Archive for March 3rd, 2021

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Lack of vision in Apple design

March 3, 2021

Prompted by a question on Quora, I went into a rant about the connectivity, or lack of it, on new MacBooks and the incompatibility of different Apple devices. This is an edited version of my answer.

Today I forgot my Macbook charger, and was only able to charge it with my friend’s Android charger, not my iPhone charger. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t people find that Apple lacks coherence?

I agree with you. Apple probably makes money from this situation by selling its own connectors and adapters, and it maintains control over its “walled garden”. 

I find the incompatibility of USB C with Lightning connectors infuriating. It suggests to me a lack of vision from the company, and hints at silo thinking from the design and product management teams. But it does explain why you get a Lightning to USB C cable with a new iPhone – it’s so you can connect the phone to your Mac. Apple’s assuming you already own a charger from your previous phone, so you can carry on using your old chargers with their old USB A to Lightning connectors to charge the phone.

I currently use a Late 2013 MacBook Pro. It has two USB 3 ports, two Thunderbolt/miniDisplayPort ports, a 3.5mm audio socket (which also outputs optical digital audio) an HDMI port and an SD card socket. It also has a MagSafe 2 power connector. It still works perfectly, and I love it, but it’ll be out of support later this year.

2013 MacBook Pro 13″ Retina showing HDMI and SD card sockets

One of the major things that has stopped me upgrading to a new MacBook Pro is the poor connectivity on the new models. With only two USB C ports, one of which you have to use for power, buying the equivalent new model would force me to buy an expensive dock connector, just to replicate some of what I’ve already got.

I understand Apple’s trying to make the new MacBooks as light, and thin, as possible, but in my view this is a triumph of design over utility. I would happily sacrifice a few grams and a couple of millimetres of thickness to avoid having to carry around an expensive bag of adapters that collectively weigh more than the power supply!

I mourn the demise of the MagSafe power connection and the SD card socket. I realise not many people were using the optical digital output – but I do, and I will miss it. I also resent being forced to buy yet another expensive adapter – USB C to 3.5mm – to use my headset. I already own a Lightning to 3.5mm adapter so I can use it on my iPhone!

And, as you suggest, the incompatibility of the ports on a MacBook with the port on an iPhone really rankles. 

Come on Apple, let’s see either a coherent and rational explanation for your choice of ports and connectors, or alternatively some signs of joined-up thinking in product design.