, consumer electronics such as headphones, game controllers, and USB flash drives need to work wirelessly or with USB-C, just as professional equipment including high-end displays and cameras was required. a few years earlier.

This makes the iPad Pro the next step for advanced professionals. Photoshop and mouse support are on the platform now, and I think more pro-level apps will start appearing on the mighty tablet soon, making it a viable Mac replacement for some people. Additionally, with Apple’s transition to custom ARM-based silicon in its Mac computers, we might see an influx of more powerful desktop Mac apps that are compatible with iPadOS and vice versa.

With those apps ready, it should be easy for professionals to switch to the iPad as it has a USB-C port just like Apple’s MacBooks. Therefore, since many accessory manufacturers use the new port standard, these tools work with the iPad.

The same will happen with average people. As tablets begin to become everyday computing machines, the world will be ready with many supported accessories.

Why can’t we have a wireless iPad future now?

The only real delay seems to be with iPadOS. Apple’s efforts to bring more productivity features into the latest versions have helped tremendously, but it’s still not perfect.

However, this is not all on Apple’s shoulders. The ecosystem of third-party devices that are trained for this rapidly evolving port journey always struggles to create devices and cables that perform as intended.

As much as USB-C seems like the perfect option, it’s not there yet. The USB-C to USB-C cable that comes with Apple computers only works for charging and cannot be used as an external display cable. Most people also don’t understand the difference between USB-C and Thunderbolt 4, which is a whole other issue.

USB-C is, at its basic level, just the name of oval / reversible ports. Inside of that there are many kinds of standards some even using USB in the name that do different things like supplying power and acting like an HDMI cable.

For example, Thunderbolt 4 looks like USB-C – since it’s the same type of port – but also has the added capability of being a display cable capable of 40Gbps data transfer speeds, output display and power supply.

All of this really means that the cable ecosystem is a mess, and for the average person having a bunch of cords that look the same but act differently is a nightmare.

Ideally, these quirks, along with the restrictions caused by iPadOS, will all be ironed out in a few years, but either way, Apple is pushing average consumers towards tablets whether we’re ready or not. Even the fact that almost all iPads now support the company’s keyboards speaks volumes about how Apple thinks people should use iPads.


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